Morgan Cr before-after

Over the past 25 years, the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition has brought $7.2 million in grant funding into the upper Hiwassee River watershed. Approximately 93% of these funds were spent for on-the-ground projects and programs to facilitate water quality improvements in areas where it has declined!

Accomplishments include:

  • Stream Restoration. Conducted stream and riparian restoration activities along more than 14 miles of stream, river and lake shorelines to reduce bank erosion/failure and improve aquatic habitat. We currently assist with management of 107 acres of riparian buffer at 32 locations across the 4-county area and we’ve planted more than 8,000 native trees and shrubs along waterways since 2011.
  • Lake Chatuge nutrient reduction. From 1998-2006, the ecological health rating that TVA assigned to Lake Chatuge averaged 54.1 out of 100 (Poor). There was only one Fair rating in 2001, when all the mountain reservoirs scored unexplainably higher. From 2007-2015, the average ecological health rating was 61.4 (Fair), representing a 7.3-point improvement since the Lake Chatuge Watershed Action Plan was released! This success was accomplished by employing a full-time watershed coordinator and repairing leaking or failing septic systems, installing agricultural best management practices, and assisting landowners and local governments with stormwater management.
  • Water Quality Monitoring. Certified volunteers through the GA Adopt-A-Stream program actively monitor 47 sites across the 4-county area, including multiple stations on all three major rivers and Brasstown Creek. We now have 15 years of water chemistry data for 12 locations in the upper Hiwassee and Nottely River watersheds in north Georgia and bacterial sampling (E. coli) was added to most chemistry stations in 2013!
  • Protecting the Highest Quality Waters. From 2008-2017, HRWC and its partners worked through the US Forest Service’s public process to protect the designated Outstanding Resource Waters of Fires Creek and its tributaries from excess sedimentation and potential acid runoff associated with proposed road building activities to access a 50-acre private parcel of land completely surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest. After nearly 10 years, the landowners finally agreed to sell the property to our local land trust partner for eventual transfer into Forest Service ownership!
  • Educating Youth. There are now more than 200 graduates of our C.R.E.E.K. (Creative & Recreational Environmental Education for Kids) Days events in summer, many of whom are now young adults! This number doesn’t include participants in the “Kids in the Creek” programs we have co-hosted in recent years through the school systems.
  • Educating Adults. Developed and taught adult seminars and multi-session courses on topics such as building roads in mountain terrain, native and invasive plant ID & management, and bioengineering stabilization methods. We’ve also worked extensively with other nonprofit organizations in southwestern NC on a Regional Erosion and Sediment Control education Initiative (RESCI), securing funding for, and developing, curriculum for training grading contractors locally!
  • Connecting People. Organizing an annual shoreline litter sweep on Lake Chatuge. Nearly 11 tons of trash has been removed from the shoreline by volunteers since the clean-ups began in 2011. We’ve also hosted Alternative Break groups from 13 different colleges and universities in seven states, generating $17,000-$25,000 in grant matching funds annually, in addition to getting a ton of restoration project stewardship work done!
  • Promoting Outdoor Recreation. Completed a plan for improving public recreational access and working to develop a comprehensive web site for providing information about recreation access points in the watershed.