A project of the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain

Watershed Description

The Watersheds of the Upper Bay of St. Louis flow into the western and northern reaches of the Bay of St. Louis.  This watershed partnership area is part of the larger Bay of St. Louis Watershed. The Upper Bay Partnership Area can be broken down further into smaller watersheds that include Bayou Bacon, Orphan Creek, Bayou Talla, and Cutoff Bayou which drain to the Jourdan River. Bayou La Terre drains into Rotten Bayou which empties into Jourdan River before that river meets the Bay of St. Louis. In addition, Lower Bayou and Bayou LaCroix travel through the city of Bay St. Louis before meeting the Bay of St. Louis. The Upper Bay Partnership Area also includes the community of Kiln. Outside the city limits, the watershed is mostly rural with agricultural areas including livestock farms and timberlands. Also included within the watershed is public Coastal Preserves owned and managed by the MS Department of Marine Resources. These preserves are mostly coastal marsh, wet pine savanna, and maritime forests.

Jourdan River Coastal Preserve

Small streams and wetlands trap excess sediment, which is the single greatest contributor to poor water quality.  Preserving forests, riparian buffers and other vegetative cover dramatically reduces sedimentation.  A reduction in sedimentation and other storm-water run-off protects water quality and ultimately saves money.  Conservation options are cost-effective measures that benefit everyone.

Marsh gradation in Jourdan River Coastal Preserve.

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, the Hancock County Greenways project hosted by the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce and Board of Supervisors conducted several public forums and surveyed the community.  Water quality concerns were the number one issue for both citizens and local governments. Most of the concern was focused on fecal coliform contamination in the waters caused by faulty septic and wastewater systems, especially after heavy rain events. Currently, the county is working to install new water and sewer systems; however, many rural residents are concerned that this will generate more development outside of the cities thereby increasing water quality issues, decreasing the quality of life in the rural setting and creating addition loss of wildlife habitat and green space.

Bayhead swamp in pine flatwoods.

The watersheds of the Upper Bay of St. Louis Partnership Area are:

Bayou Bacon Watershed covers
@42 square miles and is 8.56 miles long
*Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC): 031700090906

Jourdan River/Bayou Talla Watershed
covers @27 sq. miles and is 12.07 miles long
*Hydrologic Unit Code:  031700091001

Jourdan River/Cutoff Bayou Watershed
covers @19 sq miles and is 4.31 miles long
*Hydrologic Unit Code:  031700091004

Rotten Bayou Watershed covers
@35 square miles and is 12.84 miles long
*Hydrologic Unit Code:  03170091002

Bayou La Terre Watershed covers
@24 sq. miles and is 10.73 miles long
*Hydrologic Unit code:  03170091003

Lower Bayou/LaCroix Watershed covers
@21 sq. miles and is 7.30 miles long
*Hydrologic Unit Code:  03170091102

Watershed Partnership

The Land Trust’s efforts to build a partnership for Upper Bay of St. Louis began in November of 2006 with Alison Anderson and Chris Lagarde agreeing to co-chair community watershed forums.  The first roundtable discussion was held at the Kiln public library on January 18, 2007.  The second roundtable discussion was held at the Hancock County EOC on March 29, 2007.  We have learned much from the participants and are very appreciative of their participation.

Hancock County was ground zero for this country’s greatest natural disaster, Hurricane Katrina.  We feel that it is important to respect that citizens are working hard to rebuild and recover and that any individual’s time to participate in long-term watershed planning is limited.  The Land Trust will continue to support the development of a watershed partnership for the Upper Bay of St. Louis, seeking financial and other resources to help the community accomplish some of the actions identified to address their concerns for the waterways of Hancock County.

This document is written to provide a strategic approach to watershed planning with particular focus on private sector participation in the process.  We want to provide context and a brief overview of the ecological, cultural and scenic significance of streams as they flow to the Bay of St. Louis in Hancock County.  This is a record of our planning efforts and an accounting of actions identified to address watershed concerns.  The hope of those involved in this planning is to foster better stewardship of the natural resources of the watershed.

Forum participants were asked, “What’s so special about this place?  Is there anything in the watershed in its present state that you want to protect?”  They responded with a clear understanding of their natural heritage and a strong vision of the qualities that they want to restore and protect:

  1. Rural heritage, including farmlands, healthy forests and open green space
  2. Peace and tranquility
  3. Wild sounds: frogs, birds, insects
  4. Incredible beauty of our water:  clean, clear water that provides opportunities for people to swim, fish and hunt
  5. Oak trees with their many colors of green.
  6. Seafood industry

From the impacts of storm debris and tree loss to the threats of failing septic tanks and accelerated erosion in streams, participants clearly have a passion to restore, protect and educate.  Failing septic tanks, head cutting, down cutting, deforestation and contaminated runoff are sources of stress that contribute to increased sedimentation, nutrient and bacteria loading.  Forum participants also identified the need for increased understanding about the impact of motorized vehicles on stream banks, stream beds and sandbars and for increased enforcement of public waterway laws.  Residents discussed the need to keep regular prescribed fire as a primary tool for natural lands management; limit development and create setback requirements in the floodplain through local zoning action; reforest stream banks and protect headwater streams and tributaries.  There is a great need to educate the local citizenry and to develop pride in place so that littering and dumping can be minimized, streamside management can be better understood and implemented, and appropriate public policy can be implemented as the population grows.

The goal of the Upper Bay of St. Louis Watershed Partnership is to develop and implement a solution-oriented, action plan.  We have two primary objectives:  (1) Research, identify and implement watershed protection and education strategies in the Upper Bay of St. Louis Partnership Area; (2) Research, design and implement watershed restoration and education strategies in the Upper Bay of St. Louis Partnership.

Protection is defined as defending the existing natural and cultural resources of the Watershed from further degradation caused by encroachment, abuse or neglect.  Restoration is defined as actively initiating or accelerating the recovery of the ecological and cultural health, integrity and sustainability of the watershed that has been degraded, damaged or destroyed.

Upper Bay Watershed Partnership Steering Committee Members