Developing a watershed improvement plan to meet multiple community objectives in Gainesville and Hall County, Georgia
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The City of Gainesville and Hall County have developed a Watershed Improvement Plan (WIP) for Flat Creek, which is partially funded by a Section 319(h) Nonpoint Source Implementation Grant, in partnership with GADNR Environmental Protection Division. In concert, the City and County have also developed an Ecosystem Restoration Report (ERR) to potentially obtain federal funding under Section 206 of the Water Resource Development Act (WRDA). The Flat Creek Watershed was one of three areas identified in both the 2000 Watershed Assessment and Management Plan and the 2006 Watershed Protection Plan as not currently meeting the desired level of health. Reasons for this finding were largely attributable to urban growth, as evidenced by 303(d) listings for violations due to high fecal coliform concentrations and impacted biota, unstable banks, and degraded stream quality. In 2003, the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District (District) classified Flat Creek as a substantially impacted watershed due to high effective impervious cover estimates. Implementation of watershed improvement projects can be costly. In order to assure that implementation efforts are targeted toward the most cost-effective and beneficial projects, a customized prioritization strategy was developed to: (1) identify problem areas in the watershed using GIS and field assessments, (2) develop potential watershed improvement projects, and (3) prioritize projects based on estimated costs and benefits. Since the project began in February 2007, coordination between multiple stakeholders has occurred with tasks including data collection, analysis, project development, prioritization, and identification of recommended alternatives. Potential ecosystem costs and benefits of restoration combinations (or alternatives) were compared using sediment modeling, stream and stormwater structure assessments, biological monitoring, planning-level cost estimates, feasibility constraints, and long-term water quality data collected by the City. For the ERR, benefits were ranked using the Ecosystem Response Model developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the North Georgia Water Resources Agency team. This summer, the draft WIP and ERR documents were prepared to summarize efforts and submitted for approval to the GAEPD and USACE, respectively.