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Alarka Headwaters habitat connectvity and sediment reduction project

Alarka Headwaters Connectivity Project

The long-term viability of native Eastern Brook Trout in the southern Appalachian mountains is threatened primarily by three stressors: 1) loss of connectivity between fish populations for reproduction and gene flow and between fish and their available habitat; 2) sedimentation impacts on fish health and habitat; and 3) loss of cold waters due to climate change and high elevation land loss/degradation. This project directly addresses the first two stressors by replacing a double-piped culverted stream crossing on National Forest System Road 86 (FSR86) with a bottomless arch pipe (AOP) over Alarka Creek and adjusting the elevation and drainage features on the graveled road approaches to alleviate existing storm sediment inputs. This project is Phase I of a three-phased connectivity and sediment reduction project, with Phases II and III in years two – four involving replacement of two fords with AOP structures, graveled road improvements that reduce sedimentation, and a spruce bog restoration. All phases of this project occur within a high elevation (~4,000 feet) protected area in 100% ownership by the Nantahala National Forest, which indirectly addresses the third stressor. This work is needed to enhance genetic diversification and create a more robust, resilient and thriving group of brook trout populations better able to withstand a warming climate. It is a project that supports goals of the State of NC’s Wildlife Habitat Action Plan, Trout Management Plan and the Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest’s Land Resources Management Plan.

Site map for Alarka Headwaters projectThis multi-phase project by Trout Unlimited will increase connectivity within an allopatric brook trout catchment and maintain an existing high quality wild brook trout population. TU and partners will replace a double-barreled corrugated metal culvert with a bottomless arch culvert that will span 1.5 bankful width. This is the part to be funded with the NFHAP/FWS award, and will reconnect 4,500 feet of coldwater habitat for movement by brook trout and other aquatic organisms.

Alarka Headwaters double barreled culvert inletAlarka Headwaters culvert outlet

Other parts of the project include replacing another barrier with a ford, replacing two additional fords with improved structures, and restoring a spruce bog wetland on one of the tributaries.  Each project will also improve dirt and gravel roads to reduce the only anthropogenic sediment source in the project area.

Climate Change Impacts, Geographic Isolation
Rivers and Streams
Landscape-level Planning
Conservation Design
Aquatic Resources, Climate Change Science

Associated Locations

Town zip code county state congressional dist


Name of barrier Latitude Longitude FONS ID FIS Project ID FWS Acc. #

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