Wading Down the North Fork

Meet the North Fork of Yellowleaf Creek! With its headwaters along Highway 41, this Coosa River skinny water flows to Columbiana–where it meets its South Fork at the confluence of Yellowleaf Creek. The North Fork of Yellowleaf Creek flows nearby our office, and when our team needs a break, we can always count on a calm trek along the banks of the creek to fulfill that need. The North Fork contains a lot of hidden treasures like the Dunnavant Valley Greenway as well as the Shelby County Sports Blast! There are several branching trails along the Greenway that offer recreation options such as trail running, but a picnic area may also support peaceful outings with your family. Given the proximity of this creek to our office, we hold a deep appreciation for what it offers and want nothing more than to advocate for its future.

In the past year, our team has discovered a few potential threats to the creek. This began in December of 2020 when one of our board members noticed somethig fishy in the creek. Our team discovered large amounts of sediment-filled stormwater entering the creek from a housing development’s construction site. Sediment entering a waterway can decrease the viability of aquatic life, increase erosion, alter natural flow, and also degrade the aesthetic and recreational quality of the area. Needless to say, we were shocked to see such high volumes of sediment entering the creek, and we knew that we had something big taking place. We filed our complaint with ADEM to see if the situation would cease, but as time went on the situation only worsened. Fortunately, we can collect our own water quality data, and this is exactly what our team did on several outings either during rain events or shortly after by wading through the creek to collect turbidity samples. Fast forward to June 16th of this year, and we filed a Notice of Intent to Sue against Newcastle Homes for ongoing construction stormwater violations. Six months later and we are still seeing violations and collecting data to hold polluters accountable and make sure that the Clean Water Act is enforced.

In addition to sedimentation, our Swim Guide program helped us identify bacteria issues that the North Fork of Yellowleaf Creek faces as well. The creek was added to our 2021 Swim Guide program. Early into the 15 week-long sampling program it quickly caught our attention that this important little tributary was getting consistent red alerts. For context, in Swim Guide a green alert is any sample less than 126 cfu/100ml (coliform forming units), greater than 126 cfu/100ml is yellow, and greater than 235 cfu/100ml is red. With 15 weeks of samples, the North Fork of Yellowleaf Creek had an average E. Coli level of 441.6 cfu/100ml. This is a great example of how Swim Guide can help our organization identify harmful trends throughout the watershed and work towards finding the cause.

With the growth that Shelby County has been seeing over these last few years, the protection of this creek is more important now than ever. As public access increases (Shelby Count has purchased 2 properties to expand the Dunnavant Valley Greenway), North Fork of Yellowleaf Creek will have more space to recreate and enjoy this beautiful little section of the Coosa River watershed. Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy the water without fear of bacteria issues for your family and pets, or without your favorite fishing hole becoming filled with sediment? People like you help make that easier, being eyes on the water and reporting pollution when you see it.

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