Conclusions, Areas of Concern, and Next Steps
LJEA obtained a “snap-shot” of the ecological health at 19 sites in the Lake James Watershed over a period between 27 January and 8 April 2018. The assessment methods were adapted from the procedures of the NC Department of Environmental Quality and the Stream Monitoring Information Exchange Program.
Macroinvertebrate sampling provided for the computation of a Biotic Index for each site and, by that measure, all sites were rated Good to Excellent. No site came close to being rated as biologically impaired. Caution should be used in interpreting these results. Winter surveys often result in ‘best case’ conditions. Generally, streams in the winter are not stressed because of low dissolved oxygen or high-water temperatures and therefore intolerant taxa can dominate. LJEA intends to repeat the surveys the fall of 2018, during ‘poorer’ conditions, to note differences in the fauna and to assess sources of pollution.
The Stream Habitat Assessment generally showed good to excellent conditions except for one location, Crooked Creek at Bat Cave Road. That location received a Habitat Score of 44, which is considered fair, primarily due to excessive substrate embeddedness, poor riparian buffer conditions on both sides of the stream, signs of excessive erosion, and the condition of the tree canopy. To help remove observer bias in the Habitat Scores, LJEA will reassess these sites in the fall of 2018.
Although generally good, the macroinvertebrate and habitat data collected during the LJEA bio survey presents two areas of concern:
- North Fork of the Catawba River from Pitts Station Road to Lake James
- Crooked Creek from Bat Cave Road to its confluence with the Catawba River
In addition to repeating the biological surveys later in the year, LJEA is examining other data, and consulting with cooperating universities and NC DEQ to develop specific monitoring plans for those areas.