Ball Creek restoration is a multi-step collaboration between partners working to improve the local watershed. Following recommendations from the 2010 Chautauqua Lake Watershed Management Plan and other key guidance documents, a primary goal for the Alliance is the restoration of tributaries and streambanks. Located in the Town of North Harmony on the southwestern shore of Chautauqua Lake, the Ball Creek subwatershed accounts for 6% of the total Chautauqua Lake watershed land area. In addition to conveying significant amounts of water to the lake, tributaries are also important habitat areas for local fish, wildlife and plants. Issues in the subwatershed related to water quality impairment cited in the Watershed Management Plan include:
- Streambank erosion, which is responsible for ~10% of total sediment deposition by the creek
- Severe bank grades
- Nitrogen discharge from cropland, which accounts for 51% of the tributary’s conveyance
- All residential parcels in the subwatershed use private septic systems (public sewer district expansion is underway in the subwatershed)
- ~28% of the riparian soils in the subwatershed are highly erodible, and erosion from cropland is responsible for 61% of total sediment discharge
A core method to address water quality impairments in tributaries is streambank stabilization. In the fall of 2017 construction was largely completed to stabilize this 250-foot section of the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy’s Ball Creek property using heavy rock rip-rap and bank grading (seen above at left of frame). These new features will help to reduce water velocity in key areas and limit future erosion, reducing sediment and nutrient conveyance to Chautauqua Lake where it can fuel plant and algae growth. Additional site work and native plantings were completed on the creek in 2019, including the addition of 40 native willow live stakes and 50 new native trees. This New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Round 12 Water Quality Improvement Project Grant awarded to Chautauqua County was closed out in 2020, and will work in perpetuity to improve water quality in the lake and watershed through nutrient reuptake and increased riparian forestation. This state grant uses the Environmental Protection Fund as administered by the NYSDEC as a funding source.
Building On Success
Long-term watershed improvement projects often draw upon multiple funding sources in order to leverage past efforts into new endeavors. Following the stabilization completed in 2020, the Town of North Harmony pursued and was awarded a grant through the Alliance’s Consolidated Local Funding program in 2021 to continue work on the tributary. This grant provided funding for stabilization of Ball Creek along another highly eroded bank located on Stow Road. This effort by the town has now been leveraged into even more work along the tributary, as described below.
Ball Creek improvements are now slated to continue thanks to a Round 17 New York State Consolidated Funding Application grant awarded to the Town of North Harmony in 2021. This stabilization will be the second project on Ball Creek to be funded through the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Water Quality Improvement Program, and will target the highly eroded section of the creek pictured above.
The success of lake and watershed projects depends upon the collaborative work done by engineers, researchers and administrators to gather new data about natural ecosystems and identify potential improvements. In 2020-2021, tributary sampling and lake monitoring led by Bowling Green State University identified Ball Creek as a potential source of elevated Nitrogen transfer to Chautauqua Lake. As new information about this vital subwatershed comes to light, we will be better positioned in the future to fund and pursue projects which will improve water quality. This research was assisted by the Chautauqua Lake Partnership, who secured funding for a share of the monitoring initiative through the Alliance Consolidated Local Funding Program.
Three sections of Ball Creek targeted for stabilization can be seen above labeled in blue, while Bowling Green State University’s tributary and lake monitoring area is labeled at the right side of the frame.
The Alliance would like to thank our Members and additional stakeholders for their hard work to improve Ball Creek, Chautauqua Lake, and the watershed. The Round 12 WQIP stabilization closed out in 2020 was made possible thanks to the efforts of Chautauqua County, the Town of North Harmony, CWC and their volunteer efforts, Western New York Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management, Chautauqua County Soil & Water Conservation District, Southern Tier Consulting, engineer EcoStrategies, and contractor Rock of WNY. EcoStrategies also provided engineering services in support of the 2021 NYSCFA submission.