Antelope Creek Water Quality Celebration
After 20 years of collaborative efforts with multiple partners and projects, Antelope Creek has greatly reduced its E. coli levels and is being removed from Nebraska’s Impaired Waters List for this impairment. This is a unique and historic event!
A variety of projects focused on environmental sustainability have significantly reduced E. coli bacteria levels in Lincoln’s Antelope Creek. Antelope Creek, which runs from 90th Street and Pine Lake Road, south to 14th Street, near Innovation Campus, was delisted for impairment of recreational use due to E. coli. Only 90 creeks in the nation share a success story like Antelope Creek’s. An impairment for a creek, stream, river, pond or lake can be removed from this list only if it meets water quality standards set by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) and is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA recently approved NDEQ’s removal of Antelope Creek from the Impaired Waters list for E. coli signifying this great achievement.
Antelope Creek Watershed Project Highlights
The City of Lincoln and the Lower Platte South NRD have cost-shared on numerous best management practices projects throughout the Antelope Creek Watershed.
Pet Waste Receptacles
Pet waste receptacles help prevent the spread of E. coli bacteria in the watershed by preventing the source of E. coli (in this case, pet waste) from reaching the water.
Permeable pavers at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo were added as part of a larger project to keep the zoo from contributing to the E. coli problem in Antelope Creek and also to educate the public about water quality.
Rain gardens temporarily hold stormwater runoff in a shallow depression planted with native perennials and grasses. It improves water quality by allowing more stormwater runoff to soak into the ground. The entire city benefits when residents take steps to prevent water from leaving their property and entering the storm drains.
Bioretention at Roberts Park is a component of water quality design that improves stormwater quality by slowing down runoff and allowing it to be naturally treated by the vegetation before it enters Antelope Creek. Stormwater management practices in our parks can include parking lot curb cuts, permeable pavers, rain gardens, infiltration basins, streambank stabilization, and various native plantings. Many of these stormwater management practices not only improve water quality but also add habitat and aesthetic value to our parks.
Why E. coli?
- E. coli is naturally occurring in all warm-blooded animals.
- It is used as an “indicator” of the potential for other harmful pathogens that may be present due to fecal contamination, making human contact with the water unsafe.
- The water quality standard is established through epidemiological (disease) studies based on the risk to human health and is 126 cfu/100 mL.
Antelope Creek History
When Lincoln was settled, Antelope Creek was on the eastern edge of town. Flooding became a problem as the city developed.
The portion of the creek from about “N” Street to Vine Street was replaced by an underground conduit in the 1920s and the former channel area became fully developed.
A city wellfield was developed in the area of Antelope Park and was later replaced by a wellfield near Ashland.
Flooding remained a problem and Antelope Creek was dammed to create Holmes Lake in the 1960s, one of ten dams included in a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood reduction project.
Gabion baskets (rocks bundled by wire cages) were first installed along Antelope Creek to control severe bank erosion. The gabion baskets are still functioning today.
Holmes Lake rehabilitation projects began.
Separate flood management, transportation and community revitalization interests in the watershed were combined into the Antelope Valley Project. Construction began in 2002 and included daylighting the underground portion of the creek as an open channel that completely contains runoff from a 100-year frequency storm. The underground conduit is still utilized, but overflows are diverted to the new channel.
Antelope Creek was placed on the EPA’s list of impaired waters by NDEQ due to elevated levels of E. coli bacteria.
The Upper Antelope Creek Floodplain Reduction Project began and improvements near the Lincoln Children’s Zoo increased stormwater conveyance and storage.
The Antelope Creek Basin Master Plan is adopted by the City of Lincoln and the Lower Platte South NRD, with a special emphasis on water quality. Many best management practice water quality projects were planned and implemented.
Antelope Creek was delisted for impairment of recreational use due to E. coli. The decision was based on data collected in 2015.