Stewardship Program for Scenic Rivers

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South Carolina Scenic Rivers Program:
Recommended Best Management Practices for River-Bordering Lands

Recognizing that activities on river-bordering land can have a direct and immediate impact on river resources, the S.C. Scenic Rivers Program encourages riparian landowners to practice wise land and water use management through voluntary implementation of best management practices (BMPs) and participation in the Scenic Rivers Stewardship Program. The recommended BMPs are designed to serve as guidelines for conserving or enhancing water quality, wildlife habitats, and the scenic character of state-designated scenic river corridors. The BMPs serve as the foundation for land management agreements between riparian landowners and the S.C. Scenic Rivers Program.

To protect and improve water quality, scenic values, and wildlife habitat, the Scenic Rivers Program has developed BMPs to address several land uses including timber management; row crop production; livestock and poultry production; and urban development. Based on his/her land use objectives, the landowner selects and implements the appropriate land management measures. The landowner may choose to manage for water quality, scenic values, wildlife, or a combination of resource values.

By signing a land management agreement with the Scenic Rivers Program, the landowner agrees to manage his/her river-bordering land for the protection of water quality at a minimum. The landowner may choose to implement additional and more stringent BMPs for the protection of scenic values and/or wildlife. Different sections of a parcel may be managed for different purposes. For example, a landowner may choose to manage one area for timber, one area for pasture, and another for wildlife. When a landowner has questions or misgivings about a particular best management practice, the program will work with the landowner to negotiate a mutually satisfactory agreement.

The single-most important BMP for the protection of river resources is establishment and/or maintenance of a riparian buffer. This buffer should be characterized by native vegetation. The recommended width of the buffer depends on the management goal. For protection of water quality, a minimum buffer width of 40 to 80 feet (dependent on slope) on both sides of the stream is recommended. To protect aesthetic/scenic values, the buffer should be extended to a minimum of 100 feet on both sides of the stream with the first 50 feet remaining undisturbed. Vegetated riparian buffers play an important role in providing natural strips to aid in the movement of wildlife along a river corridor. To conserve and enhance wildlife diversity, the riparian buffer should ideally include the natural floodplain and adjacent bluff; however, this is not always possible. For the protection of wildlife values, a vegetated buffer measuring at least 100 to 300 feet from the ordinary high water mark is recommended. The wider the buffer, the greater the benefits for wildlife. (Note: The ordinary high water mark is defined as the natural or clear line impressed on the shore or bank representing the ordinary height of the water. It may be determined by bank shelving, changes in the character of the soil, destruction or absence of terrestrial vegetation, the presence of litter or debris, or a combination of the above.) The S.C. Scenic Rivers Program strongly advocates a minimum buffer of at least 100 feet on both sides of the river to protect water quality, scenic values, and wildlife habitat.

Water Quality: Best Management Practices

The following best management practices are grouped by the general land use categories of forest management, agriculture, and urban development. These BMPs are critical to the protection of water quality and are recommended for voluntary implementation by river bordering landowners:

a. Forest Management and Water Quality:

Along state-designated scenic rivers, all forest management activities in the riparian corridor should be conducted according to S.C. Forestry Commission guidelines as outlined in South Carolina's Best Management Practices for Forestry.

The following BMPs are emphasized as essential to the protection of water quality:

  • Land adjacent to perennial, intermittent, and ephemeral streams requires special attention during forestry operations. A riparian buffer, what foresters refer to as a "streamside management zone" (SMZ), should be identified and protected. At a minimum, the SMZ should be 40 to 80 feet in width on both sides of the stream, dependent on slope. Where possible, the Scenic Rivers Program advocates a more extensive SMZ, a minimum of 100 feet, to allow for additional protection of water quality and preservation of other important values such as aesthetics and wildlife habitat.
  • Forestry operations should be limited in the SMZ. Clear-cuts should never extend to the bank of perennial or intermittent streams.
  • Forestry operations should be timed to avoid wet weather and wet soil conditions.
  • Forest roads should be designed to minimize the amount of sediment leaving the site and entering stream channels. Road construction in sensitive sites such as the SMZ should be avoided.
  • There should be no broadcast application of fertilizer or pesticides in the SMZ.
  • River-bordering landowners are encouraged to consult a registered forester for help in long-term forest management planning

b. Agriculture and Water Quality:

The Scenic Rivers Program recommends that all agricultural activities along state-designated scenic rivers be carried out according to well- established best management practices. Farmers should consult the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for case-by-case guidance. The program strongly supports DNR's Land Resources Division and NRCS in their efforts to develop and distribute a user-friendly BMP guide for agriculture similar to the existing guide for forestry.

The following BMPs are recommended as essential to the protection of water quality:

Row Crop Production:

  • There should be a naturally vegetated riparian buffer of at least 40 feet in width on both sides of all perennial and intermittent streams. Where possible, the program advocates a more extensive buffer, a minimum of 100 feet, to allow for additional protection of water quality and preservation of other important values such as aesthetics and wildlife habitat. Farm fields should never extend to the bank of a stream or drainage ditch.
  • To help keep agricultural chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides out of the river, a no till filter strip of at least 15 feet in width is encouraged along both sides of all drainage ditches.
  • New drainage ditches should not be constructed in the riparian corridor. The width of the riparian corridor is defined by the respective scenic river advisory council dependent on the river's classification (natural, scenic, or recreational). Landowners should be aware that new ditches require a Section 404 permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. In maintaining existing ditches, care should be taken to minimize sediment loading to the river.
  • The application of pesticides to farm fields should be according to the principles of integrated pest management:
    - Pesticides should be applied only when the economic benefit of spraying exceeds the cost of spraying. - Pesticides should be applied as efficiently as possible and at times when runoff losses are unlikely. - Pesticide containers should be triple rinsed and disposed of properly. They should never be discarded on a ditch bank, along the stream, or in a wetland.
  • When pesticide applications are necessary and a choice of registered materials exists, the landowner should consider the toxicity, runoff potential, and leaching potential of the products in making the selection.
  • Due to the potential for drift, aerial spraying of pesticides should not be allowed within 100 feet of a scenic river or its tributaries.
  • All steps necessary should be taken to control erosion/sedimentation including establishment of perennial vegetative cover to protect the soil; establishment of cover crops that generate nutrients; practicing conservation tillage; and construction of sediment control structures.
  • Highly erodible soils should be removed from production.
  • With the aid of NRCS and/or extension personnel, farmers should develop and implement nutrient management plans. It is very important to test soil annually and apply nutrients/lime based on the results of the testing.

Livestock/Poultry Production:

  • As required by law, any new or expanded animal waste treatment lagoons should not be located within 1/4 mile of waters of the State including perennial streams, major tributaries, and adjacent wetlands. In addition, all waste treatment lagoons should have a synthetic liner.
  • Animal waste treatment lagoons should not be located within 200 feet of drainage ditches.
  • Care should be taken to dispose of waste from confined animal facilities in such a manner as to prevent contamination of surface or ground water. Animal waste sprayfields should not be located within 200 feet of perennial streams, major tributaries, adjacent wetlands, or drainage ditches.
  • Pastured or free-roaming animals should not be allowed uncontrolled access to the river, tributaries, or adjacent wetlands. The animals should be fenced out to prevent destruction of the streambank/riparian zone and to prevent contamination of the water from pollutants associated with fecal waste. Where it is necessary to allow access for drinking water, the access should be limited to one location.

c. Urban Development and Water Quality:

The Scenic Rivers Program recommends that all urban development activities in scenic river corridors be conducted according to best management practices developed by the Environ mental Protection Agency and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Urban development activities include those associated with commercial, industrial, municipal, and residential development.

The following BMPs are emphasized as essential to the protection of water quality:

  • A minimum 40 to 80 foot riparian buffer should be established and maintained along both sides of the river. The buffer should be characterized by native vegetation. Development should be limited in this buffer area. Where possible, the advisory council advocates a more extensive buffer to allow for additional protection of water quality and preservation of other important values such as aesthetics and wildlife habitat.
  • New homes (permanent or vacation) should be set back at least 100 feet and lawns should be set back at least 40 feet from the river.
  • Septic systems should be set back at least 50 feet from the river as required by existing DHEC guidelines.
  • The following practices are encouraged along roads and their right- of-ways: - Adequate culverts should be installed to manage drainage/runoff. - The area around culverts should be stabilized. - Proper erosion and sediment control measures should be implemented at all times. - Paved parking areas should not be allowed within 40 feet of the river if a natural, vegetated buffer is present. In the absence of a buffer, paved parking areas should not be allowed within 100 feet of the river. - New roads should be set back 100 feet from the river. - Runoff from parking lots and roads should be filtered before entering the river. - Mowing along roads is preferable to the use of herbicides.
  • * The handling and disposal of chemicals such as pesticides should be avoided within 100 feet of the river and its tributaries.

Scenic Quality: Best Management Practices

Land use activities of river-bordering landowners have a major effect on the scenic qualities of a river corridor. Land uses that are compatible with the existing scenic, natural, and cultural qualities of the corridor should be encouraged while others should be discouraged. The following BMPs are critical to the protection of scenic quality and aesthetic values in scenic river corridors and are recommended for implementation by river-bordering landowners:

The Scenic Rivers Program advocates a riparian buffer of naturally occurring vegetation at least 100 feet in width for protection of aesthetic values. Specific suggestions for managing a riparian scenic buffer are as follows:

  • Timber management can occur within the aesthetic buffer area but should be managed similar to a streamside management zone as described in the publication, South Carolina's Best Management Practices for Forestry. However, the Scenic Rivers Program recommends that the 50 feet adjacent to the river be left undisturbed to protect scenic quality. In addition, refer to the Scenic Rivers Program BMPs for wildlife habitat and water quality, both of which advocate special management of streamside buffer areas.
  • Openings or thinnings in the aesthetic buffer to allow for a view of particular features or scenes should be established by selectively thinning underbrush, shrubs, and low-hanging limbs. Cutting and felling trees should be avoided when attempting to create views.
  • New structures, buildings, and developments should be set back at least 100 feet from the riverbank. In addition, consider setting back existing, readily movable structures and miscellaneous property from the riverbank (examples: small outbuildings, vehicles, equipment, discarded items/junk).
  • The exterior design and height of buildings and other structures should be compatible with and unobtrusive to the scenic, natural, and cultural qualities of the river corridor.
  • Signage should be allowed only when necessary to provide information for the safety and welfare of visitors and for awareness and protection of natural, historical, or cultural features of the corridor. All signs should be designed to be unobtrusive and blend with the surroundings. Commercial signs should be prohibited and procedures for the removal of existing signage should be provided.
  • Fences or barriers should not visually or physically obstruct natural or aesthetic features.
  • Docks, landings, and bulkheads require state and federal permits to be constructed in navigable rivers. Docks and landings should be designed to be compatible with and unobtrusive to the scenic, natural, and cultural qualities of the river corridor. Construction of bulkheads should be avoided unless a substantiated need to prevent erosion is demonstrated and no feasible alternative exists.
  • Restore the scenic quality of over-utilized and abused areas in the scenic river corridor by landscaping and revegetating eroded and abused areas, planting additional wooded buffers in areas where the buffer is thin, and by controlling access and specific uses that are causing degradation.
  • Control access and specific uses that are causing degradation to riverbanks and other riparian areas (Examples include erosion or devegetation caused by livestock, off-road vehicles, and heavy recreational use.)
  • Sub-divided property developments should hold an undeveloped riparian zone in common to serve as a buffer and to provide access to the river for its residents.

Wildlife Habitat: Best Management Practices

Riparian habitats, or river-bordering habitats, are ecologically diverse and productive places. When managed to conserve natural conditions, riparian habitats can support many wildlife species. The following BMPs are recommended to river-bordering landowners for the protection of wildlife diversity in scenic river corridors:

  • To conserve and enhance wildlife diversity, landowners are encouraged to maintain riparian habitat corridors of naturally occurring vegetation along scenic rivers. For the protection of wildlife values, a vegetated buffer measuring at least 100 to 300 feet from the ordinary high water mark is recommended. The wider the buffer, the greater the benefits for wildlife. (Note: The ordinary high water mark is defined as the natural or clear line impressed on the shore or bank representing the ordinary height of the water. It may be determined by bank shelving, changes in the character of the soil, destruction or absence of terrestrial vegetation, the presence of litter or debris, or a combination of the above.)
  • Timber management can occur within the riparian habitat corridor but should be designed to promote wildlife habitat and diversity. For example: - Maintain the mixed or hardwood forest stands and other naturally occurring habitats of the river corridor and avoid converting to short rotation monoculture forest stands. - Leave some groups of mature mast-producing trees such as oak, hickory, and dogwood. - Maintain stands of trees in a variety of size classes and ages. - Leave snags and old trees that provide hollow dens and cavities - Use prescribed burning to remove thick undergrowth, promote growth of valuable wildlife food such as legumes and hardwood sprouts, and perpetuate fire-dependent species. - Provide wildlife travel corridors to connect tree stands that are separated by clearings. - Provide for the special habitat needs of sensitive species located in the area. In addition, refer to the Scenic Rivers Program BMPs for scenic quality and water quality, both of which advocate special management of streamside buffer areas.
  • Uplands adjacent to riparian habitats should be managed in a manner that sustains riparian habitat values.
  • Landowners with forested or woodland lots in the river corridor can enhance wildlife diversity on their property by maintaining an understory of native herbaceous and shrub plants, a multi-layered tree canopy, diverse tree sizes, and some standing dead snags and fallen trees.
  • Riparian areas that have been devegetated and degraded should be restored by reestablishing the naturally occurring vegetation, particularly where restoration can enhance connectivity between adjacent riparian habitats. Vegetated riparian buffers play an important role in providing natural strips to aid in the movement of wildlife along the river corridor. In addition, vegetated buffers help control water quality problems and fisheries habitat degradation associated with erosion and stormwater runoff, and they maintain the scenic character of the river corridor.
  • Maintain large, contiguous blocks of natural habitats and avoid habitat fragmentation that can be caused by permanent land clearing. Enhance the connections between existing natural habitat blocks, particularly to those that are isolated, by establishing forest stands or habitat corridors.
  • Landowners should reforest idle/marginal agricultural lands and harvested timberlands. Reforestation may be accomplished through natural regeneration or planting a variety of native species.
  • Fences or barriers which create a hindrance to the movement of wildlife should not be constructed in the riparian corridor.
  • The use of recreational vehicles in scenic river corridors should be controlled and managed to avoid degradation caused by the destruction of vegetation, erosion of soil, and disturbance of wildlife.

Land registration and the memorandum of agreement are considered to be steppingstones to the conservation easement. Over time, the Scenic Rivers Program will work toward permanent protection for entire river corridors.

For information on ways to protect it, write:
S.C. Scenic Rivers Program
SC Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 167
Columbia, SC 29202
803-734-9100

(e-mail: marshallb@dnr.sc.gov)

 

 

 


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