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Morgan Creek Floodplain Restoration Project

UNC and the EEP Program have signed an agreement that will allow the EEP to conduct a feasibility study for the ecological restoration of approximately 20 acres of floodplain and 2,300 feet of stream enhancement along Morgan Creek on a portion of The Mason Farm Biological Preserve within Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The project is intended to re-establish floodplain functions along a portion of Morgan Creek on the Mason Farm property. The project effort will include removing portions of the existing berm along the southern boundary of Morgan Creek. This project will also include stream enhancement practices by planting a vegetated riparian buffer along one side of Morgan Creek adjacent to the floodplain being restored.

The feasibility study is nearly complete, and a decision is pending on the final design for the berm removal.

Purpose of These Projects

These projects will be two of many implemented within the Morgan Creek/Little Creek Local Watershed Planning area. These projects are intended to promote the public’s knowledge and understanding of the natural resources of this state-owned property as well as promote the public’s understanding of the purpose of stream and riparian enhancement and floodplain restoration.

Chapel Creek Stream Restoration Project

The North Carolina Ecosystem Enhancement Program (EEP) has signed an agreement with UNC to undertake the ecological restoration of approximately 1,400 linear feet of stream channel and approximately 5 acres of riparian buffer restoration along Chapel Creek on an unused portion of the old Finley Golf Course within Chapel Hill, North Carolina. At this time the creek channel is deeply incised and contributes sediment during high flow events. A new channel will be constructed for a portion of the creek and bankfull benches will be created in some areas. The new channel design will allow the creek to access its floodplain again, and the channel will allow the stream to meander in a natural way.

The area will be monitored by EEP for five years after project completion to ensure that the new stream channel and vegetation are stable. The project is intended to improve water quality and provide educational opportunities in stream restoration processes. The actual construction of the project began in 2008.

The Chapel Creek Restoration project is underway and progressing quickly. The project is being financed by the North Carolina Ecosystem Enhancement Program, was designed by Ward Consulting Engineers and is being constructed by River Works.

Chapel Creek Progress Updates

Two weeks ago the site was planted with a variety of native plants. The planting was divided into three different areas. The first area was the low “depressional area” located near the bridge. This area was designed to hold water and provide habitat for wetland plants and animals. This area was planted with button bush, swamp marshmallow, swamp rose, southern wild raisin, yellow root, tag alder, silky dogwood, swamp azalea, bladdernut, and silky camellia. It is difficult to see many of the plants in the photo since they are seedlings and many have just begun to sprout leaves.
A variety of plants were also planted along the stream bank. The roots of these plants do a good job of stabilizing the stream bank. In addition they provide shade during the summer months for fish. Plants in this area include possumhaw vibernum, tag alder, highbush blackberry, buttonbush, elderberry, silky dogwood, witch hazel, and yellow root.
The rest of the site is called the riparian buffer zone. Plants in this area were selected for their ability to handle periodic flooding as well as create wildlife habitat. Plants in this zone include willow oak, sycamore, green ash, ironwood, spice bush, arrowwood, sweet shrub, deciduous holly, and hackberry.
Signs were also installed around the perimeter of the site indicating that the area is a conservation area.

The pedestrian bridge over the creek was installed today. All that is left during this phase of the project is grading associated with the ramp up to the bridge deck, restoration of the trail around the project area, and a couple of small adjustments to the new creek channel. The area will be reopened to the public in the next couple of weeks and planting will take place sometime late fall/early winter.

The new channel is now carrying water and the old channel has been filled. The footings for the new bridge are being poured in anticipation of the bridge being installed near the end of July. Riverworks is also constructing a “bench” along the bank of the existing channel that will help the creek reach its floodplain during high flow events.

During the last week several rain storms travelled through the area dumping nearly 6″ of rain on the site. While this can often spell disaster during construction it actually helped to confirm that the new stream channel was designed and is being constructed correctly. Even though the new channel was not connected to the existing channel it did receive a lot of water. Much of this water came from a previously unknown drainage pathway that carries rainwater from Fordham Boulevard. Some adjustments will be made to accommodate the flow in this area.

Root wads and log vanes were recently installed in the new channel. Both of these structures, like the rock vanes, help to stabilize the stream channel and provide habitat for aquatic organisms. Unlike the rock vanes which were brought to the site, the root wads and log vanes were constructed from material that was found on site.

Grading for the new channel has almost been completed. RiverWorks has begun installing rock vanes in the new channel. The rock vanes will help slow down the flow of the creek during storms, stabilize the bank, and provide habitat for aquatic life. Due to the rain last Sunday some of the grass planted as temporary cover is beginning to come up through the fabric on the banks. The grass will help keep the banks stable until the permanent plants are installed in November or December.

The new channel is being constructed parallel to the existing creek channel which allows construction to proceed faster than if the contractor had to work within the existing channel. Once the new channel is constructed and stabilized a plug will be constructed in the old channel and the creek will be rerouted to the new channel.