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Channel Alternatives to Enhance Ecosystem Function of Drainage Canals in Eastern North Carolina

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org

Citation:  Paper number  701P0904,  . (doi: 10.13031/2013.17388)
Authors:   R.O. Evans, R.D. Hinson, R. Johnson, M. Doxey, K.L. Bass, J.T. Smith
Keywords:   

Drainage is an important and necessary component of land management in eastern North Carolina where more than 50 percent of soils require improved drainage for efficient production and other uses. For more than 250 years, drainage practices have focused on straightening and deepening natural channels to increase their hydraulic capacity and minimize upstream flooding. Today, there are very few un-channelized streams remaining. In most cases, traditional channel improvements have disassociated the channel from the natural floodplain degrading riparian floodplain ecological functions. Wetness continues to be a major concern to many landowners, but intensive drainage systems sometimes remove more water than necessary especially during drier periods. Pilot studies were begun in 1994 to investigate, evaluate, and demonstrate alternative channel design geometries and management to enhance ecological and water quality functions while maintaining the necessary drainage function. Channel alternatives included: establishment of in stream wetlands, lowering of the floodplain to reconnect the channel with the floodplain, redesign of channels using natural channel design principles, and establishment of conservation easements to encourage establishment of perennial riparian vegetation. This paper discusses several recent projects that have been implemented to provide better management of drainage water and to restore or enhance ecological functions of large drainage canals.

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