Central Asheville Watershed

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 EnvironmentalEcosystem ServicesHeadwater EnvironmentalSitework Studios, and FrontWater geo Planning + Design.

Learn More About this Project

If you’d like to learn more about this project contact our Water Resources Manager, Renee Fortner at: renee@riverlink.org or (828) 252-8474 X 14

Explore the Central Asheville  Watershed 

A watershed is a land area where all of the water that reaches the ground flows to the same location. All of the water in this watershed, eventually reaches a stream that flows through the River Arts District and into the French Broad River.

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
  • Erskine-Walton
  • 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.

Town Branch

Town Branch Creek
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.

Bacoate Branch

Bacote Branch Creek
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 below ground for the majority of its journey to the French Broad River.

Haith Branch

In Spring 2020, the community voted to name Haith Branch in honor of Lacy T. Haith (1909-2004). Mr Haith was a well-loved educator and civil rights leader. Haith Branch flows through a wooded area of A-B Tech’s campus and has the best water quality of the CAW streams. The Haith Branch watershed is a rare gem in a highly urban area, and worthy of protection.

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.

Other Resources

Addressing Water Resource Challenges Using a Watershed Approach- US Environmental Protection Agency

N.C. Department of Environmental Quality- Division of Water Resources

N.C. DEQ: Watershed Restoration Plans

City of Asheville- Report Emergency Sediment and Erosion Violations

Environmental Quality Institute

French Broad River at RAD – Swim Guide

River Arts District Artists

City of Asheville Neighborhood Services- Learn more about neighborhoods within the watershed

City of Asheville Greenways