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A couple of miles down from its spring-fed source, Pleasant Grove Creek wanders through Jeff Campbell’s farm. At one time, the run of Pleasant Grove Creek looked quit ill.
Its clouded water was evidence of decline. The future of its Kentucky bass, bluegill and perch was equally clouded. Sediment choked the creek’s cobblestone bottom and ruined spawning beds. The stream banks were eroded, trampled by cattle and littered with discarded debris. Fallen trees jammed the natural course of the creek. Seasonal floods ran through the creek’s floodplain with ever-increasing velocity.
Campbell, Adairville, Ky., had few resources to repair all the problems. Then, an opportunity arose to do just that.
Helping Hand. With financial help and restorative engineering work from the Cumberland River Compact, World Wildlife Fund and Red River Watershed Association, a demonstration project was designed for 900 feet of Pleasant Grove Creek. The work produced quick results as Campbell’s run of the creek bloomed with new life.
Campbell’s farm sits among unique geology. The area is riddled with sinkholes and shallow, fractured limestone. Both features open the door to the pollution of underground and surface water sources.
A stone’s throw past Campbell’s fenceline, Pleasant Grove Creek empties into the Red River. The Red River—also damaged by agricultural runoff—flows into the 697-mile-long Cumberland River. The Cumberland River basin drains a vast, 18,000-square-mile chunk of Tennessee and Kentucky. Fourteen watersheds funnel water into 3,400 miles of tributaries. The Cumberland supports 100 endangered or threatened species and is the source of drinking water for millions.
Lost Waters. Gary Moody drafted the final restoration plan and managed the work. “This creek lost its ability to handle large flows, and it couldn’t keep itself clean,” says the owner of WISE Hydrology. “Unfortunately, you see too many of these streams, and you come to consider that normal.”
Damaging floods become the norm. Eroding banks chew into productive farm ground. The signs of an unhealthy stream are obvious not only on the surface but also below ground level. The water table may drop, and the quality of water in nearby wells can decline.
Moody attacked the creek’s shortcomings in several ways.
' Debris from the creek bank was removed. The riparian zone (the area between creek and field) was reshaped and seeded with fescue and native grasses. The zone was expanded to 60 feet on either side of Pleasant Grove Creek.
' A 100-foot-long gully emptying into the creek, cut by runoff from a nearby field, was filled. A grade-control structure was built at the bottom of the gully’s run. The rock structure slowed the water running toward the creek through the restored area.
' A logjam was reconfigured to restore a section of stream bank. In their original form, the logs forced water into the banks. The water was freshly loaded with more sediment each time another section of it collapsed. The logs were moved to create a Rosgen cross-vane. Cross-vanes are used to redirect stream currents away from the stream bank to reduce erosion and improve fish habitat.
' Exclusion fencing was erected to move the cattle off the creek bank. Municipal water was piped to waterers in newly rotated fields.
The benefits of the work were obvious. The water cleared, the algae blooms were gone and oxygen levels climbed. The work restored riffles, oxygen-rich areas where rocks break up the flow of the water. The creek’s pools were restored, as well. Pools slow the velocity of the water and house spawning grounds.