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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Virginia (Section 319I - 1994)

Virginia continues to develop watershed projects that combine educational programs and demonstrations, technical assistance, financial assistance, and water quality monitoring into a comprehensive approach to watershed restoration. An example of this successful approach is the Middle Fork Holston River project.

Awareness Project Promotes Agricultural BMP Use

Cooperation from and coordination among many individuals working on different aspects of a problem is often the surest way to improve water quality. That was certainly true in the Middle Fork Holston watershed in western - Virginia. The water quality awareness project, funded with section 319 funds, promoted the restoration of the Middle Fork Holston River and encouraged the use of best management practices. It was a small but important part of the plan to reduce watershed pollution. In 1985, the New River Highlands Resource Conservation and Development District (RC&D) formed a committee dedicated to improving the river's water quality by reducing point and nonpoint pollution sources. In March 1990, the public awareness project received $7,500 in section 319 funds to further that effort. This was supplemented by $6,500 from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and $17,000 from the RC&D, the project sponsor.

The project had several components:

Over 600 students participated in an educational program for all local schools, which included - t-shirts and logo and poster contests.

  • About 140 people participated in the widely promoted River Clean-Up Day, cleaning approximately 36 miles of streambank.
  • A successful streambank protection effort--which installed approximately 4,800 feet of fence to restrict cattle access to the river, planted 1,250 trees beside streams, and built three watering troughs--continues to be used as a demonstration site.
  • Other activities included reforesting a streambank adjacent to an industrial park, touring agricultural BMPs installed within the watershed, and developing an educational display of activities to restore the river.

The land treatment BMPs contribute greatly to water quality improvements. Trees control erosion and stabilize stream temperature. Fences protect streams against cattle waste, which increases nutrients that contribute to eutrophication--nutrient enrichment that leads to premature aging of the waterbody.

The awareness project enhanced public support for existing projects such as TVA's BMP assistance and monitoring programs and critical site treatment with federal and state cost-share funds. TVA used the Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) to monitor water quality changes and conducted an aerial inventory of land use and nonpoint source pollution sources. This monitoring has shown that water quality has improved as a result of installing land treatment BMPs.

Fish populations have increased both in numbers and diversity. Overall, the fish community has shown an - improvement in the percentage of insectivores, such as sculpins, and top predators, such as rock bass. These changes are reflective of a more balanced and healthy stream ecosystem and are attributed to reductions in sediment and nutrient loadings from the installation of BMPs.

In 1991, a pilot total maximum daily load (TMDL) project, supported with section 319 funds, began developing a methodology to link land use changes brought about by land treatment BMPs with changes in water quality using IBI techniques. Although more research is required, the completed project shows a correlation between land use changes and changes in water quality.

Another section 319 project, funded in the fall of 1992, builds on previous streambank restoration along critical areas of the watershed identified through TVAs extensive land use inventories. Finally, USDA has approved a land treatment watershed project on three subwatersheds and will provide additional funding for land treatment BMP practices.

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