Hunnicutt Creek is the primary drainage basin for Clemson University. It is located in Pickens County South Carolina, USA. The campus runoff that does not drain into the creekbed drains into the old Seneca Riverbed located near the baseball stadium, indoor football practice facility and track. All waters within the Hunnicutt Creek Watershed are pumped into Lake Hartwell. These waters are part of the larger Savannah River Basin.
The image below illustrates the boundaries to the Hunnicutt Creek Watershed. The easternmost portion of this watershed drains toward the stream restoration reach, which is indicated by a red oval.
Various research projects focused on Hunnicutt Creek have been pursued over the years. The completion of Clemson's Riparian Corridor Master Plan in 2006 and restoration work on Hunnicutt's lower reaches, started in 2013 as part of a mitigation process for a commercial development in the area, have sparked more consistent research on the creek in recent years.
Impairments to the Hunnicutt Creek watershed stem primarily from past land management practices that have perturbed the environment. Agricultural practices of the early 20th century involved straightening stream channels to increase arable land, which has led to deeply insized channels, limiting the ability for floodplains to function properly. Increasing impermeable paving and building on Clemson's campus have turned the watershed into a system similar to one you'd see in any city: large amounts of storm water run-off are sent off roads and rooftops and into storm sewers and later streams, as quickly as possible, creating enormous volumes of water flowing through existing stream channels. This design keeps impermeable surfaces from flooding, but does not take biological process and habitat into account.
The resultant hardening of the watershed and stream channels has negatively impacted stream and floodplain function, thereby severely limiting biological integrity. Previous land management techniques that include point source pollution impacts, clearing of vegetation and introduction of aggressive exotic species have also compromised biological integrity.
How does this project benefit Clemson?
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. Restoration projects and research focus on Hunnicutt Creek will provide Clemson University with starting blocks for future projects and provide educational resources not only for students and faculty at Clemson University but local citizens and visitors to the campus.