The efficient utilization of federal funds in improving the water quality and aquatic habitat of the region requires a mechanism for assessing and evaluating the impacts of the proposed and ongoing projects as well as some mechanism for prioritizing the allocation of additional funds. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of these projects it is important to provide a formal monitoring and assessment program based on sound scientific principles. This report provides an initial 10 year baseline assessment of the existing water quality conditions in the 40 county PRIDE·region for the purpose of evaluating the impacts of the PRIDE programs in the region and the extent to which such programs are satisfying their stated objectives of cleaning up the region's rivers and streams. A general assessment of the associated environmental problems and programs in the region can be found in the companion reports: PRIDE Water Quality Assessment Report I: Problems and Programs while recommendations for additional monitoring station locations is provided in PRIDE Water Quality Assessment Report III: Existing and Proposed Monitoring Network.
Because of the spatial and cumulative impacts of multiple projects within a region, it is best that project impacts be evaluated on a composite or watershed basis. In using such an approach, it is important that an appropriate assessment scale be selected that maintains a balance between the ability to quantify the impacts of local projects and the ability to effectively monitor a larger number of sites. In consideration of both issues, the various projects within the PRIDE counties were evaluated both on a county basis and on an 8-digit watershed basis. In order to evaluate the water quality conditions in the PRIDE region, some type of assessment parameters are required. In general, such assessment parameters may be subdivided into nutrient, chemical, biological, and habitat parameters. For this study, these parameters included measurements of ammonia, total phosphorus, pH, fecal coliform, macro-invertebrates, and general aquatic habitat. A summary of the first two parameters are included in the report PRIDE Water Quality Assessment Report IV: Nutrient Assessments. A summary of pH, fecal coliform, macrointertebrates, and general aquatic habitat is included in this report.
A spatial analysis of the various pH sample locations within the region identified only a handful of sites in which the pH standard of 6 was violated. These sites tended to be concentrated McCreary, Whitley, and Pulaski counties and are reflected of the acid-bearing coal strata that lie in this area.
Unlike the pH readings, fecal coliform violations were much more spatially distributed across the region. Using an acute standard of 400c/ml, nearly all counties with any historical data show some standard violations. A simultaneous examination of both median and maximum values reveals that several counties continue to have severe pathogen problems. These include Floyd County, Harlan County, Johnson County, Letcher County, and Perry County. Other counties that have had less severe although significant problems include Bell, Breathitt, Garrard, Jessamine, and Lawrence Counties. Several counties have no historical fecal data and indicate areas where additional sampling is needed. These include: Casey, Clinton, Knott, Martin, Metcalfe, and Taylor counties. Because of the lack of and variability of the fecal data, it was hard to draw any definitive conclusions with regard to general trends. However, it does appear that general fecal levels are beginning to decrease in Bell, Harlan, Letcher, and Perry counties. An evaluation of the fecal data on a watershed basis revealed similar impacts. As expected, the north Fork of the Kentucky River watershed and the Upper Cumberland watershed showed the most severe fecal impacts.
In an attempt to provide a historical baseline of stream habitat in the region, a statistical analyses of the Kentucky ERDAS habitat database was performed on both a county basis and a watershed basis. Generally speaking, habitat scores above 165 are indicative of good environmental conditions while scores below 135 are indicative of stressed conditions. Using these criteria and the median scores for each county, it was determined that most counties are in a fair to poor condition. General trends were difficult to determine given the sparsity of the data. However, where available, the data do tend to show a decrease in habitat scores over the last 10 years. Minimum habitat scores were obtained in Clay, Leslie, Magoffin, Menifee, Morgan, Perry, and Wolfe Counties. On a watershed basis, the most severely impacted habitats appear to be associated with the Kentucky River Basin and the Licking River Basin, however this observations may be biased on the basis of the increased biological sampling that has taken place in these two basins as part of the Kentucky Watershed Management Framework initiative.
In addition to a general habitat assessment Kentucky ERDAS database was also used to perform a macro-invertebrate assessment on both a county basis and a watershed. The macro-invertebrate data were much more comprehensive than the habitat data. Generally speaking, macro-invertebrate scores below 4 are indicative of good environmental conditions while scores above 7 are indicative of stressed conditions. Using these criteria and the median scores for each county, it was found that most counties are in a fair condition. This is also true for most of the watersheds as well. General trends are difficult to determine given the scarcity and variability of the data. In general, no overall trends were observed across the region.
Kentucky Water Resources Research Institute, University of Kentucky, "PRIDE Water Quality Assessment Report: II. Chemical, Biological and Habitat Assessments" (2000). KWRRI Research Reports. 194.