Laurel Creek Road Project

The public comment period for the Fires Creek Wilderness Area, Laurel Creek Road Project will open on October 2, 2014. Please contact one of our Chapter leaders for more info on how you can help. Please attend our next month's Chapter meeting for a lot more coverage of this issue. This is a serious issue, and we NEED everyone's help to protect Fires Creek. Here is some basic info on Fires Creek and the Road Project: -Fires Creek is a watershed in Clay County, NC that drains approximately 77 sq. km, all of which is on USFS land except for one 50 acre privately held inholding at the headwaters of Laurel Creek (a primary tributary of The main stem of Fires Creek).The entire watershed is classified by DWQ as "pristine" It is also considered to be one of the purist and highest water quality streams in the entire SE region of the US outside of the GSMNP. -The owners of this inholding, want USFS permission to cut in road access through the FS land to access the property which they claim will only have, a few "primitive cabins". That aside, the road itself is the main problem. -If approved, the road would require 11 different stream crossings, many more ditches and other water diversions, as well as a large portion of the road would be rebuilt only 10-15 feet from the stream in some places. -The other major impact is, the road would have to be constructed by breaking through what is called the "Nantahala Formation", which is a large formation of bedrock called Anakeesta Rock, that covers much of the area in this part of the state. When this rock is freshly exposed, it creates highly acidic runoff for an extended period of time, which in the scale size of Fires Creek, could possibly drop the Ph of the creek as low as 4-5 for quite a long stretch downstream. -Fires creek has been studied from several different sides, and has MANY different eco-contributions it brings to the area. It is most notably known for having a prolific population of WILD Rainbow in all tribs that have enough water flow. It has NATIVE Brook Trout in several of it's upper reaching tributaries, as well as a few of these Brooks that get washed into the main stem, and have been caught. It is Home to some of the densest insect populations according to Powell Wheeler at NCWRC. It is also home to the Hellbender Salamander (a protected species, possibly endangered, I'm not sure right now), as well as the Hiwassee Crayfish (a genetically and physically diverse Crayfish, that is indigenous ONLY in the Hiwassee River and it's tributaries [also protected]). -According to one particular study, 3.4km of Laurel Creek is above "major barrier" and "very suitable for Brook Trout restoration". That is just the primary stream to be impacted by the project, not mention other possible tribs that could be viable candidates. -Essentially Fires Creek is an Ideal stream all the way around. the lower end of the USFS section is Hatchery Supported Public Mountain Trout Water, there is a 2.1 mile stretch of Delayed Harvest water, and the 6 miles of the main stem as well as many miles of tribs are all designated as Wild Trout waters, along with the other activities this area provides (hiking, horse, and bike trails), this pristine wilderness area is a huge asset to the entire community and surrounding areas, and it would quite possibly be decimated so a handful of people can access and profit from a 50 acre inholding in the middle of a 20,000+ acre wilderness that is surpassed by very few other areas.


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