Central Asheville Watershed Project Overview
Formerly the RAD Watershed Restoration Plan
In an effort to be more inclusive of all community members in the watershed, we changed the project name to the Central Asheville Watershed Restoration Plan. For details on why the name was changed, click here for our full statement.
The completion of the Central Asheville Watershed Restoration Plan is an important milestone for our Watershed Resources program. The year-long study examined water quality issues in three urban streams (Town Branch, Bacoate Branch and Haith Branch) that flow through Asheville and empty into the French Broad River. The result of the study is a comprehensive watershed restoration plan that RiverLink and partners can use to guide their work of improving water quality in the French Broad River and its tributaries.
The project was funded by generous grants from the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Pigeon River Fund. RiverLink also partnered with the City of Asheville on the project, and 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.
Explore the Central Asheville Watershed
We all live in a watershed! While the streams in the Central Asheville 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:
- East End/Valley Street
- Livingston Heights
- South French Broad
- West-Asheville Clingman Avenue
- Lee-Walker Heights
Water Quality Issues in the Central Asheville Watershed
The two-square mile watershed is a priority area for RiverLink due to its complex environmental, economic, and social equity issues. The streams covered in the study—Town Branch, Bacoate Branch and Haith Branch—are all impacted by numerous issues, including: stormwater runoff from developed areas, piped streams, and aging infrastructure.
According to the Environmental Quality Institute, Town Branch is one of the most polluted streams in Buncombe County. Water quality tests have found high nutrient levels that create 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.
French Broad River
All three streams in the Central Asheville watershed flow into a section of the French Broad River that is a popular recreation destination for local residents and out of town visitors. With E-coli levels in this area of the River frequently exceeding the EPA’s recommended limit for safe swimming, it is imperative that we take action now to make our waterways healthy for all.
Community Impact of the Restoration Plan
The River Arts District in Asheville is in a state of transition, with new developments slated for construction and two greenways planned for the watershed along Bacoate 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.