On behalf of the City of Clayton, the Chattooga Conservancy managed a 319(h) grant called the Clayton-Rabun County Watershed Project. The project featured a range of activities to demonstrate how to begin reducing the flow of sediment and fecal coliform into Stekoa Creek. The project’s main activities were:
Restoring a section of Stekoa Creek’s stream bank and riparian buffer zone
Building an urban filtration basin (rain garden)
Rehabilitating rural septic systems
Creating a rural septic system database
Completing an agricultural best management practices (AG BMP) demonstration project
Stekoa Creek stream bank and buffer zone restoration: This work occurred on a 3.5-acre tract bordering Stekoa Creek and State Highway 441. Prior to the restoration effort, the tract was under a “consent order” issued by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division due to illegal filling of Stekoa Creek’s flood plain from the dumping large quantities of dirt, rubble and concrete blocks at the site.
To address ongoing erosion and sedimentation issues, a severely eroding stream bank about 75 feet in length was restored using bioengineering strategies. Approximately 1,320 linear feet of riparian area buffer zone was manually treated to eradicate non-native invasive species, and then re-planted with over 100 species of native species to act as a sediment filter along Stekoa Creek.
Installation of urban filtration basin (rain garden): Storm water discharges from State Highway 441 into the tract’s riparian zone were mitigated by constructing a 20 x 60 rain garden stocked with native flood/drought-tolerant plants. A boulder-step water delivery system was built to carry the storm water from Highway 441 into the rain garden.
A large mound of eroding fill dirt was stabilized by constructing a retaining wall around the base of the fill, using concrete blocks and rubble dumped on the site. The dirt mound was covered with bioengineered matting and native plants.
Rural septic system rehabilitation: fecal coliform pollution from failing septic tanks was addressed by completing 16 septic system rehabilitation, repair, and/or pump-out projects. Priority was given to applicants whose septic system drain fields were located in or near the riparian or flood plain zones of Stekoa Creek, or its numerous tributaries. In addition, the University of Georgia installed an experimental, advanced nitrogen treatment unit manufactured by the Orenco company at a site that also received septic system repairs.
Rural septic system database: A visual portrayal of the septic system population in the Stekoa Creek watershed was produced using GIS software. The GIS product provides an analysis of the current septic tank population in the Stekoa Creek watershed, which can assist in identifying failing septic systems that could be contributing to fecal coliform pollution in the Stekoa Creek watershed.
AG BMP project: A large AG BMP demonstration project was completed in cooperation with a landowner located on 73 acres at a high profile site in the Stekoa Creek floodplain. The project successfully demonstrated a variety of AG BMPs including 6,771 linear feet of cattle exclusion fencing; 2 stream crossings; 3 heavy use area protection zones; and, 1 heavy use walk way. All practices were designed and installed under the supervision of the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and were completed and approved according to NRCS specifications.
Public education and outreach occurred through educational signage at the Stekoa Creek Park restoration site, as well as through direct mail, meetings, email blasts, flyers, media coverage, educational literature and personal contacts, to inform citizens about the goals and objectives of the 319 project.
In addition, a certified septic installer who performed a 319 grant-funded septic system replacement commissioned the production of an educational video of the job. The video records the installation of an “advance treatment” septic system in the floodplain of an unnamed tributary to Stekoa Creek watershed.