Departmental Reports




Bayne, D., E. Reutebuch, W. Seesock and C. Webber

Date: 2004

Funding Agency: West Poit Stevens, City of Auburn and City of Opelika

Keywords: sougahatchee, creek, nutrients, sediments, biota, water quality, limnolgy

Category: Domestic Funded Research Report

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The Sougahatchee Creek headwaters arise just north of the city of Opelika, Alabama
and flow westward to the Tallapoosa River (Yates Lake). The 217-mi² creek basin lies
entirely within the Piedmont physiographic province. The Piedmont comprises a
transitional area between the mostly mountainous Appalachians to the northeast and the
relatively flat Coastal Plain to the southeast. The soils are finer-textured and lower in
organic matter and nutrients than Coastal Plain soils. Rocky stream bottoms of boulder,
cobble and gravel characterize streams in their natural, undisturbed condition.
In its headwaters, Sougahatchee Creek received nonpoint urban runoff from the twin
cities of Auburn and Opelika, Alabama, about 4.5 mgd of municipal wastewater and another
1.3 mgd of treated textile wastewater. The predominant (67%) land cover within the basin
was managed forest. The stream has had a long history of pollution problems and, in fact, is
in much better condition today than it was 20-30 years ago. Nevertheless, Sougahatchee
Creek continues to experience problems with excessive nutrient enrichment and
sedimentation. It was one of the few Alabama streams to have two reaches (embayment of
Yates Lake and an urban tributary) appearing on the State 303(d) List for impaired waters in
This study was designed to determine the current condition of Sougahatchee Creek
and its tributaries and, to the extent possible, identify those factors within the basin having
an adverse effect on water quality and biological health of the system. The specific
objectives were to:
1. Measure concentrations and estimate annual loading of plant nutrients, total
suspended solids and metals;
2. Examine physical habitat conditions of the streams and conduct bioassessments
utilizing benthic macroinvertebrate communities;
3. Using GIS technology, examine and quantify land cover for the entire Sougahatchee
Basin from 1993 and 2001 satellite imagery and aerial photography; and,
4. Using regression analysis, examine relationships between basin land cover,
nutrient and sediment loading and biological condition of the streams.

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