Teton Conservation District and TOJ tackle Flat Creek restoration

JACKSON, Wyo. — Flat Creek is sick, or “impaired” according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, but Town of Jackson and Teton Conservation District are revamping efforts to take care of it.

The recent completion of the Flat Creek Watershed Management Plan 2019 Revision, coupled with TOJ’s stormwater improvements and planning efforts, have reinvigorated the ongoing conversation about protecting Flat Creek’s health, TCD says.

Flat Creek has been designated as an “impaired stream” by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality since 1996. In response to that listing, which identifies stormwater runoff and habitat alteration as root problems, the Flat Creek Watershed Management Plan was crafted in 2006. This stakeholder- and community-driven effort established a baseline understanding of the issues facing Flat Creek and identified a series of actionable projects to address those challenges.

According to Carlin Girard, Water Resources Specialist for Teton Conservation District, “20 of the 22 objectives outlined in the Watershed Plan were completed, making the original plan outdated.”

With a grant from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Teton Conservation District led an effort to bring the Flat Creek Watershed Management Plan up to date. The revised plan includes new project ideas, a list of accomplishments, summarizes existing data, and sets discrete goals for water quality and stream health in Flat Creek.

Some of the project ideas listed in the revised plan are already underway. The Town of Jackson recently completed the installation of a large stormwater treatment vault that will filter contaminants from a previously untreated section of stormwater line that drains from Powderhorn Lane and discharges to Flat Creek at the bridge to Garaman Park.

“The clean water investments we make today are ones our community will live with for decades and possibly centuries to come,” says Town of Jackson Assistant Public Works Director Johnny Ziem.

This is the first of a suite of stormwater treatment and planning efforts that are just beginning.

The Town of Jackson is embedding stormwater treatment into many of its infrastructure projects, including those found on the Special Excise Tax (SPET) ballot. The Cache Tube Project, which originally sought to bring the stormwater conveyance within the right-of-way and size it to a 25-year storm event, now additionally seeks to provide stormwater treatment to the lines that enter it. Similarly, Gregory Lane improvements and the Teton County/Jackson Parks and Recreation facility expansion both add stormwater treatment in areas that would otherwise discharge directly to Flat Creek.

The Town of Jackson is also seeking grant funding from the Department of Environmental Quality for two stormwater initiatives. One of these projects seeks funding for a treatment unit that would address untreated stormwater from Willow Street. The other grant request seeks funding to create a more systematic approach to stormwater efforts within the town by developing a stormwater master plan. This plan would unite the many independent stormwater projects under common goals, prioritize actions, review our current approach to stormwater management, and create a toolbox of treatment alternatives for public and private development.

Because these projects were identified within the revised Flat Creek Watershed Management Plan and target the causes for Flat Creek’s impaired status, they receive priority for grant funding from the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality Non-Point Source grant program.

“The Town of Jackson and Teton Conservation District are working together to inject energy and build momentum towards addressing water quality in Flat Creek,” Girard says. “While significant progress has been made in the past, over the last few months, our local governments have doubled down, and the positive result will benefit Flat Creek, and thereby, our community for years to come.”

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