Water Quality Division
WQ Priority Watershed Projects
Illinois River Watershed�Implementation Project
The Illinois River is designated as a State Scenic River and is recognized as one of Oklahoma’s most valuable water resources for aesthetic and recreational value, as well as a drinking water source. The 2008—2010 Illinois River Watershed Implementation Project is a partnership between local landowners, conservation districts (CD), the Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC), the NRCS, and the USEPA to address water quality impairments in the project area. Best Management Practices (BMPs) are being installed on a voluntary, cost-share basis to reduce bacteria, nutrients (particularly phosphorus), and sediment, the major nonpoint source pollutants. This project is a supplement to several previous implementation efforts in the watershed.
1993: Clean Lakes Study of Lake Tenkiller, fed by the Illinois River, shows substantial increase in chlorophyll-a over historical data due to excessive nutrient loading.
1992-2005: OCC conducts a monitoring and demonstration project in the Peacheater Creek Watershed, a subwatershed of the Illinois River, as part of a National NPS Monitoring Program. Significant nutrient reductions are seen in the watershed as a result of agricultural BMP implementation.
1999-2004: OCC leads a demonstration project in the Illinois River/Baron Fork Watershed. A total of 177 landowners participated, resulting in protection of over 1300 acres of riparian area. BMPs installed included 120 freeze proof tanks, 61 ponds, 56 miles of fencing, 28 feeding facilities, 21 septic systems, and 6 poultry cake-out storage houses.
2006: Lake Tenkiller receives a nutrient limited watershed designation due to low dissolved oxygen and an established relationship between nutrients and algae.� Oklahoma State Attorney General files a lawsuit against 7 poultry integrator companies for their role in polluting the Illinois River watershed.
2008: Lake Tenkiller is on Oklahoma’s 2008 303(d) list of impaired waterbodies for total phosphorus, dissolved oxygen, and chlorophyll-a.� In addition, four segments of the Illinois River, as well as Chicken Creek, Town Branch of Tahlequah Creek, Ballard Creek, Caney Creek, the Baron Fork, Tyner Creek, Peacheater Creek, Battle Branch, Sager Creek, and two segments of Flint Creek are not supporting designated uses due to nutrients and/or pathogen (bacteria) impairments. This corresponds to 171 miles of impaired Oklahoma streams and 13,470 acres of impaired lake water.
Objectives: �To demonstrate the efficiency and effectiveness of voluntary efforts to improve water quality by installing practices that reduce runoff of nonpoint source pollutants such as bacteria, nutrients, and sediment in the Illinois River Watershed and to work in conjunction with the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program to establish long-term riparian area protection.
Funded through an EPA Clean Water Act, Section 319 grant that requires a 40% non-federal (state and landowner )match. �As of May 2009, approximately $1,227,318 has been obligated for project implementation.
Partnered primarily with the Delaware County, Adair County, and Cherokee County Conservation Districts, as well as the local USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to implement the project.
Locally-led: The OCC hired local project staff based in Stillwell to coordinate implementation and education efforts.