Swift Creek has its headwaters in Pitt County and is the last major tributary to the Neuse River before it reaches its estuary near New Bern. Swift Creek and Fork Swamp flow south from the City of Greenville past the Towns of Winterville and Ayden into more rural areas near the Swift Creek confluence with the Neuse River. North of NC 102, 31% of the watershed is developed land use, while 69% of the area is characterized as agricultural or forest. Pitt County Planning Department estimates the watershed population in 2008 at 48,000. The population of Pitt County is projected to grow by 33% between 2000 and 2020, and the project area is experiencing the fastest growth.
Channelization & Modifications
Channelization of the upper Swift Creek stream network was completed in the 1970s and early 1980s using Federal PL 556 funds. Drainage modifications were undertaken to address long-term flooding problems that had impacted farmlands. Main channels were modified to carry rainfall from a two-year storm and the lateral channels were designed to carry rainfall from a five-year storm. The Swift Creek Drainage District was created to assist landowners and help maintain the channelized stream network.
In recent years water quality degradation has been reported in the upper Swift Creek watershed. The NC Division of Water Quality (NCDWQ), placed upper Swift Creek on the 1998 Clean Water Act Section 303(d) list of impaired waterbodies, based on impaired benthic macroinvertebrate communities (sample collected at NC 102 east of Ayden received a Poor rating in 1995). Agriculture and channelization were listed as potential sources of pollution in 2000; however, it is likely that urban runoff has the greatest current impact on the water quality and habitat of Swift Creek.
Channelization can contribute to water quality degradation. For this reason, it is not the preferred approach for floodway management. However, the work has been completed and maintenance agreements are in place. This project will not seek restore channelized streams, but to identify areas where a floodplain bench can be built within the existing channels to improve sediment transport and hold greater volumes of floodwater. Additional effort will be made in the uplands to detain storm runoff.