Throughout June, several district employees could be found wading in Beargrass Creek conducting in-stream assessments for the Three Forks of Beargass Creek ecosystem restoration study being led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District.
USACE and the local project sponsor, Louisville and Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District, partnered for a three-year comprehensive study to outline what is necessary to restore the ecological integrity of Beargrass Creek, which contains the South, Middle and Muddy Forks in Louisville, Kentucky.
As part of that effort, a multi-disciplinary team of experts from both agencies, including approximately 18 biologists, archaeologists, engineers, plan formulators, real estate specialists and economists assessed 64 sites equaling about six miles of stream throughout the city this summer to gain valuable data.
“We’re looking at the quality of the habitat and ways that we can improve it,” said Laura Mattingly, project manager, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District, while standing in a section of the South Fork of Beargrass Creek during a site visit June 30.
“We surveyed both the riparian and instream quality of the mainstem of Beargrass, as well as smaller tributaries throughout the watershed. The riparian assessments included looking at riparian width, canopy height, amount of snags and deadfall, and extensiveness of invasive dominance. For instream, we were focused on elements like the makeup of substrate, the sinuosity and morphology of the stream, the amount of bank erosion, and the amount of vegetation and organic material in the stream,” Mattingly said.
Each site received scores based on the quality and quantity of these elements.
“We also recorded qualitative observations and took multiple photos of each site that will be useful when analyzing each one during the screening and alternative formation process,” she said.
“The field work was a crucial part of the planning process. Not only were we able to collect useful data, it also gave us a chance to start visualizing how the management measures could be applied and get a better handle on the restoration potential of each site.”
Since completing the field work, the team has compiled all of the scores, photos and notes for each site.
“This enables us to start the site screening process where sites that have more opportunity for restoration and less constraints will be carried forward in the plan formulation process. In addition to the site selection, we will also be looking at how we can increase the connectivity of the overall system through instream work. Once we have our best sites and areas to increase connectivity, we will be able to develop our alternatives and perform detailed analysis to come to our final plan,” Mattingly said.
Upon completion in winter of 2022, the study will identify innovative restoration techniques and engineering solutions that are compatible with floodplain management to improve ecosystem structure, function and processes that have been lost over time and be used to guide an ecosystem restoration plan for the Beargrass Creek watershed.