posted May 23, 2012, 9:26 AM by Friends of Hurricane Creek   [ updated May 23, 2012, 9:34 AM ]
    The Black Warrior River Watershed Management Plan, a formidable creation of the Alabama Clean Water Partnership and ADEM, offers an inspiring example of what can be accomplished by communities dedicated to longterm, sustainable use of water resources. In fact, as document, it teaches you more about our river than anything else I've come across. Here are a few excerpts with data and information relevant to the Hurricane Creek Watershed:

On urban runoff
Waters associated with federal or rural watersheds, whether pristine, sensitive, or impaired, often flow to urban or suburban areas where other human-caused activities can affect water quality. The population in urban areas is increasing faster than in rural areas, resulting in increasing water quality concerns. Urban and residential areas can affect the quality and quantity of water resources by altering the physical hydrology and by adding waste products to water bodies. As urbanization increases, the amount of impervious area increases, thus decreasing the amount of water that would naturally infiltrate into the soil. Increased runoff can alter the magnitude and timing of storm peaks, increasing the likelihood of localized flooding. Urban runoff also can transport large nonpoint-source loads of sediment and inorganic and organic constituents from paved surfaces, parks, lawns, and golf courses. Point sources of contamination from urban areas can include sewage-treatment facilities, industrial discharges, landfills, and leaking underground storage tanks. (p.72)

On the Eastern Bypass
    Eastern Bypass - Hwy 43 Tuscaloosa. Tuscaloosa's Eastern Bypass, under construction in the eastern part of the county, and will receive $10 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation, through the efforts of Senator. Richard Shelby and Congressman Spencer Bachus. The bypass is designed to alleviate traffic on U.S. 82 passing through Northport and Tuscaloosa.  From a bridge being built over the Black Warrior River the bypass will stretch northward to Interstate 20/59. Then southward it will go to the Airport Industrial Park. The Eastern Bypass Bridge, which will connect Jack Warner Parkway and Rice Mine Road, is set to open in December 2003. (p.75)
    The project has gathered criticism from environmental activists, who argue that the planned route will ruin the scenic beauty and affect imperiled species of Hurricane Creek near Holt.  On Tuesday (July 30), a report was released by the national Sierra Club, listing the Eastern Bypass in Tuscaloosa County as one of the 26 "wrong-way" projects nationwide. The bypass received it's low marks from the group because of the impact the highway will have on the cliffs of Hurricane Creek. (p.75)

Commute time for citizens in surrounding cities
    Commute time for most of the workers in the watershed, at 66.4 percent, is less than 30 minutes. Commute times are consistent throughout the subwatersheds. (p.85)

Why river and stream health matters economically
    Water pollution clearly degrades environmental quality, but it also diminishes recreation and economic opportunities and poses clear threats to public health. The health of the watershed affects the aesthetic value of land and therefore, the economic potential of communities. While some towns may wish for their land to be developed in order to raise the tax base and improve their cities, many citizens realize that it is important not to forfeit their valuable natural resources for the sake of development (Hall, 1992). As streams become undesirable for municipal,
industrial, agricultural, or recreational use, property values along the streams are substantially reduced. (p.101)
    Rapid development and associated construction without the proper application of construction best management practices affect both the quantity and quality of stormwater runoff, which in turn has impacts on water quality. By enhancing and
channeling surface drainage in favor of natural drainage systems, impervious surfaces like asphalt, concrete, and roofing increase the volume, velocity, and temperature of the runoff, and can result in flooding, erosion, and permanent alterations in stream form and function. In addition, by blocking the infiltration of storm water and its associated pollutants into the soil, impervious surfaces interfere with the natural processing of nutrients, sediment, pathogens, and other contaminants, resulting in degradation of surface water quality. (p. 101)
    A growing body of scientific research is finding a direct relationship between the amount of impervious surface in a watershed and the water quality of the watershed's receiving streams. Many studies find that without nonpoint source management of some kind, stream water quality becomes increasingly degraded as impervious levels climb above 15 percent; in highly sensitive streams, degradation can begin when as little as 8 percent to 10 percent of the watershed area has impervious cover. (101)

Nonpoint sources for trace elements and their effect on streams
    Trace elements also have nonpoint sources in urban areas and are associated with runoff from urban centers. Nonpoint sources for trace elements in urban areas include batteries, ceramics, wear of automobile parts, pigments, and fossil fuel combustion. Many trace elements do not easily dissolve in stream water. Instead, these materials tend to accumulate in streambed sediments and aquatic organisms. Both acute and chronic exposure to these materials can adversely affect the health of aquatic organisms and, depending on the concentration and the duration of exposure, can be lethal or sub-lethal. Once in the food chain, these materials can affect terrestrial organisms, such as fish-eating wildlife (herons, otters, and kingfishers), and potentially humans. (124-125)

ARA study in 2000
    A study conducted by the Alabama Rivers Alliance in 2000 found high concentrations of metals and low pH in areas of the Hurricane Creek Watershed. This agrees with previous samples performed by ADEM and EPA. 40 percent of the samples contained iron concentrations higher than 1.000 mg/l with concentrations as high as 46 mg/l found in the headwaters of Weldon Creek. 32 percent of the samples including all of the samples collected in Weldon Creek headwaters exceeded a concentration of 0.106 mg/l for zinc. 21 percent of the samples [Weldon Creek] exceeded the 0.158 mg/l of nickel. 79 percent of the samples contained aluminum concentrations greater than 0.09 mg/l. High concentrations of manganese were also found in the watershed, particularly in Weldon Creek and Blanchet Branch. (125-126)

Metals and low pH in Hurricane Creek
A study conducted by the Alabama Rivers Alliance in 2000 found high concentrations of metals and low pH in areas of the Hurricane Creek Watershed. This agrees with previous samples performed by ADEM and EPA. (129)

Habitat fragmentation
    One of the primary causes of the precarious status of many of the Watershed's species is habitat fragmentation. Manmade structures such as dams, locks, levees, and other channel modification projects have separated and fragmented the aquatic habitats of many species that depend on free-flowing rivers. This habitat fragmentation has resulted in the elimination of many riverine species from extensive portions of their former range. Most of the Watershed's imperiled species now live in small and isolated populations. (143-144)
    These isolated populations, in turn, are made even more vulnerable to changes in land use that affect their habitats. Without the natural ability to move unrestricted up and down a river, the loss of populations and the genetic codes they contain cannot be replaced. The surviving populations are then forced to face the gradual and combined effects of surface runoff (nonpoint source pollution) from common activities such as construction, agriculture, silviculture, urban activities, and other land use practices. Nonpoint source runoff can be toxic or cause sedimentation (siltation) and nitrification (excessive nutrient input.)
    Each imperiled species within the Watershed is unique in some aspect of its life history and habitat requirements. But two factors are shared by all: the adaptation to their natural fluctuations of a free-flowing riverine habitat and the dependence upon the stability of that environment, including substrate (river bottom materials) and
water quality. While the detrimental effect of any one source of impairment or land use activity may be insignificant by itself, the combined effects of land use runoff within a watershed may result in gradual and cumulative adverse impacts to isolated populations and their habitats. (144)

Fish sampling 10 years ago at Creek
    Fish sampling was conducted on three stations in the lower reaches of Hurricane Creek in 1998 and 2000. Fish IBI's at these stations indicated poor biological condition of the fish assemblage. Micro invertebrate assessments on Hurricane Creek indicated a change in condition from good (1996) to impaired in 2000. Fish sampling in the Middle Hurricane Creek Watershed was conducted in the 1980's and in 1998/2000. Fish IBI's in 1998 and 2000 upstream of the Little Hurricane Creek confluence indicated poor biological condition. Microinvertebrate assessments on Hurricane Creek below the confluence with Kepple Creek indicated a slight decline in the benthic community from good (1996) to fair (2000). Macroinvertebrate data in 2000 on Kepple Creek indicated fair condition at the mouth and significant impairment upstream. The benthic Macroinvertebrate community was rated as severely impaired in both the 1996 and 2000 assessment on North Fork Hurricane Creek. (157) (Source: Wentzel, M. Beth and Duncan, William W. Hurricane Creek Profile. Alabama Rivers Alliance. November 2001.)