Hunnicutt Creek Restoration
Restoration activity on Clemson University's lower reaches of Hunnicutt Creek began in May of 2013. These activities are part of a mitigation process for the commercial development of lands which impacted a stream system in the Clemson area. This activity has brought together regional experts on stream restoration, Federal and State agencies and Clemson University administrators, land managers, faculty, staff and students.
What is stream restoration?
Stream restoration is a planned management activity that attempts to re-establish the natural functions of a stream system that existed prior to disturbance. Restoration activities include the building of in-stream structures for channel stability, implementing natural stream patterns mimicking reference conditions within a region, providing accessible floodplains for storm water where sediment and nutrients can naturally deposit and establishing natural stream-side vegetation. The initial aesthetic impacts for this type of restoration are severe, but a properly designed and implemented project will quickly re-vegetate.
Stream restoration is a common practice in the southeastern United States. Little Garvin Creek, located on Clemson University's Simpson Farm in Pendleton, South Carolina was restored in 2002. This restoration involved re-establishing a natural stream pattern, installation of in-steam structures, lowering of the floodplain for connectivity of flood waters and stream-side vegetation enhancement. The images below are from this stream restoration project and are a good example of what can be expected for Hunnicutt Creek.
Active construction at Little Garvin Creek restoration. Little Garvin Creek one year after restoration activities.
Why restore Hunnicutt Creek?
Hunnicutt Creek has been historically straightened through farming practices to allow for cultivation of adjacent lands. Additionally, a berm was constructed to reduce the amount of flooding during storm events. These activities have significantly impaired the natural functions of this system by increasing the channel slope and confining all waters within the existing channel. Restoration within this section of Hunnicutt Creek will reduce in-stream erosive forces by providing flood waters access to the floodplain and reduce stream channel slope by implementing a natural stream pattern. The construction of in-stream structures will provide flow direction, grade control and bank protection. Invasive species dominate the understory of this stream system, removal of these species will allow native plants to reestablish within this section of Hunnicutt Creek.
This image of Hunnicutt Creek illustrates the level of impairment to this waterbody. Stream channel shape is indicated by a red line and the common flood level by the orange line. This channel shape confines all flood waters within the channel. With this perspective, it is easy to see that the stream channel has been straightened for a considerable length and has increased the erosive forces within the channel. All green vegetation in this photo represent many of the invasive plant species found at this location on Hunnicutt Creek.
How does this benefit Clemson University?
In 2006, Clemson University published the Riparian Corridor Master Plan. This plan provides in-depth analysis of issues facing the Hunnicutt Creek Watershed and the unique challenges associated with improvements to this watershed. Conservation, restoration and stabilization are highlighted in this document as are desired projects that should be sought after to improve the campus at Clemson University. This project will provide Clemson University with a starting block for future projects and provide educational resources not only for students and faculty at Clemson University but local citizens and visitors to the campus.