Back in August of 2019, a non-profit organization called RiverLink—in conjunction with the city of Asheville, North Carolina—embarked on a year-long study of water quality issues in the Central Asheville area.
The result is the recently-completed Central Asheville Watershed Restoration Plan. The focus of the plan is to restore and protect the watershed, while also reconnecting people to the streams that flow through their backyards.
RiverLink worked closely with a group of consultants led by Blue Earth Planning, Engineering & Design (with staff from Wildlands Engineering, Penrose Environmental, Ecosystem Services, Headwater Environmental, Sitework Studios, and FrontWater geo Planning + Design) to examine water quality issues in three streams that flow through Asheville.
The two-square mile Central Asheville watershed is a priority area for RiverLink due to its complex environmental, economic, and social equity issues. The three urban streams—Town (Nasty) Branch, Bacoate Branch, and the recently named Haith Branch—are all impacted by a variety of issues that include: stormwater runoff from developed areas, piped streams, illicit discharges and aging infrastructure.
According to the Environmental Quality Institute, Town (Nasty) Branch is one of the most polluted streams in Buncombe County. Water quality tests have discovered high nutrient levels that create a toxic environment for fish and other aquatic wildlife.
The French Broad Riverkeeper has also found high levels of e-coli in the stream. Town Branch flows into a popular recreational section of the French Broad River, where e-coli bacteria levels regularly exceed state water quality standards.
Now that the restoration plan is complete, RiverLink is ready to begin implementing some of the proposed projects. High on the list of priorities are The Town Branch Greenway Riparian Area Management Plan, which will facilitate removal of invasive, non-native plant species, install several stormwater control measures, and institute a 50 foot stream buffer made up of native plants.
Another important component of this project is completion of the 3/4 mile, ADA accessible greenway that will connect the riverfront to the Southside neighborhood and the south slope area of downtown. The greenway will provide amenities like benches and trash cans, as well as interpretive signs that encourage people to connect with their local waterways and the history of the area.
Photo of French Broad River courtesy of RiverLink.