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Beaver Creek Watershed Project, Knox County, TN

The Beaver Creek Watershed is located in the 630 square mile Lower Clinch Basin. Its 86 square miles lies entirely within the northern portion of Knox County. The 44 miles of main stem plus seven main tributaries wind through five different communities before emptying into the Clinch River. Beaver Creek is a rapidly urbanizing watershed with 75,000 residents. Two communities in the watershed, Gibbs and Karns, have been identified by the Metropolitan Planning Commission as the fastest growing areas in Knox County. The creek is on the State of Tennessee’s 303(d) list of impaired streams. The primary impacts to Beaver Creek include sediment, nutrients and pathogens from agricultural and urban runoff, nutrients and pathogens from municipal point sources, and habitat alteration due primarily to land development. A Total Maximum Daily Load requirement has been developed by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for sediment and pathogens in Beaver Creek.

TN WRRC Facilitates 2012 Annual Meeting

The Tennessee Water Resources Research Center (TN WRRC), in conjunction with Hallsdale Powell Utility District (HPUD), hosted a daylong event on September 13, 2012, featuring the successes of the Beaver Creek Task Force (BCTF). Special guests among the 45 attendees included Vivian Doyle, EPA Region 4 TN Watershed Coordinator; Connie Alexander, EPA Region 4 Education and Outreach Coordinator; David Duhl, TDEC Watershed Coordinator; Sam Marshall, TDA319 Grants Coordinator; Trish Johnson, The Nature Conservancy’s East Tennessee Conservation Coordinator; and Dr. Chris Cox, Director of UT's Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment (ISSE). Enjoy viewing a picture show of the day's events.

Ruth Anne Hanahan discusses plantings in the Powell Station Park Rain Garden with Dr. Chris Cox, Director of ISSE, while Vivian Doyle and Connie Alexander with EPA, Region 4, listen in.

The BCTF is a long-standing consortium of agencies, institutions, utilities, and non-profits that has been working in the BeaverCreek Watershed in North Knox County for the past 14 years. The goal of the Task Force has been to develop a model approach for de-listing waterways in a highly challenging watershed, faced with multiple land-use impacts.  The TNWRRC is a charter member of this consortium and has played a prominent role in its accomplishments, as have other UT Departments.

The day’s event was kicked off by Darren Cardwell, CEO of Hallsdale Powell Utility District, proudly welcoming all to their newly-built headquarters, which has incorporated a host of green infrastructure practices. Darren shared the story of this facility and followed with an informative presentation about HPUD’s state-of-the-art water and wastewater treatment plants and how the utility is rehabilitating streambanks in project areas as the utility upgrades sewer lines.

Roy Arthur listens as Dr. John Schwartz, Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, discusses his Halls Community Park Stream Rehabilitation Project.

Roy Arthur, with the TN WRRC, then took the reins and provided an engaging presentation on the BCTF and its accomplishments, beginning with its early years when watershed assessments were done as a basis for future planning. The second portion of the presentation focused on restoration efforts and highlighted student-involved projects lead by Dr. John Schwartz, UTCEE, Dr. Kiel Neff, UT CEE, and Dr. Andrea Ludwig, UT BESS. The presentation concluded with an overview of the Task Force’s outreach and community engagement initiative, an effort coordinated by Ruth Anne Hanahan with the TN WRRC.  Interwoven throughout the presentation, Roy highlighted the specific roles that partners have played in BCTF projects and underscored the value and synergy of this partnership.

Guests were then treated to a tour of Hallsdale Powell’s new facility to learn about and see its green infrastructure features, including its geo-thermal system for heat and air conditioning, pervious parking, a cistern to harvest rainwater for irrigation, a green roof, and native plants for landscaping. From there, a bus took attendees on a whirlwind watershed tour of selected BCTF’s projects. Stops included a stream restoration project at the Halls Community Park, where Dr. Schwartz pointed out key in-stream habitat features; the Halls Outdoor Classroom, where Kelsey Hensley, a former CAC AmeriCorps member, provided an overview of this school-community based educational project; and the Powell Station Park, where Ruth Anne Hanahan showcased two stormwater demonstration practices—a rain garden and grassy swale. The day ended at Brickey-McCloud Elementary School with Steve Holterman of Jacobs Engineering describing the functions and benefits of a stormwater wetland constructed by HPUD to treat runoff from the school’s rooftops and parking lots. No doubt, this day dedicated to Beaver Creek gave those who are new to this watershed’s initiative, a true feel for the good work that can come out of a well-tended partnership.

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In 1998, the Tennessee Water Resources Research Center at the University of Tennessee (TNWRRC) and the Water Quality Forum formed the Beaver Creek Task Force (BCTF), a consortium of agencies, institutions, utilities, and non-profits. The partnership was formed to determine how to address impacts to an impaired stream in a rapidly urbanizing watershed. The partnership includes:

  • Beaver Creek Watershed Association
  • CAC AmeriCorps
  • City of Knoxville
  • Environmental Protection Agency, Region IV
  • Hallsdale-Powell Utility District
  • Knox County Engineering and Public Works Stormwater Management Division
  • Knox County Health Department
  • Knox County Parks and Recreation
  • Knox County Soil Conservation District
  • Knox Land and Water Conservancy
  • Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission
  • Knoxville/Knox County/Knoxville Utility Board GIS
  • Legacy Parks Foundation
  • Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
  • Tennessee Department of Transportation
  • Tennessee Valley Authority
  • Tennessee Water Resources Research Center, University of Tennessee
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation District
  • United States Geological Survey
  • Water Quality Forum
  • West Knox Utility District

To enhance the effectiveness of the partnership, the BCTF is structured for maximum efficiency. The task force is divided in to three primary committees; an executive committee consisting of five members tasked with oversight of the day to day activities of the task force; a technical committee responsible for sample analysis, modeling, assessments, etc; and an education/outreach committee tasked with developing and implementing a communication plan. Ad hoc committees are formed for special projects. Committees meet monthly and the task force as a whole meets quarterly. Roy Arthur, Research Associate with TNWRRC/UT facilitates the BCTF.

The BCTF has operated under this same structure for the past 12 years. It has proven to be effective through the assessment, planning and now restoration phases. An organizational chart showing the interactions between committees and the task force as a whole is shown below.

beaver creek org chart

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During the past 12 years member organizations of the BCTF have made significant contributions toward the assessment, understanding, and restoration of the impacts to the Beaver Creek Watershed. Hundreds of hours of staff time and over 2 million dollars have been spent in this effort to date. A timeline includes:

  • 1998—Beaver Creek Task Force Formed
  • 1998—Updated FEMA Flood Study
  • 2000—Floodplain no fill line expanded
  • 2002—Initial BCW Assessment complete
  • 2002—Tennessee Growth Readiness
  • 2002—Site Planning Roundtable convened
  • 2003—BC Watershed Association formed
  • 2003—Part time Watershed Coordinator hired
  • 2003—Intensive Watershed Education initiated
  • 2004—USA/USSR assessments for 23 sub basins
  • 2004—Water Quality sampling & analysis
  • 2004—Green Infrastructure plan completed
  • 2005—GIS Land Use Map update
  • 2005—Awarded 604(b) Watershed Planning Grant
  • 2005—BMP projects initiated
  • 2005—Water quality models developed
  • 2005—Watershed Plan process initiated
  • 2005—Stakeholder Advisory Council convened
  • 2006—Awarded an EPA Cooperative Agreement Grant to create and test a Pilot Ecological Credit Trading Market
  • 2006—Models calibrated
    • HSPF for sediment and nutrients
    • AnnAGNPS for sediment
  • 2006—Watershed Plan Complete
  • 2007—319 Grant awarded ($919,385.00)
  • 2008—Implementation Plan for 319 grant complete
  • 2009:—Restoration begins

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Major Projects

Since its inception, the BCTF has been undertaken a number of major projects. A brief description of some of these projects follows:

Flood study: From 1998-2000, Knox County updated the FEMA flood study for Beaver Creek in response to extreme development pressure and related stormwater/flooding issues. Using data and findings from the flood study, a Beaver Creek Watershed Stormwater Master Plan was written to determine a regulatory mechanism that could address future flooding and environmental issues. This plan considered future build-out conditions in the watershed in order to allow Knox County to enact current regulations to mitigate future damages in the watershed caused by the anticipated level and pattern of development. The "no fill line" policy which expanded the preserved floodplain area well beyond FEMA minimums followed this study as a key management measure for new construction.

Watershed inventory: From 1998–2002, task force members identified future development patterns and road construction projects, environmentally sensitive areas, potential greenway routes, flood hazards and storage areas, and cultural and historic sites. A report titled the “The Beaver Creek Assessment” summarized the results of this project. Areas with multiple benefits were designated priority areas.

Outreach and education: In 1999, a telephone survey by the University of Tennessee provided valuable information about the knowledge and attitudes of watershed residents about water quality issues. Results of the telephone survey indicate that an outreach/education campaign was needed for watershed stakeholders to be effective in participating in the development of a watershed plan. An Outreach Committee was formed to educate stakeholders about basic water quality problems, inform them about the watershed initiative and encouraged them to get involved.

From 2000-present the BCTF Outreach Committee has developed an ongoing communication plan and oversee its implementation. The communication plan developed includes: a defined target audience, clear and consistent messages and a timetable and methods of delivery.

BCTF Outreach Committee activities include: over 100 articles in local newspapers, presentations to community groups, a 16 page Beaver Creek supplement to the local newspaper, the Adopt-A-Watershed program in middle and high schools, an Environmental Learning Center targeting elementary school students, the Adopt-A-Stream a program, demonstrations and promotion of improved stormwater treatment, sediment and erosion control training, public meetings and a wetland and riparian buffer educational campaign.

In recent years the BCTF Outreach Committee has developed outdoor classroom space for Gibbs, Halls, Karns, and Powell High Schools and Brickey Elementary.

Tennessee Growth Readiness Initiative: The Tennessee Growth Readiness Initiative (TGRI) is an educational program developed by TVA and BCTF partners to educate the public, local officials, and other decision makers about the sources and impacts of nonpoint source pollution, how different land uses effect water quality, and what communities can do to protect water quality. In the spring of 2002 Knox County served as the pilot area for TGRI.

Site Planning Roundtable: In the fall of 2002 Several BCTF partners assisted in convening the Knox County Site Planning Roundtable, a diverse committee that included representatives of county, city and state government agencies, environmentalists, lawyers, bankers, developers, builders and homeowners. Roundtable committees reviewed current planning and zoning ordinances and compared them to "model development ordinances." In 2005 the Roundtable reached consensus on recommended changes to development rules and processes. 21 of these recommendations have been incorporated into the new Knox County Stormwater Regulations.

The Roundtable also recommended that Low Impact Development demonstration sites be developed in the Beaver Creek Watershed. A pervious concrete parking lot has been completed at the new Powell Library; construction has begun on a low impact Town Center development named Bell Meadow in Powell next to the new library; and construction is set to begin on a low impact design for the new Hallsdale Powell Utility District headquarters.

Beaver Creek Watershed Association (BCWA): In 2003 the BCTF provided funding and support for the formation of the Beaver Creek Watershed Association. The BCWA is a non-profit (501c3) organization for stakeholders in the Beaver Creek Watershed. The BCWA now boasts over 250 members and is involved in a number of education and restoration initiatives in the watershed. The BCTF took the lead in developing a wetland Education project in the Halls community. Also, in 2003, the BCTF provided funding for a part time for a part time Watershed Coordinator for Knox County.

Beaver Creek Assessment: The first task for the BCTF was to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the Beaver Creek Watershed. The assessment included gathering all available historical agency data, a visual assessment, and suggestions for next steps. This study culminated with the publication of the “Beaver Creek Assessment” in 2003.

Water Resource Assessment and modeling: Funding through a TDEC TMDL Support Grant enabled Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at The University of Tennessee to collect 12 sampling runs over a period of one year at 13 sites in the Beaver Creek watershed and to develop a sediment load model. Water quality parameters include those necessary to generate models for sediment, phosphorus, nitrate, and pathogens. Two water quality models subsequently have been developed for sediment and nutrients. Samples were collected in 2004 and models were completed in 2006.

Green Infrastructure: In 2004 a Green Infrastructure Plan was created by the BCTF and the UT Department of Architecture, Green Studio, for the Beaver Creek Watershed. Green infrastructure is the supporting systems the landscape provides for a community; an interconnected system of natural areas and other open spaces managed for the benefits to both people and the environment.

The plan identifies ways to connect communities and natural areas; develop a program for individual conservation easements; identify conservation buffer areas, lands for greenway development, and lands with significant historic, recreational, or visual value; and recommended implementation strategies.

A report titled “The Beaver Creek Green Infrastructure Plan” has been published and is being used to help identify areas in the Beaver Creek Watershed that are best suited for development and the areas that are best suited for conservation.

Watershed Action Plan: In 2005 the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation awarded the BCTF a $54,000 grant to develop a Watershed Action Plan (WAP) for the Beaver Creek Watershed. The “Beaver Creek Watershed Restoration Plan” was completed in November of 2006 and was published in early 2007. An important part of the development of the Beaver Creek WAP was done by a Stakeholder Advisory Council composed of developers, farmers, residents, and public officials.

Ecological Credit Trading: In 2006 the Environmental Protection Agency awarded Knox County Engineering and the BCTF a $353,000 grant to develop and pilot test a water pollution credit trading program. This 3 year study developed a market based credit trading program for sediment and nutrients that, if implemented, will accelerate the restoration of the Beaver Creek Watershed to a healthy ecosystem. A final report “Ecological Credit Trading Pilot Study for the Beaver Creek Watershed” was published in 2009. TNWRRC/UT provided project management for the study.

TDA 319(h) Grant: The BCTF submitted a proposal to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture for funds to implement the first phase of restoration as outlined in the WAP. In 2007 TDA awarded the Task Force $919,385.00.

Restoration Implementation Plan: The majority of 2008 was spent preparing a detailed implementation plan for execution of the 319 grant. Major components of the implementation plan include: Agricultural improvements that include pasture renovation and cattle exclusion fencing, Stormwater retrofits to address water quality and water quantity on public and private property using bioengineered solutions, acquiring easements on and donations of floodplain property in partnership with the Legacy Parks Foundation, and other best management practices such as wetland restoration and stream bank stabilization.

A comprehensive monitoring protocol has been initiated. The monitoring program is a partnership between the University of Tennessee, Knox County, Hallsdale-Powell Utility District, West Knox Utility District, USGS, TDEC, and TVA. The data collected in the first year provided a baseline against which the BCTF can track progress.

Restoration: Restoration began in 2009 and is being led by TNWRRC/UT. By 2012 the BCTF expects to have a minimum of 25 agricultural projects completed, to have bioengineered solutions to at least 20 stormwater problems on public and private property and to have protected and restored at least 200 acres of floodplain.

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2009 Projects
  • Agricultural BMP projects
    • 1 – complete
    • Marketing plan in process
  • Streambank Rehabilitation
    • 3,500 on Hines Branch by Hallsdale Powell Utility District (HPUD) complete
    • 3 in planning stage
  • Instream Rehabilitation
    • 1,000 feet main-stem in Halls in planning stage
  • Retrofit projects
    • Constructed wetland at Brickey Elementary in planning stage.
2010 Projects
  • Agricultural BMP projects
    • 6 – complete
    • 4 – in construction phase
    • 2 – in pre-construction phase
  • Streambank Rehabilitation
    • 3 – Complete
  • Instream rehabilitation
    • 1,000 feet main-stem in Halls in design phase
  • Retrofit projects
    • 3 – rain gardens complete
    • Stormwater wetland at Brickey Elementary in process
  • Other
    • Green Roof installed on building in Gibbs Outdoor Classroom
    • 3 acre wetland mitigation project in Halls complete
2011 Projects
  • Agricultural BMP Projects
    • 4 – complete
    • 5 – in construction phase
    • 5 – in pre-construction phase
  • In-stream rehabilitation
    • 1,000 feet in Halls in construction phase
    • 1,600 feet in Mill Run Subdivision in design phase
  • Retrofit projects
    • 6 – rain gardens complete
    • Stormwater wetland at Brickey Elementary Complete
    • Stormwater demonstration park in Karns in design phase
    • Bio-retention pond in the Cedar Crossing subdivision in design phase
  • Other
    • 10 acre riparian demonstration for Knox County Sportspark in design phase
    • 3 educational kiosks for parks in progress

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Prior Accomplishments

  • 2009:  Baseline monitoring complete
  • 2008:  52 acres of land protected through easement, purchase, or donation in partnership with the Legacy Parks Foundation
  • 2007:  150 feet of eroding ditch in Powell Station Park converted to grassy swale and planted with native grasses, trees, shrubs, and flowers.
  • 2006:  Beaver Creek Watershed Restoration Plan published
  • 2005:  Pervious Parking lot with underground detention built in new Powell Branch Library
  • 2005:  Three agricultural BMP projects completed
  • 2004:  Beaver Creek Green Infrastructure Plan published
  • 2004:  1,500 feet of riparian planting in partnership with NRCS in the Halls Community Park
  • 2003:  Beaver Creek Assessment published
  • 2003:  Beaver Creek Watershed Association formed

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Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP)

ESP is a 60% cost share program that originated through the Water Quality Forum and is currently run by Knox County Stormwater. The program is designed to provide environmentally friendly solutions to landowners with drainage problems on privately owned property. Seven projects have been completed in Beaver Creek using ESP since 2001. These projects have converted close to 2,000 feet of concrete lined channel or eroding ditches to grassy swales and rehabilitated 200 feet of streambank. The ESP program is currently promoting rain gardens and installed six in 2011.


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