The Memphis District recently finalized the feasibility study phase of the Piney Creek Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Project.
The study, conducted in accordance with Section 206 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1996, identified and evaluated alternatives in a decision document that recommended a coordinated and implementable solution for restoring aquatic ecosystem of Piney Creek.
A tributary of the Hatchie River, Piney Creek watershed lies entirely in Tennessee and is more than 37,500 acres.
“Approximately 50 years ago, several miles of the downstream end of Piney Creek were bypassed and replaced with a ditch,” said Project Manager Marsha Raus. “The middle portion was also straightened and enlarged to alleviate agricultural flooding but is stable at this time. Extensive timber harvesting in the upland areas increased runoff and caused gullying and erosion. The area has been reforested, but the small tributaries have not stabilized.”
Raus also said Piney Creek is the largest sediment source to the Hatchie River.
“The historic meanders of Piney Creek are cut off, leaving stagnant water around the old meanders; this is killing bottomland hardwoods and reducing the quality of the forested swamp habitat for a variety of native species,” said Raus.
The Hatchie River is the only undammed and unchanneled tributary to the Lower Mississippi River and contains the largest forested floodplain in Tennessee, according to Raus. Finally, this river is home to two National Wildlife Refuges (Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge and Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge) and two State Parks (Big Hill Pond and Chickasaw).
The West Tennessee River Basin Authority (WTRBA), the district’s project partner, plans to move forward with the first items of construction as soon as a Memorandum of Understanding is executed.
Thankful for the WTRBA’s support, Raus said, “The WTRBA provided hands-on engineering, as well as environmental and cultural resources in support of the project. The Nature Conservancy also provided environmental support through their partnership with WTRBA.”
Project construction will replace 0.8 miles of ditch with 2.6 miles of a restored meandering channel in the floodplain of the Wild and Scenic corridor of the Hatchie River. Construction is estimated to take five to seven years to complete, with a total of $16 million reserved for construction costs.
Congratulations to the following Project Delivery Team Members for reaching this important project milestone: Project Manager Marsha Raus, Cost Engineer Jeromy Carpenter, Real Estate Specialist Torick Frison, H&H Engineer Robert Gambill, Economist Matt Napolitano, and Archaeologist Pam Lieb.
The district and project delivery team thanks its partners, the WTRBA and The Nature Conservancy, for their commitment and unwavering support throughout this process.