Clarks Run organization will study how to best manage the creek

Published 3:23 pm Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Clarks Run Environmental and Education Corporation (CREEC) has been awarded a $5,000 grant by the Kentucky River Authority for a “best management practices feasibility study” on a portion of the creek that flows through Danville.

The 12-mile-long Clarks Run creek surfaces near Alum Springs Cross Pike in western Boyle County and flows roughly along Lebanon Road into Danville and under South Fourth, Third and Second streets. It continues to meander near Duncan Hill, and takes many twists and turns until finally emptying into Dix River at Herrington Lake.

According to a news release, the project will take two years to complete and will “identify, evaluate, and recommend potential best management practices (BMPs) to improve water quality and habitat in Clarks Run; to reduce the impact of urban development on Clarks Run, and to provide education about BMP and stormwater impacts.”

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According to Dr. Preston Miles, who submitted the application, CREEC intends to focus on and 1.5 miles of Clarks Run that flows between Fourth Street and Stanford Road.

Miles explained that the creek’s “hydrology” in that area would be studied. Instead of the term “hydrology”, Miles said, “Maybe a better word choice would be ‘flow characteristics’ or ‘flow behaviors.’”

He added, “Small and medium streams with medium flow rates, naturally develop a pattern for the stream bed of ripple-run-pool, generally, this pattern repeats about five to seven times the stream width. And streams of this type naturally develop a ‘meander’ in the stream path. This pattern repeats about 10 to 14 times the stream width.”

Miles explained, “Over the years, as agriculture and communities developed, in some cases streams have been straightened, often to make the land for development or cropland. This straightening then leads to higher stream water velocity and instability of banks, loss of aquatic habitat, higher sediment loads, and an increase in flashiness (the tendency of creek level to go up and down rapidly under rain events). This study will try to identify best management practices (BMPs) that can reduce impacts of straightening and reduce flashiness.”

The feasibility study is entirely the responsibility of CREEC, and its findings and recommendations “places no obligation on the city. I made this clear in a conversation with (City Manager) Earl Coffey,” Miles said.

“Part of the work product the consultants will provide is estimates of the cost of any and all recommendations, and they will give us advice on possible funding sources. … My expectation is the work done under this grant will give us a clear plan to use in future projects over the next several years.”

Principle consultants for the study are Ridgewater, LLC, a Winchester environmental engineering firm, Stantec, a national consulting organization with expertise in planning, design, and construction, and EcoGro, a Lexington company that has led several environmental remediation projects in central Kentucky.

The release states that a 2016 Kentucky Department of Waterways shows that Clarks Run was impaired by sediment, sewage and nutrients and that urban stormwater runoff was listed as a suspected source of the pollutants.

“Growth of Boyle County and the City of Danville has impacted Clarks Run through increased stormwater discharges from impervious urban development, utility, and roadway crossing impacts, and aging/failing hydraulic control structures in Clarks Run (i.e. low-head dams). The BMP feasibility study will help identify, evaluate, and select the best ways to reduce the impact of urban development in the Clarks Run watershed,” according to the application.

It went on to read, “The stream has been straightened, channelized, and disconnected from the natural floodplain due to roadway construction, structure floodproofing, and hydraulic control structures (such as low head dams).”

These low head dams were originally built to get water for agriculture use, light industrial, and steam generation for electricity.

However, because of updated and centralized municipal water supply the low head dams were abandoned causing debris to accumulate which in turn caused the banks to erode and loss of habitat.

The application also states that the bank erosion could also “lead to public safety concerns near walking paths (such as the Falcon’s Flight shared-use trail system which runs parallel to Clarks Run).”

In addition, the disconnection of Clarks Run due to urban growth restricts the movement of fish, invertebrates, and migration of other aquatic species.

The feasibility study will identify, evaluate, and recommend potential BMPs for construction capable of meeting the following goals:

1. Improve Water Quality and Habitat in Clarks Run by:
• Reducing mobilization of sediments; enhancing riparian buffers; and restore aquatic habitat.
• Enhance riparian buffers

2. Reduce the impact of urban development in Clarks Run by
• Removing hydraulic control structures to mitigate bank loss; restoring natural aquatic migration pathways; and stabilize eroded stream banks.

3. Provide education about BMPs and stormwater quality with signage, tours, or potential outdoor classroom opportunities.
On Thursday, April 22 — which happens to be Earth Day — at 4 p.m., Miles and other CREEC representatives will have a public walk along Clarks Run beginning at Michael Smith Park on Second Street and discuss the issues affecting the creek and opportunities to improve this important community resource.

Miles said not only is the public encouraged to attend the forum, “We are sending direct invitations to as many of the key persons as we can. Folks like Parks & Rec, City Commission, Danville Housing Authority, Danville/Boyle County Trails Alliance, folks involved in the Downtown Master Plan, and as many landowners as we can identify.”