One of the most important aspects of our work is the hands-on water quality improvement projects we do to reduce erosion, improve wildlife habitat, manage stormwater runoff, and eliminate sources of bacterial contamination along rivers and streams. Since 2000, the Coalition has brought $6.8 million in grant funding into the Hiwassee River watershed. 93% of these funds were spent for on-the-ground projects and programs to facilitate water quality improvements in areas where it has declined!

Stream restoration describes a set of activities that help improve the ecological health of a river, creek or stream. These activities aim to return degraded ecosystems to a stable, healthy condition. Improved health may be indicated by better habitat for fish, aquatic insects and other wildlife species and reduced stream bank erosion. Enhancements may also include improved water quality (e.g. reduction of pollutant levels, cooler temperatures and higher dissolved oxygen levels) and achieving a more self-sustaining, functional flow regime in the watershed. Stream restoration projects can also yield increased property values in adjacent areas.

A Watershed Approach

HRWC prioritizes and implements on-the-ground water quality improvement projects using a watershed-based approach. In other words, we assess the needs of an entire drainage area and do our best to address the water quality problems holistically, rather than just fixing an erosion problem here and a stormwater drainage problem there. As a result, funding for restoration projects is typically only available in our current high priority watersheds.

Using a watershed-based approach to restoration involves understanding:

  • Land uses of a particular watershed and how they are changing;
  • Current water quality and stream or lake habitat conditions;
  • Threats to water quality and stream or lake habitat conditions; and
  • Techniques needed to restore and protect water quality and stream or lake habitat conditions.

To-date, HRWC has restored more ten miles of rivers, streams and lake shoreline in the upper Hiwassee River watershed and manages nearly 90 acres of streamside areas connected with these projects. More than 47 private landowners have voluntarily participated in the restoration program over the past 15 years.

Technical Assistance

Although funding for projects is typically only available in our highest priority watersheds, HRWC provides to technical assistance to all landowners in the four counties that make up the upper Hiwassee River watershed: Towns, Union, Clay and Cherokee. For a small fee, we provide guidance for stream bank and lake shoreline erosion problems, stormwater management concerns, road drainage or erosion issues, and non-native invasive plant eradication. Contact the restoration coordinator to set up an appointment.