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Students help restore stream

By Jim Conrad
Published On: May 17 2013 03:57:15 PM CDT
Updated On: May 17 2013 11:00:00 PM CDT

A creek cleanup turns out to be a lesson in environmental engineering.

KINGSPORT, Tenn. -

Eighth graders from Kingsport's Robinson Middle School got more than just a field trip to clean up a stream Friday, they got an intense lesson in stream restoration.

When you see a group of kids peering over the edge of bridge it makes you wonder what has captured their interest. These students are checking out a five-year stream restoration project by the city of Kingsport to bring back Madd Branch to as close to a living stream as they could.

Urbanization has kind of squeezed the stream over the years. "It's stream, water quality and quantity. The flooding, the increased amount of flow from all of the impervious surface area. If you look around you see lots asphalt and roof tops and concrete," Dan Wankel an environmental engineer with the city said.

It has taken five years because of finding funding for each phase of the project with the possibility of restoring more such streams. "These are stream waters of the state and as urbanization has occurred around them, they've become less of a stream supporting aquatic life and more a connivance for increased storm water," Wankel says.

With help from engineers and just time itself, Madd Branch could be labeled a success story. "Usually it takes five years for a rehabilitated stream to show some evolution and stabilization and how it's going to be in the plant life, which usually takes a good five years to restore," He said.

Besides the learning experience, the students are here to get into the creek and help with cleanup. Now they understand a whole lot more about stream restoration. "The stream was stagnant and then they took out all of the rocks that were barring the way for the stagnant water so it could move more. They put in plunge pools and cross veins to keep the creek healthier. We're just removing trash and debris," eighth grader Justin Allen said.

And learning all about environmental engineering in the process.