The River Arts District Watershed Restoration Plan will investigate and find solutions to water quality issues within three streams that originate near downtown Asheville and flow through the River Arts District. The streams —Town Branch, Bacoate Branch, and an unnamed tributary— all empty into a section of the French Broad River in Asheville that is a common recreation destination. The year-long study will result in a nine-element watershed restoration plan that RiverLink and partners can use to guide their work to improve water quality in the French Broad River and its tributaries.
The project is funded by generous grants from the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Pigeon River Fund. RiverLink is partnering with the City of Asheville on the project, and has hired a consultant team led by Blue Earth Planning, Engineering & Design with staff from Wildlands Engineering, Penrose Environmental, Ecosystem Services, Headwater Environmental, Sitework Studios, and FrontWater geo Planning + Design.
We all live in a watershed! While the streams of this watershed are most visible as they flow through the River Arts District, there are many other neighborhoods that call this watershed home. Find the following neighborhoods on the map:
Note: To see map layers, including the Asheville Neighborhoods layer, click on Layers, then scroll down and check box beside the layer of interest.
The two-square mile River Arts District watershed is a priority for RiverLink due to its complex environmental, economic, and social equity issues. The streams covered in the study—Town Branch, Bacoate Branch and an unnamed tributary—are all located in an urban watershed and are impacted by issues that include stormwater runoff from developed areas, piped streams, and aging infrastructure. These streams also flow into a section of the French Broad River in Asheville that is heavily used for recreation by both local residents and out of town visitors.
Town Branch is one of the most polluted streams in Buncombe County, according to the Environmental Quality Institute. Water quality tests have found high nutrient levels that creates a toxic environment for fish and other aquatic wildlife. The French Broad Riverkeeper has also found high levels of e-coli in Town Branch, which flows into a section of the French Broad River where e-coli levels regularly exceed state water quality standards.
Bacoate Branch was named in 2017 through a Name that Creek campaign to honor the late Osie W. Bacoate. Beginning near Aston Park, Bacoate Branch is piped belowground for the majority of its journey to the French Broad River.
Also known as Nasty Branch, this is one of the most impaired streams in Buncombe County. It has been negatively affected by runoff from development, aging infrastructure, and industrial pollution. The orange boom across Town Branch is soaking up an ongoing petroleum plume that originates from the nearby railroad property.
The River Arts District watershed drains into a section of the French Broad River that is popular for recreation. E-coli levels in this area of the French Broad River frequently exceed the EPA’s recommended limit for safe swimming.
The River Arts District is in a state of transition, with new developments slated for construction and two greenways planned for the watershed along Bacoate Branch and Town Branch. The new greenways will provide increased opportunity for people to experience the streams, and it is imperative that they are clean and safe to interact with. Town Branch flows in the backyards of the traditionally underserved Southside community, as well as the nearby Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside community center. Ensuring that residents have access to cleaner streams for their enjoyment will help address some of the persistent social equity issues that plague the Southside and River Arts District area.