Group eyes Symmes Creek cleanup

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 13, 2000

Two groups dedicated to preserving the county’s creek habitats will join forces this year on a campaign to keep Symmes Creek clean.

Monday, March 13, 2000

Two groups dedicated to preserving the county’s creek habitats will join forces this year on a campaign to keep Symmes Creek clean. Lawrence Soil and Water Conservation District officials plan to organize a water festival and to take three educational activities into schools. Soil and water’s projects are supported by the Symmes Creek Restoration Committee, which unveiled its long-range watershed management and action plan last week.

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The lengthy action plan discusses current water quality in Symmes Creek, land uses that affect it, current pollution levels, the stream valley’s economy and other details covering conservation.

"Everything about this plan is to keep Symmes Creek clean and to boost recreation on the creek," committee chairman Grayson Thornton said.

The all-volunteer committee, organized in 1977, is trying to protect the creek’s 415-square-mile drainage area – from just south of Jackson to the Ohio River.

The action plan also is designed to assist in that effort by providing the committee with a ranking of problems along the creek, technical details for grant writing and public comments.

"You (the restoration committee) can take this report and apply what’s in it to try to make this happen," said Doug Cade of the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, which helped write the plan.

According to the report, $38 million is needed to conserve Symmes Creek, with a realistic expectation of $4.2 million in projects over the next 10 years that could be drawn from existing grants and other funding programs.

The report lists nitrate levels in the creek as high near agricultural areas. Metal contamination is more prevalent near the headwaters where the iron industry flourished. The report also points out specific levels of several different chemicals along Symmes Creek’s 99 miles.

And, the report lists future improvement priorities of both the public and the committee.

Restoration committee priorities include, in order, education and awareness, the need to improve wildlife and vegetation conditions on streambanks, address the issue of open dumping and garbage and the need for proper disposal of household sewage.

Lawrence Countians are most concerned about agricultural runoff, poor streambank habitat such as log jams and erosion, acid mine drainage, recreation possibilities, sediment filling up the creek and other issues, the report stated.

Although the action plan is a working document meant for review and changes every six months, the next step is to meet its goals, Thornton said.

"Our job is to take this book and establish what we are going to hit first and hardest," he said.

The creek affects many aspects of daily life so any project will be a significant project for the Symmes Creek valley, Thornton said.

Soil and water’s educational activities – shared between the Lawrence, Gallia and Jackson districts – will be the first project.

It will be funded by $3,375 leftover from a $15,000 state grant awarded in 1998 for writing the action plan.

It includes a proposed water festival at Lake Vesuvius for all 1,200 county third-graders to provide information about the importance of Symmes Creek in a relaxed and fun way, said Matt Capper, soil and water education coordinator.

Interactive classroom materials that will travel throughout all three counties’ schools include an elaborate creek environment model, a streambank habitat teaching kit and a tabletop stream model, Capper said.

Pond clinics and farm days in the other counties are also scheduled, he added.