History of The Catawba River Corridor

The Catawba River begins in the mountains of North Carolina and flows through the Piedmont of the Carolinas. The river is very important to the people of this area. The Catawba Indians of the Catawba Indian Nation have always depended on the river and its rich resources to carry them through centuries. The river has also been a very important asset to modern man and industries. Uses of the river include dams for the extraction of power, pipes to remove water for drinking and irrigation, and the removal our wastes.

We have changed the river in many ways to suit our needs. We have changed the flow and overall patterns of the river by creating dams and reservoirs where once the river flowed freely. We have dumped our waste that in turn have damaging effects on the aqautic community and other dependent living things.

Because of this growing concern over the alterations man has caused in the river, a water quality assessment has been performed by students at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina to examine the effect of these changes on the quality of life in and around the river corridor adjacent to York, Chester, and Lancaster counties. Data from twelve locations along this corridor can be found within the pages of this web site.

The Catawba River originates in the mountains of North Carolina and flows through a series of lakes and free-flowing stretches for over 200 miles until it meets Big Wateree Creek to form the Wateree River at Wateree Lake. This entire area is the Catawba-Wateree Sub-basin that bisects the north-central portion of South Carolina. Portions of eight South Carolina counties are within the sub-basin boundary, including most of Chester, Kershaw, Lancaster, and York counties, the eastern third of Fairfield County, and small portions of Sumter, Lee and Richland Counties. However, the Catawba River corridor area includes the 30-mile segment of the river below Lake Wylie Dam to SC Highway 9 bridge crossing near the upper reaches of Fishing Creek reservoir. The counties adjacent to the Corridor area include York, Lancaster, and Chester counties. These counties have a combined population of over 218,000 people . This population is projected to grow by at least 13% over the next ten years. (Corridor Plan). This portion of the sub-basin encompasses the metropolitan areas of Rock Hill, York, and Lancaster and is influenced by Charlotte, North Carolina. The Catawba River flows through the Catawba Dam on Lake Wylie near the Town of Old Fort, and is joined by Big Dutchman Creek, Dye Branch, Manchester Creek, and Burgis Creek before accepting drainage from the Sugar Creek watershed. Downstream from the Sugar Creek drainage, the Catawba River flows pass the Catawba Indian Reservation and is joined by Haggins Branch, Sixmile Creek, Ferry Branch, Abernathy Creek, Greene Creek, and the Twelvemile Creek watershed. The Landsford Canal connects the bend in the river where Twelvemile Creek enters. Farther downstream, the river accepts the drainage of Rock Hill Water Spring Branch, Dunn Creek, and the Cane Creek watershed near the Town of Fort Lawn. The Catawba River then flows into Fishing Creek Reservoir, which is impounded by the Fishing Creek Dam. Bear Creek forms an arm of the reservoir. The Catawba River is dammed again just downstream of the Fishing Creek Dam and the flow diverted to form Great Falls Reservoir.

The watershed is dominated by pine and hardwood forests but also contains extensive agricultural lands and urban development. (Wateree). Precipitation is about 45 inches per year, and approximately one third of this amount leaves the basin as streamflow. The remainder is stored as ground water or is lost through evaporation and transpiration. Streamflow is generally lowest in the summer and is highest in winter, and is inversely proportional to the rate of evaporation.

A South Carolina Rivers assessment, prepared by the South Carolina Water Resources Commission in 1988, examined the hydrology of this sub-basin. In this assessment, it was found that, much of the drainage area of the Catawba River, including its headwater streams is located in North Carolina. Major tributary streams in the upper Piedmont portion of the sub-basin include Fishing Creek, Rocky Creek, Big Wateree Creek and Wateree Creek, Sugar Creek, and Cane Creek. Four of these are considered navigable by the SWRC: Twelvemile Creek, Cane Creek, Sugar Creek, and Waxhaw Creek. Two USGS streamflow monitoring stations are located on the main stem of the Catawba River, and one was located on Sugar Creek from 1974 to 1979(Corridor and SCWRC). Stream flow at the main river stations has been subject to regulated releases for most of the period of record due to numerous hydroelectric power facilities located along the river in North and South Carolina.

Controlled releases from the hydroelectric power plants located at Lake Wylie greatly affects streamflow of the Catawba. The South Carolina Water Resources Commission reports that average annual flow in the Catawba River ranges from 4,457 cubic feet per second (cfs) near Rock Hill to 5,348 cfs near Catawba, South Carolina.

Streamflow on Sugar Creek near Fort Mill averaged 461 cfs over its monitoring period. Tributary streams are largely unregulated. The watershed occupies 28,655 acres of the Piedmont region of SC. The predominant soil type consists of an association of the Cecil-Wilkes-Herndon-Georgeville series (DHEC Report No. 002-96). The irritability of the soil (K) averages 0.28; the slope of the terrain averages 10%, with a range of 2-25%. Land use and land cover in the watershed includes 12.85% urban land, 6.98% agricultural land, 4.53% scrub/shrub land, 0.75% barren land, 68.14% forested land, and 6.85% water. The soil erodibilty refers to the properties of the soil itself, which cause it to erode more or less easily than others when all other factors are constant. The soil factor K is the rate of soil loss per erosion index unit as measured (DHEC Technical Report No. 002-96). In the Piedmont region, high relief and impermiable soils result in rapid runoff and limited ground water storage. The streams are characterized by highly variable flows dependent primarily on rainfall and runoff rather than discharge form ground water storage. Streamflow in the upper portion of the Catawba River is well sustained throughout the year (Corridor and SCWRC).

The Catawba River is classified by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control as freshwater (FW). This means that the water is suitable for industrial and agricultural uses, recreation, drinking water, after treatment, and for the survival and propagation of plants and animals. The classification standards are set for dissolved oxygen levels, coliform bacteria levels, water temperature and ph. This type of classification prohibits the dumping of garbage or sludge, toxic wastes, or untreated wastewater into the river. SCDHEC has monitored the water quality of the Catawba River in the past. From this monitoring, DHEC reports that the water quality has been generally good. However, waterborne pollution after heavy rains or the accidental discharge or improperly treated wastewater has temporarily lowered the water quality of this body in the past.

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