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Putting the French Broad River’s Floodplain Back Together

By Torry Nergart, Conservation Easement Manager

Ground has been broken on another Conserving Carolina tract of land for the restoration of the French Broad River, its floodplain and wetlands.

Just downstream from the Blantyre canoe access and Grove Bridge in Etowah lies the land now called Pleasant Grove, formerly a part of the Seven Falls golf course. One-hundred acres of floodplain land was once drained, filled and disconnected from main stem of the French Broad River and this resulted in the channelization eroded banks and sedimentation of the waterway. The migratory and spawning routes of many life-forms were cut off. When a river is cut off from its floodplain, it acts like any caged thing would by lashing out and trying to get back to its natural state.

Environmental engineers and contractors have begun their work so that land will soon contain wetland depressions, backwater sloughs, braiding channels of streams and restored riverbanks. In our experience with the Mouth of Mud Creek project, Conserving Carolina noted animals using the newly restored habitat within just days of that project’s completion. Amphibian eggs were laid directly in the coir matting used to stabilize the seeding of the disturbed ground, hawks established hunting grounds and fish began using the backwater slough channel.

In addition to restoration of the wetlands and floodplain topography, the area will be replanted with thousands of native plants. Flowering perennials will be planted to enhance pollinator insect habitats which will in turn help out nearby farms and garden. Shrubs and trees will form thickets providing that crucial ‘edge’ habitat so many animals in decline need for shelter and cover. Having a functioning, fully-vegetated floodplain means the land cannot only accept flood waters, but it can also slow them down and spread them out. This project just over the Henderson County line is part of a larger effort to put the floodplain back together. Conserving Carolina is managing multiple projects to remediate the historic practices that have created local flooding problems and sedimentation.

We know that as a land trust we cannot just protect the last of our natural places. We have to remake the places that have been degraded or lost. After the work at Pleasant Grove is completed, Conserving Carolina remains committed to stewarding the land there and giving people access to see how a natural, functioning floodplain lives. We will maintain a loop trail going by key features of the land because reconnecting the river with its floodplain can create a healthier environment and reconnecting people with the land will bring many wellness benefits.