How one group plans to improve water quality in the Saluda Watershed

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North Saluda River. Photo Credit: Save Our Saluda.

Save Our Saluda, an environmental advocacy group, has received $54,550 from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to create a plan to reduce sediment runoff in the North Saluda River and Saluda Lake, which provide drinking water and recreation for thousands of Upstate residents.

“The plan will be a roadmap for restoration and protection efforts and will help facilitate funding for future implementation projects,” said Melanie Ruhlman, president of Save Our Saluda, in a press release. “I am especially excited about the wonderful partnership of organizations that have agreed to cooperate and help guide the project.”

The group has partnered with 11 stakeholders, including Greenville County, Greenville Water, and Renewable Water Resources, to complete the plan and restore the lake and river, which have experienced high levels of sediment runoff over the years from development and other sources.

Excess amounts of sediment not only fill in the rivers and lakes, but also carry pollutants like bacteria, fertilizers, and pesticides that further degrade water resources, according to Ruhlman.

“The upper part of the lake was dredged at significant expense in 2012 and is already filling in with sediment again. We have heard complaints from fishermen and boaters who see it first-hand,” she said.

According to a press release, Save Our Saluda plans to implement various best management practices, including vegetated buffers along waterways, to control erosion and sediment, stabilize streambanks, restore riparian areas, improve wildlife and pollinator habitat, and protect downstream water quality, aquatic life, and recreational uses.

The group, for instance, recently received a $20,000 grant from Michelin, Naturaland Trust, TreesGreenville, and others to restore the riparian area along Railroad Creek, a tributary to the North Saluda River. The group will plant native woody species as well as install grassed swales and rock fillers in ditches to filter sediment from runoff and pollinator strips along farm fields to increase nectar and pollen sources for pollinator insects.

“The North Saluda River is an important source of drinking water but is also one of the cradles of locally-sourced food for the Upstate,” said Mac Stone, executive director for Naturaland Trust. “As our region continues to grow, we will need further access to clean water and healthy local food.”

For more information, visit saveoursaluda.org.

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