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Chestatee Restoration Project

The University of North Georgia’s Environmental Leadership Center, in partnership with the City of Dahlonega, Lumpkin County Commissioners, County Extension, NRCS, GMRC, and several area Electric Membership Cooperatives, recently received a Georgia Clean Water grant to reduce sediment and bacteria pollutants to the Chestatee River, and remove sections of this watershed from the states impaired waters list, through the implementation of innovative restoration projects.

The Chestatee Partnership Project is modeled on similar projects implemented in Habersham County in the Soque Watershed from 2004 through to the present. In particular one technique for ecological restoration was discovered that solves a number of environmental challenges and for very little cost.

Before 2010 Six acres lacked soil cover and vegetation.
After 2015 400 tons of organic mulch applied to stop erosion.

Background

Human activities often involve a significant change in the properties of the underlying soils, such as compaction and the loss of topsoil. Changes to the soil permanently alters the long-term potential for vegetative establishment across a landscape negatively affecting local water supplies (both quantity and quality), habitat for native wildlife, landscape aesthetics, and a range of ecosystem services that enhance our quality of life.

Project Description

Landscapes once degraded by human activities can be restored through the practice of ecological restoration. The first step in the ecological restoration of upland landscapes is an assessment of the ecosystem’s foundation, the soil. If the soils lack pore space, organic matter, nutrients, water holding capacity, and the organisms that cycle nutrients back to the roots of plants, then the restoration process begins with rebuilding the soil.

This project will divert large volumes of organic mulches generated by local municipalities and electric utility cooperatives as part of their routine maintenance of roads and right ways. UNG students with the Environmental Leadership Center are currently assembling a database of areas with the highest erosion potential across Lumpkin County.

Once complete, these property owners will be contacted and when mulch availability and property owner interest align, bare areas of soil will be covered with 8-24 tons of mulch to the acre. Mulching is considered the second most effective erosion control technique by Georgia’s Soil and Water Conservation Commission (use of compost is #1). This practice should stop nearly all erosion from these sites.

Thanks and Appreciation

This project would not be possible without the support and funding of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division - Non-Point Source Branch.

Getting Involved in the Partnership

The success of community ecological protection projects are dependent upon the support and engagement of a diverse cross section of community partners in the goals of a project. We hope that you and your organizations may be willing to be involved in one or more of the steps below.

Step One – Gathering and Spreading Information

Before beginning a project you want to understand the resource and the people that shape the resource. In these early months, we hope to be a “rolling sponge” tasked to soak up information that will help us implement the most effective projects in the most effective places with the most effective partners. This process also helps spread the word of purpose of the project.

Step Two – Establish Shared Goals

Though the long-term goals of this project are to enhance the quality of the waters in the Chestatee Watershed, the exact path to getting there will involve the expertise, support and voluntary participation of hundreds of individuals, organizations and agencies. Over the next year we will have two community meetings designed to shape this project in a way that best benefits and engages the broad needs of this community.

Step Three – Identify Partners and Project Sites

Using a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) database and our contacts through the Chestatee Partnership we hope to begin reaching out to potential partners and project site owners by early 2017.

Step Four – Implement Model Projects

The implementation of ecological restoration projects requires strong relationships between individual property owners, restoration planners and the contractors that will perform the final work of the project.

Looking to the Future

Early successes are vital so that they serve as the models for future projects.

In the coming months, we’ll be developing maps of priority restoration sites, mulch availability schedules, and bid proposals for contractors interested in helping to implement these projects.

We greatly look forward to working with you and other community members to implement these projects!

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