2023 KAMM Community Mitigation Grant Fund Recipient


Kentucky Waterways Alliance

The Kentucky Waterways Alliance (KWA) was awarded the 2023 grant award that will benefit the Red Bird River Septic & Education Project. The project focuses on Red Bird River septic system repair/replacement for low-income families to address E. coli as outlined in the Watershed Based Plan and the most recent 303(b) report to Congress.

Team members include Laura Gregory (Kentucky Waterways Alliance – Watershed Program Director & Red Bird River Project manager), Lois Smith (Redbird River Watershed Coordinator), Tracy Nolan (Red Bird Mission), Tammie Nazario and Amanda Burdine (Eastern Kentucky PRIDE).

KWA will use this funding to achieve specific WSP goals that include improvements to water quality, education for residents, and the continuation of community involvement. KWA will install approximately 17 septic systems to improve impaired water quality, provide educational opportunities at various events held throughout the watershed, and plan/host cleanup events. 

This project is funded by an EPA319 grant and is beginning the 3rd round of implementation of the Red Bird River Watershed Based Plan (WBP). EPA319 funding also helped in creating the WBP. The KAMM Community Mitigation Grant will cover operating costs for community cleanups, educational events, and septic work.

This project promotes KAMM’s purpose because bacteria from failing septic systems and litter from illegal dumping are washed into waterways through stormwater. KWA’s education and mitigation efforts help to reduce stormwater runoff into Kentucky’s valuable waterways.

The geography of the Red Bird River Watershed adds to the beauty of the area, but it also contributes to the current water quality issues. The Red Bird River Watershed is remote; the landscape consists of steep slopes and narrow valley bottoms. Many of the residents have settled close to waterways because floodplains offer most of the flat areas conducive to house building. The lack of municipal sewers and absent or failing onsite wastewater disposal systems contribute to water quality issues. Associated human impacts from poor water quality in the watershed include a higher incidence of stomach illnesses and dental problems. Chronic poverty, lack of jobs, poor housing, and rugged mountainous terrain are obstacles to a fuller life for the residents of this area. The Red Bird River and its waters serve 2,253,772 downstream consumers (Forests to Faucets, 2023).

Biological diversity in the area is high and under continuous threat from improper development, scarce social resources, and land use change. Additional environmental and water quality stressors include sediment from mountain top removal, strip mining, logging, and off-highway vehicle use. There are several threatened and endangered species in these waters including the snuffbox mussel and the Kentucky arrow darter (USDA FS, 2004).

There are over 169 Outstanding State Resource Waters in the watershed. Source Water Area and Protection Program areas cover 206.27 acres, all occurring in sub watersheds that have identified impaired streams, such as Hector Branch-Red Bird River. In the 2018-2020 Integrated Report to Congress, 30 streams in the watershed were assessed and on the 305(b) list. Of those 30 streams, 17% partially supported primary contact recreation due to E. coli contamination from the lack of or failure of onsite septic systems. The partially supported streams occur in all of the sub watersheds except for Big Double-Red Bird River and Elisha Creek-Red Bird River. The Red Bird River main stem, from Oneida to 15.3 miles upstream, is included in this 17%; this same stretch does not support warm water aquatic habitat due to lead and specific conductance from mining. An additional 10% of the watershed streams partially support warm water aquatic habitat from unknown causes. All of the sub watersheds included in this project are Basin Team Priority Watersheds.

Project Goal #1: Improve water quality in the Red Bird River Watershed.
Objective: Reduce E. coli levels in the Red Bird River Watershed.

1. Identify households in need and contact homeowners to discuss septic improvements.
2. Coordinate with PRIDE to replace failing on site wastewater systems or construct new systems in areas that previously had none.
3. Plan and host cleanups

Project Goal #2: Increase the knowledge and empower the citizens of the Red Bird River Watershed.
Objective: Increase citizen awareness and assistance with water quality issues in the Red Bird River through education and outreach.

1. Conduct septic workshops for the watershed citizens.
2. Give presentations at elementary and secondary schools in Clay, Bell, and Leslie Counties on the importance of good water quality and what practices lead to it.
3. Staff a booth at local giveaways, workshops, fairs, and festivals to distribute clean water and septic information.
4. Continue watershed meetings within the watershed.

Project Goal #3: Continue community involvement to provide for long-term success.
Objective: Work with the public and local governments to improve water quality.

1. Continue to support for the Watershed Coordinator to implement activities, encourage community participation, and assist with septic applications.
2. Give educational and update talks at local meetings such as churches, Rotary, other civic organizations.
3. Provide updates/press releases to the local papers, courts, and citizens about the progress of the program.

KWA Thank You










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