Buzzworm news briefs

Deadline, relief meeting ahead

Friday, Dec. 17, is the deadline for Western North Carolinians to register for federal assistance in recovering from hurricanes Frances and Ivan. Registration is required for anyone who suffered damage from the storms to be considered for assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Those affected by the storms who have not yet applied for help must do so before the end of the business day on Friday. Have the following information ready when you contact the agency: your telephone number, Social Security number, current mailing address, the address of the damaged property, a brief description of the damage and any pertinent insurance information. To register, call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362); or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for those with speech or hearing impairment. It is also possible to register online at www.fema.gov.

On Friday, Dec. 20, a public meeting will focus on the unmet needs for hurricane relief. The meeting starts at 9 a.m. in the Haynes Center of A-B Tech’s Enka campus and is sponsored by the Joint Select Committee on Hurricane Relief.

— Nelda Holder

River, river, river she run down

“Each year, the city of Asheville adds eight dump-truck loads of dirt to the sports fields on Haw Creek,” observes Michael Miller, RiverLink’s Swannanoa Watershed Coordinator. “It’s not very often that we can easily quantify erosion that way.”

Miller is standing on a footbridge over Haw Creek, gesturing toward a pile of boulders, just upstream, while a front-end loader adds to the mound. “We’re trying to address the runoff [erosion] from the fields,” he notes. “That’s going to save the city money at the same time that it protects the stream.”

The erosion-control effort around the ball fields is one of five RiverLink urban best-management-practices demonstration projects funded by a $250,000 grant from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The improvement project not only addresses the playing-field erosion, but also erosion of the stream bank itself. Haw Creek was artificially detoured when the fields were built, creating two erosion-prone right angles around the perimeter. As Miller explains all this, a backhoe is placing large boulders along the stream to protect the bank.

The streambed is also being modified, according to John Thelen of Landmark Landscaping, to give it a more natural contour, “We’ll do live-staking, which involves placing green cuttings of native plants that root easily,” Thelen explains. “Then we’ll plant a native grass-seed mix, native wildflowers and perennials like partridge peas, plus use erosion mats to stabilize the soil.”

Haw Creek drains a 3,000-acre watershed almost equally comprised of forest and residential land, plus about 7 percent defined as commercial.

In addition to erosion control, RiverLink is, according to Miller, “working on locking up conservation easements along Haw Creek, to protect this waterway in the future.”

Two of the other five demonstration projects are also on Haw Creek. One, recently completed, enhances a stormwater wetland area; such areas are valued partly because they help decontaminate stormwater runoff. The other project, planned for Evergreen Community Charter School, “will divert some of the roof runoff into a rain garden designed for butterflies,” says Miller. The rest of the run-off will go into a vegetative swale and storm-water wetland, which “will function as an outdoor classroom, as well,” he says, “where students can observe wetland species and learn about aquatic biology.”

A fourth project was completed behind the Bi-Lo grocery in Black Mountain, where a wetland was created to deal with runoff from one-and-a-half acres of impervious surface — the parking lot and roof of the supermarket. “A wetland filters slowly, microbes remove oil, grease and other pollutants before the water enters the headwaters of the Swannanoa River there,” Miller explains. The Black Mountain Parks and Recreation Department joined in to build what is now a new public park designed as a bird and wildlife habitat, complete with a meandering trail.

The final demonstration project will be constructed behind the Black Mountain Center for the Arts. It will treat parking-lot runoff using a process called biofiltering, which passes runoff through layers of sand and mulch, before it percolates back to groundwater, according to Miller.

— Cecil Bothwell

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