The EBCI’s accomplishments were highlighted in this summer’s EPA report on Tribal Nonpoint Source Programs:

In 2014 the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) opened an ecofriendly native plant nursery equipped with a rainwater harvesting and irrigation system. The tribe raises its own native plants (approximately 30 species of shrubs and trees) for riparian restoration and reforestation efforts. The persistent hard work has paid off. To date, EBCI has grown and incorporated almost 100,000 nursery-grown plants in projects across the reservation, including giving native fruit trees to tribal homeowners. Using §319 base funding and tribal funding, EBCI continues to improve the capacity and efficiency of the facility to meet the increasing demand for native plants. Mike LaVoie, EBCI Natural Resources Manager, notes “the project has been a great tool to help us develop partnerships and conduct outreach activities.”

The purpose of a Nonpoint Source Program is to protect water quality by addressing issues that don’t come from a single, known polluter. Everyone knows stories of factories dumping chemicals into their neighboring waterways, but pollution also comes in the form of sediment and fertilizer washing into streams from across the landscape. This type of pollution is the biggest threat to our streams and rivers in Cherokee, and our Water Quality office works hard at protecting them.

One of the ways we do that is through stream restoration projects — a win-win for our waterways and their human neighbors. By curtailing erosion and planting vegetation alongside river banks, we can keep those “nonpoint source” contaminants from washing into the stream, all while protecting neighboring land from erosion. Most recently, we completed a 3.16-acre stream restoration project this summer on Hunting Boy Branch in Snowbird.

How can you help? If you have property along a river or stream, consider planting native trees or shrubs along its banks. Working with our Regulatory Compliance office on any ground-disturbing activities helps a lot, too. And let us know if there’s a major erosion problem in your area — our office already has several stream restoration projects in the works and plans to add more in the future!