Watershed-based restoration efforts bring improvements to Townsend Creek water quality

A segment of Townsend Creek was recently removed from the state list of impaired waters.  This stream segment, which is located in a sub-watershed of the South Fork Licking River in northern Kentucky, formerly failed to support its designated use as primary contact recreation and is an excellent example of how watershed-based approaches can improve water quality.

Townsend Creek

Data collected by the Kentucky Division of Water (KDOW) in 1999 indicated that the mouth of Townsend Creek did not meet Kentucky’s water quality standard for fecal coliform.  The division identified that agriculture and the loss of riparian habitat were two of the primary activities affecting the quality of the stream.

The Townsend Creek Watershed Project began with a 2003 Clean Water Act (CWA) section 319 nonpoint source implementation grant from the Kentucky Division of Water to the Kentucky Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC). The primary goal of the Townsend Creek Watershed Project was to improve water quality in Townsend Creek by reducing pathogen levels and increasing safe recreational opportunities within the watershed. The methods for achieving this goal included installing agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs), conducting pre- and post-BMP water quality monitoring, and implementing a strong K–12 and adult water education and outreach program.

Through this project, a full-time Licking River project director and project manager were hired to seek out agricultural BMP implementation opportunities throughout the watershed. Individual farms were identified within high-priority sub-watersheds that had the opportunity to implement BMPs and other conservation practices that would improve the watershed. The project team worked with these landowners to gain their support.

From 2003 to 2005, BMPs were implemented using cost-share assistance from the Townsend Creek Watershed Project.  These BMPs included stream crossings, livestock exclusion fencing, riparian forest buffers, riparian grass buffers, sinkhole protection, waste storage facilities, tree and shrub establishment, heavy-use area development, alternative livestock watering facilities, limited access ramps, animal trails, livestock shade structures, pipelines, tank and spring development, and wetland conservation easements.

DOW water samples collected to reassess conditions at the mouth of Townsend Creek showed that the stream has significantly improved.  Fecal coliform levels met the water quality standard of 400 cfu/100 mL.  As a result, DOW removed a 2.9 mile segment from the state list of impaired waters.  This represents a move from nonsupport to full support of the primary contact recreation designated use for this segment of Townsend Creek.

To read more about the Townsend Creek watershed restoration project, visit http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/success319/ky_town.cfm.

You may also contact John Webb, Watershed Branch Manager at john.webb@ky.gov or 502-564-3410.