Thursday, December 10, 2009
Conservationists seek Scenic Stream status for Coldwater River
By SUE WATSON
Two conservationists reached out to the Marshall County Board of Supervisors recently to educate individuals with property along the Coldwater to come on board when the Coldwater River is put up for Scenic Stream designation.
DeSoto County Greenways planner Larry Jarrett and Andrew Whitehurst with Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, presented an initiative to mark the Coldwater from about one-half mile east of the Cayce Road Bridge on downstream to Arkabutla Lake as a scenic waterway. The initiative helps attract economic development to areas from outside industries because employees who move here want nice recreational opportunities for their workers.
The program, if approved by landowners, would apply best forestry practices to the streamside land of the Coldwater to help check erosion, Whitehurst said.
If the Coldwater meets muster as a public waterway (has a mean flow of 100 cubic feet per second) the section of the stream would qualify for consideration.
About three miles of the Coldwater in Marshall County could qualify for scenic stream designation if enough landowners choose to participate, he said. The legislation was codified in public law in 1988.
Coldwater in Marshall County could qualify for scenic stream designation if enough landowners choose to participate, he said. The legislation was codified in public law in 1988.
Whitehurst said state law applying to navigability of waterways was set down before railroads and roads were built so that commodities could be carried to market. A stream must be navigable to be used for recreation by the public, he said.
The scenic designation is a way to promote conservation and healthy streams and property owners get very generous tax breaks, he said.
Best forestry practices call for only thinning timber as close as 30 feet to a stream on a level grade and not cutting timber any closer than 60 feet to a stream when there is an uneven grade, he said.
Streams must meet a certain score based on four criteria before a stream qualifies for scenic stream designation. Once it is found to qualify, the individual property owners will be contacted and provided information and an advisory council is named to hold public meetings of the stakeholders only.
Once a stream meets the water quality requirements and is designated a scenic stream, the water quality of the stream is not monitored continually to keep the designation.
County administrator Larry Hall said the Coldwater is the most stagnant waterway in the county.
Jarrett said in Olive Branch and DeSoto County, bulldozing of land for development is the culprit. Oftentimes lots are bulldozed and the unsold ones not sodded to check erosion, he said.
“DeSoto County is trying to address this now and we are looking at this as an economic development tool to attract industry,” he said. The county uses it as an economic development tool, even though the Coldwater is not designated as a scenic stream yet, he said.
Construction of a $5 million nature center at Arkabutla is under study and the U.S. Corps of Engineers has plans for spending millions on several rivers including the Coldwater, Hatchie, Wolf and other rivers to help promote economic development, Jarrett said.
He said the economic impact of the Coldwater project on Marshall, DeSoto and Tate counties could be huge, as much at $20 million a year.
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