Partners for Trout recently completed a half-mile of stream restoration on Little Eastatoee Creek in the Jocassee Gorges region of northern Pickens County.
“The floodplain was reconstructed using a technique never before used in South Carolina,” said Ross Stewart, Natural Resources Conservation Service soil conservationist. The downstream side of the newly constructed floodplain was planted in hardwood tree seedlings, which are protected by plastic tubes that act like a greenhouse.
The restored section of Little Eastatoee Creek was entrenched (the channel was degraded), meaning there was no out-of-bank flow. “When a creek is allowed to spill over its bank and out into the floodplain,” Stewart said, “the velocity of the water is slowed which amounts to a decrease in stream bank erosion.”
During the planning stages of this project, proposed floodplains were staked out at strategic locations. Then, during the construction phase, they were hollowed out to become functioning floodplains. The elevation of the new floodplains (also referred to as benches) was constructed such that during a one-and-a-half-year storm, the creek will be able to flow out onto the floodplains.
Hardwood tree seedlings will also be planted along both sides of the creek to establish a riparian area. The riparian area will slow down the water during storm events, and shade the water, thereby reducing thermal pollution (one of the biggest pollutants in South Carolina trout waters).
Additional stream restoration practices that were used for this project included whole-tree revetments (a brush or tree facing used to support an embankment), root wads (the trunk of a tree with the roots attached and the soil or dirt removed so that the roots are exposed), rock J-hooks (rock structures used to deflect flows off of eroding banks), rock cross vanes (rocks placed across the channel to provide grade control and to narrow the normal stream channel) and in-stream boulders, according to Stewart. The project involved five landowners and cost $139,000.
Partners for Trout is a coalition comprised of the Pickens, Greenville and Oconee Soil and Water Conservation Districts, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, S.C. Department of Natural Resources, Trout Unlimited, private landowners and the Foothills Resource Conservation & Development Council. The group is committed to restoring and enhancing trout streams in South Carolina.
Trout streams appear in only a small portion of three counties in South Carolina: Oconee, Pickens and Greenville, according to Dan Rankin, Upstate regional fisheries biologist with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources in Clemson.
South Carolina’s trout fishery generates more than $9 million annually for the state’s economy in direct retail sales, with a total economic output of more than $18 million, according to a study on the economic benefits of freshwater fishing in South Carolina. The effects of trout fishing can be felt in many segments of Upstate and Midlands communities, from motels and restaurants to gas stations, local bait and tackle shops and sporting goods stores.
According to Rankin, fingerling trout are stocked in the headwater reaches of Little Eastatoee Creek each year to enhance the stream’s trout population. About 10,000 catchable-size trout (9-12 inches) are also annually stocked at publicly accessible sites in the lower reaches of the stream.