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June 11, 2012

Sinking Creek to be studied

CORBIN — By Carl Keith Greene / Staff Writer

In the heart of the Daniel Boone National Forest a creek meanders roughly from near Abutment Road west of London for about eight miles as the crow flies and with its turns and twists winds up at the Rockcastle River on the west side of Laurel County.

Sinking Creek is one of the three large creeks in Laurel County feeding the Rockcastle. The others are Hawk Creek, located north of Sinking Creek and, to the south, Cane Creek.

Some $500,000 from the Kentucky Division of Water has been acquired by the Cumberland Valley Resource Conservation and Development Council (RC&D) for a project that will, over the next three years, look into Sinking Creek and its condition.

RC&D will match the funds with 40 percent.

The water that finally fills Sinking Creek begins its runoff from northern London as the rain falls on a ridge on the town’s northwestern side.

On that hill along with homes are water storage tanks and a cemetery in which Civil War soldiers were buried in the war.

Heather Miller, executive secretary of the RC&D, explained that the watershed is quite diverse. It’s about 20 miles, including all the creeks in the area.

There is a cold water aquatic habitat in this also. It supports certain species of fish and vertebrates that warm water habitats won’t. It’s pretty special to have a cold water habitat, she said.

The Sinking Creek waters run into the Rockcastle’s section that is a protected area. “That’s one of the main reasons for keeping this watershed and trying to find what’s going on there, because where it drains into is a protected area,” she added.

It is part of the Wild River section that includes the Rockcastle Narrows.

The goals of the project, she said, are building a partnership supporting water quality in the Sinking Creek watershed.

The water and habitat quality will be  characterized, and finally preliminary recommendations for future work and interpretation for the future will be done.

One of the problems is that they know there are some contaminates in the creek, but they can’t find where they come from.

“There are metals that have been detected, possibly from historic mining, some pathogens possibly field runoff from agriculture. They kind of know what’s in there, but not the quantities. The whole point is to do a study that is consistent. This is not the first time it was looked at, but this is the first time there will be a long study and results,” she said.

The study project is expected to go through June 2015.

The first year will include sampling and testing. The University of Louisville has set up 10 testing sites. “They are self-sustaining type stations. They will go down and check on them. Some of them continuously sample every ten to 15 minutes,” she said.

They sample water temperature and do other tests to determine the quality of the water and what may be in it at the stations.

The project is also geared to get the community involved with some ownership.

“Ultimately, we hope to develop a watershed plan that will protect important aquatic habitat on the Sinking Creek watershed,” she said.

At least one federally endangered plant, the Virginia meadowsweet (Spiraea virginiana), is trying to grow, as are several other wildlife.

There is also a habitat for the Cumberland Elk Toe mussel in the Rockcastle’s 20 miles into which the Sinking Creek flows.

Mussels in the creek are protected and threatened and are declining.

Those with interests in Sinking Creek may contact Heather Miller at cumberlandvalleyrce@windstream.net, or call 606-864-9970.

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