Catalpa Creek Watershed Restoration & Protection Project and Watershed DREAMS Center

Author(s): Schauwecker, T.

The Catalpa Creek Watershed is located in Oktibbeha and Lowndes counties in the northeast region of Mississippi and is part of the larger Tombigbee River Basin. The 28,928 acre watershed contains 31 miles of mainstream perennial stream length. At the HUC-12 level, the watershed includes part of the Mississippi State University Campus, the MSU South Farm research facility and dairy farm, as well as a number of privately owned lands. Research activities of the university and continued development and construction of university lands appear to be a primary driver of stream, ecosystem, and water quality degradation. Catalpa Creek is currently listed by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) as impaired by sedimentation and a TMDL has been developed that sets challenging targets for sediment load reductions. Two MSU facilities on the South Farm are permitted point sources – the Poultry Science Research Center and the Ag Center and Horse Park. MDEQ has ranked the watershed as having a high stressor potential, which means compared to other watersheds in the area Catalpa Creek is a watershed in need of restoration. MDEQ supports four sites in the watershed to monitor its biological health. A comprehensive suite of management practices has been selected to address the agricultural resource concerns identified for the watershed – sedimentation, grazing lands, sustainable forestry, and declining wildlife habitats. In addition to the agricultural resource concerns, urban storm water management is a key need for the watershed and a focus for restoration and protection. MSU’s Master Plan (MSU, 2010) contains numerous urban storm water management techniques and approaches, which will be leveraged into the project. The project has a number of unique features. These include an education, experiential learning, and outreach approach that begins by better understanding the behaviors, perceptions, and beliefs of watershed stakeholders; creation of experiential learning opportunities for students; a comprehensive monitoring and assessment approach that includes traditional physical/chemical water quality monitoring, macroinvertebrate habitat assessments, use of indicator species to evaluate ecosystem restoration progress; and social indicators to understand improvements in stakeholder behaviors and perceptions and the effectiveness of educational and outreach activities. Other unique features include analyses and designs to restore the structure and function of Catalpa Creek and for siting storm water retention basins to mitigate downstream storm water impacts. Also, incorporated into the project is a focus on watershed sustainability. Probably, the most ambitious component of the project is to leverage these restoration and protection activities into the establishment of a Watershed DREAMS (Demonstration, Research, Education, Application, Management and Sustainability) Center. Supported by over 18 university units, it is envisioned that the DREAMS Center will demonstrate innovative applied research, sustainable water resources management, and effective and quantifiable education and experiential learning for students, educators, and federal/state conservation agencies and organizations.

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