Lick Creek - Falls Lake flyover an eye-opening experience

Environmental, Neuse River Watershed, Sound Rivers, Water Quality

Posted on June 21st, 2023

Neuse Riverkeeper Samantha Krop took to the skies last week to get the overall picture of how development is impacting waterways in the upper Neuse — and the sight made an impact on her, she said.

“It was shocking, truly, especially since it’s been a pretty dry period. Water levels are so low, and you can see the sediment coming in,” Sam said. “I’ve certainly seen satellite imagery that has shown the sediment impacts from Lick Creek going into the Falls Lake, so I wasn’t surprised to see that it was visible, but I was surprised by the visibility of it, how obvious it all was, considering the lack of rain. Once you see it from the plane, you can clearly see there’s a sediment issue.”

Lick Creek, above right, can be seen emptying into Falls Lake, flooding the drinking-water source with sedimentation.

Sam has been tracking the sedimentation issue for more than a year, sampling local waterways — particularly Lick Creek — severely impacted by the many developments under construction in the area. Excessive sedimentation can fill in creeks and streams and kill off aquatic species, and the combination of clear-cut land and the area’s super-fine soils is further threatening an already impaired waterway.

Being able to see the scope of development from above was eye-opening, she said: “The magnitude and scale was shocking. You can only see so much from the ground. You can see that there’s serious land clearing from the roads, but when you fly above it — there are hundreds and hundreds of acres being clear cut, blasted, paved over. … There’s so many. There’s so much going on in that one area.”

Sam shared the photos she took during the flight with Durham Sediment & Erosion Control staff, members of Durham City Council and Durham City-County Planning Commission. Falls Lake is a major source of drinking water for the area.

Sam is asking Durham residents to reach out to their city council members — send them an email or give them a call — to ask them to protect Durham’s waterways. Contact information can be found HERE.

Sam teamed up with SouthWings volunteer pilot Rolf Wallin for a second time to fly over Lick Creek and Falls Lake. Southwings approaches conservation through aviation, giving partners the opportunity to get an aerial perspective to better understand and solve pressing environmental issues in the Southeast.   

Neuse Riverkeeper Samantha Krop in the air above the Upper Neuse.
Neuse Riverkeeper Samantha Krop and Southwings volunteer pilot Rolf Wallin.

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