People working together to protect the Bonne Femme Watershed
Land Use Planning and Water Quality Restoration in Bonne Femme Creek Watershed
In June of 2003, Boone County was awarded a 4-year grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. A multi-faceted approach is being taken to address various stream-related issues in the Bonne Femme and Little Bonne Femme Watersheds (the area including parts of Columbia and Ashland , and everything in between including Rock Bridge Memorial State Park and Three Creeks Conservation Area).
The watersheds, covering 93 square miles (approximately 15% of Boone County), have many unique and beautiful features. They are among the most diverse watersheds near an urbanizing area in the Midwest; their landscape includes former prairie lands located on glacial till, steep-sloped Ozark karst areas (signified by caves, sinkholes, springs, and losing streams), and big river floodplain and backwater. There are five Outstanding State Resource Waters (Devils Icebox Cave Branch, Bass, Turkey, Bonne Femme, and Gans Creeks), and several endangered and endemic species (Pink Planaria, Gray Bats, Indiana Bats, Topeka Shiner, and Cherrystone Snail). Two large tracts of public lands, Rock Bridge and Three Creeks, provide abundant and diverse recreational opportunities, including caving, hunting, fishing, hiking, picnicking, horse-back riding, and rock-skipping.
Some of the streams in the watersheds are facing degraded conditions. Numerous nonpoint source pollutants, such as excessive sediments, pesticides, nutrients, and fecal bacteria can lower the water quality, potentially affecting the health of both humans and wildlife. One major change affecting the streams is urban development that does not properly address stormwater runoff. This runoff can cause greater and more frequent flooding, which can cause lower flows during dry periods. Stream channel stability can decrease, with subsequent loss of fish habitat. Stream instability can also potentially threaten infrastructure such as bridges and pipelines. Population growth from 1990-2000 increased by 40%, and projections show there will be more development occurring in the area. Improper agricultural management practices can add excess nutrients and pesticides to the streams, in addition to destabilizing their banks. Poorly built and maintained septic systems can contribute harmful levels of fecal bacteria.
These issues take on extra importance in these watersheds because of the high recreation value of the public lands, and the sensitive and unique cave systems. Losing stream hydrology is a particularly important aspect of the watershed. Surface stream water, originating from the glacial upland areas, infiltrates directly in cave streams as exemplified by the streams in Devil's Icebox and Hunter's Caves. Therefore, surface land-use and management practices have a direct impact on the water quality of the cave streams and their unique ecology.
A previous grant in the watershed, the Bonne Femme Watershed Partnership, laid an excellent foundation for the work of this project. It accomplished many outreach objectives to increase the awareness of locals about the importance of protecting the watershed. This heightened awareness prepared the way for forming a stakeholder group that will play an essential role in the development of a watershed management plan. The Partnership had many successes during the life of its grant, including: establishing demonstration sites (lawn maintenance, residential BMPs, streambank stabilization, and on-site sewage systems), field projects, streambank stabilization, newsletters, watershed festivals, news articles, and more.
The Southern Boone County Karst Team was formed in June 2001 at the request of the Directors of the Missouri Departments of Natural Resources and Conservation. The Team's task was to continue the work of the Bonne Femme Watershed Partnership in protecting the watersheds. They recognized the need for local involvement and invited representation from Boone County since the watershed lies within the County, and land-use decisions are made at he local government level. The Team developed the 319 grant as one mechanism for fulfilling its mission to use watershed planning as a tool to prevent further water quality degradation and to improve or maintain the long-term quality of water resources in the Bonne Femme watershed.
The grant has three main objectives. The first is to help Boone County, and the Cities of Ashland and Columbia adopt procedures and policies that will help protect the streams in the watersheds. These will cover issues such as construction and post-construction BMPs, plat design, and expand areas officially designated as Karst. Secondly, developers and builders will be assisted in adopting best management practices (BMPs) that will help protect the streams' integrity within the watersheds. The last objective is to provide cost-share assistance for land owners in the watersheds to implement practices that will protect and restore the streams.
The project will cover many steps to achieve the objectives. Scientific data will be collected and incorporated into a subwatershed sensitivity analysis. Various committees will use this analysis in formulating a watershed management plan. In addition, there will be numerous educational and outreach activities throughout the life of the project, such as forums, field days, presentations to local groups, and newsletters. This website is a central point for information and communication about the happenings of the project.
There are three committees that play essential roles in the grant. The Steering Committee, composed of various Partner Staff, administers the grant, provides technical advice, and makes sure the project is moving along properly. The Stakeholder Committee, comprised of stakeholders, ensures public input helps direct the entire process. The Policy Committee, with policy-level decision-makers as members, ensures the process gets the political backing necessary to implement the aspects local governments can.
Partners for this project include Boone County Commission, City of Columbia, City of Ashland, Missouri Departments of Conservation and Natural Resources, Boone County Soil and Water Conservation District, University of Missouri , USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Chouteau Grotto, and the Friends of Rock Bridge. The Boone County Planning and Building Inspection Department has hired an Urban Watershed Conservationist to fulfill the terms of the grant.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region VII, through the Missouri
Department of Natural Resources, has provided partial funding for this
project under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act.