KWRRI Research Reports


Crafts Colly, Sandlick, and Dry Fork are tributaries to the North Fork of the Kentucky River. The three tributaries are located immediately north of the North Fork of the Kentucky and flow southward into the river within or near the City of Whitesburg in Letcher County, Kentucky. Letcher County is found in the Appalachian coalfields of southeastern Kentucky.

To improve water quality in the Kentucky River, water quality impairments in the upper reaches of the watershed must be addressed. In focusing efforts in Crafts Colly, Sandlick, and Dry Fork, three headwater tributaries of the North Fork Kentucky River, pollution loading may be reduced downstream. Aside from improving the overall water quality of the North Fork of the Kentucky drainage basin, the watershed of focus offers an ideal project area in terms of scope and feasibility. The watershed is a manageable size and is close to the City of Whitesburg.

Crafts Colly, Sandlick, and Dry Fork are distinct communities located close to one another with housing and rural development oriented along each stream. Other factors contributing to the selection of the watershed include suspected water quality impairments, population of the sub-watersheds, historical data, and local support for water quality improvement efforts. Planning efforts are being sought for this watershed based on community buy-in and the desire for improve water quality for environmental well-being, recreation, and economic development.

Local water quality concerns include flooding, eroding stream banks causing land loss and crumbling roadways, high bacteria stemming largely from straight pipes and failing septic systems, and acid mine drainage contributing to stream impairments. With most development, including roadways and housing, existing in the flats lands very near to streams, there is a lack of adequate riparian buffer zones throughout Crafts Colly, Sandlick, and Dry Fork. Community members also raise questions and concerns related to unknown watershed impacts of oil and gas production.

Water sampling conducted by Kentucky River Watershed Watch volunteers has been carried out throughout Crafts Colly, Sandlick, and Dry Fork for many years. The results of the sampling consistently show high E.coli levels (> 1,000 CFU/100ml), high metals (aluminum, beryllium, iron, lead, nickel, zinc), high sulfates (> 250 mg/l), high conductivity readings (> 500 μs/cm) and low pH levels (< 6).

Crafts Colly, Sandlick, and Dry Fork flow into a stretch of the North Fork of the Kentucky River that is listed on the 303(d) List as non-supporting primary contact recreation and aquatic life (KDOW, 2016). The primary contact listing is based on E. coli levels and is due to sanitary sewer discharges, straight pipes, and residential onsite sewage treatment systems in need of repair or maintenance. The aquatic life listing is due to bank erosion, sedimentation and high conductivity levels. Suspected sedimentation sources include farming activities, logging, abandoned mine lands and stormwater runoff.

Publication Date


Notes/Citation Information

Prepared by:

•Steven Evans, Assistant Director, Kentucky Water Resources Research Institute, University ofKentucky, Lexington, Kentucky.

•Malissa McAlister, Kentucky River Basin Coordinator, Kentucky Water Resources ResearchInstitute, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky.

•Alex Beer, Watershed Coordinator, Headwaters, Inc., Whitesburg, Kentucky.

•Caitlin Myers, Watershed Coordinator, Headwaters, Inc., Whitesburg, Kentucky.

Funding Information

Funding for this project was provided in part by grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) through the Kentucky Division of Water, Nonpoint Source Section, to Kentucky Water Resources Research Institute and Headwaters, Inc. as authorized by the Clean Water Act Amendments of 1987, §319(h) Nonpoint Source Implementation Grant #PPG BG-00D21416-0.