Case Study 10: Oostanula Creek Watershed in Tennessee

 

Location: The Oostanaula Creek (HUC TN06020002083) is an agricultural watershed in eastern Tennessee, typical of the Ridge-and-Valley region occupying much of the eastern United States. The watershed covers almost 18,000 hectares (44,864 acres) in McMinn and Monroe Counties of eastern Tennessee. Oostanaula Creek is a tributary of the Hiwassee River, which begins in the mountains of northern Georgia and flows through North Carolina before veering west into Tennessee to join the Tennessee River. The entire Hiwassee River basin (an EPA Region 4 priority watershed) drains 2,700 square miles of land, much of which lies, in the Chattahoochee (Georgia), Nantahala (North Carolina), and Cherokee (Tennessee) National Forests.

Co-leaders: Dr. Forbes Walker and Ms. Lena Beth Reynolds, University of Tennessee Extension

Key Team Members: University of Tennessee, City of Athens Public Works, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service,, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, USEPA

Focus: Use the best available science to identify sources of water quality degradation and to encourage agricultural producers and other stakeholders to adopt cost-effective best management practices (BMPs) to reduce pathogen and sediment loading into the Oostanaula Creek watershed. Typical Farming Practices: Pasture-based beef and dairy agriculture, some row-crops (corn and soybeans), rainfed, no-till and minimum tillage, forestry.

Agricultural BMPs: Pasture management and pasture renovation, fencing, alternative livestock watering, establishment of riparian buffers, heavy-use areas, cover crops, streambank restoration, stream crossings, livestock travel lanes, drop inlet structures, head-cut removal.

Watershed Scale Approaches: The issues facing this watershed are common throughout the Ridge-and Valley region (urbanization, water quality degradation, etc.). Segments of Oostanaula Creek are listed as impaired due to pathogens (E. coli), nutrient runoff, and loss of biological integrity due to siltation from pasture grazing systems. Total Minimum Daily Load targets have been established for sediment, pathogens, and phosphorus. Our empirical research integrates (1) primary survey information on producer BMP adoption patterns, (2) secondary biophysical and hydrological information, and (3) molecular assays identifying pathogen etiology into a biophysical model. Expected results will (1) suggest the most cost-effective ways to improve water quality, (2) inform which incentives are likely to
maximize acres allocated to BMPs by producers in the watershed, (3) isolate pathogen sources, (4) to develop a watershed-scale sediment budget, (S) conduct a cost-benefit analysis of source-dependent BMPs to reduce the sediment loads to the Watershed and, (6) assess farmers willingness to adopt different sediment. Education and extension efforts are geared towards disseminating information to producers about BMPs, pathogen vectors, and water quality.

State and Federal Grants Program: USDA CSREES and NIFA, Tennessee Department of Agriculture

Outreach and Education: University of Tennessee Extension has had a lead role in youth and adult education and outreach efforts in the watershed.