Forestry Management


Community Meeting & Dialogue on Forest Management in Cane Creek on June 20th, 2019

OWASA invited local residents to the Maple View Agricultural Education Center on June 20th for a community meeting and dialogue on its new, incremental approach to forest management. The forest management information package for the OWASA Board of Directors July 11 work session includes a summary of the Community Meeting, OWASA's presentation, and notes transcribed from the community dialogue. On July 16th the meeting summary was updated to reflect community feedback. We will share updates on our Forest Management Program and additional community engagement activities as they develop.

Background to the Community Meeting/Invitation

OWASA owns 2,400 acres of forested lands, the majority of which is in the Cane Creek watershed.

Cane Creek Reservoir is a main water source for the Carrboro-Chapel Hill community. Protecting the Cane Creek watershed helps safeguard water quality for the community. Sustainable forest management facilitates this protection plus provides other environmental benefits such as reducing risk of wildfire.

Our new incremental approach to forest management includes managing a few tracts of land at a time – in accordance with science-based practices and our new draft guiding principles. In this incremental approach, we plan to develop management plans for a few high priority tracts, review those plans with neighbors, incorporate feedback, and then implement the plans. We would apply any lessons learned to our next group of priority tracts.

A key part of our new approach is engaging with residents near our forested land and we aim to dialogue with the community before we draft initial plans. We wish to share our new approach and enable two-way dialogue – to garner local insights and knowledge, exchange ideas, and minimize impacts on neighboring residents – to protect the watershed together. At the community meeting and dialogue, we will share a presentation about our new approach and then break-out into small groups in facilitated dialogue.

Please RSVP to Alicia Grey at or 919-537-4296 by June 13th. It’s important that we know how many community members will attend to ensure we have enough facilitators present. Thank you for your interest in OWASA’s forest management and watershed protection program. We look forward to this community discussion.

Water quality monitoring and forestry management on our  Cane Creek Reservoir Mitigation Property west of Buckhorn Road

2018 Prescribed Burn at the Mitigation Tract

The North Carolina Forest Service did a prescribed burn on a 24-acre section of OWASA’s Cane Creek Mitigation Tract (see map) in May of 2018. The prescribed burn was done to maintain and restore oak to a hardwood area on the site, and benefit wildlife and wildlife habitat. The prescribed burn was carefully planned and conducted under weather conditions to minimize the smoke impacts to neighboring landowners. Information about the prescribed burn was provided by the NC Forest Service and NC Wildlife Resources Commission at a public meeting on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, at 7:00 PM, at the Maple View Agricultural Education Center located at 3501 Dairyland Road. View the frequently asked questions document for more information.

Forestry management for the mitigation tract near Buckhorn

In accord with federal requirements, OWASA is implementing a State-approved forestry management plan at our 491-acre Cane Creek Reservoir Mitigation Tract near Buckhorn and Mount Willing Roads.

The goal of the forestry management plan is to protect the water quality of the streams on the site as well as in the Cane Creek Reservoir, and enhance wildlife habitat. The plan includes:

  • wide, protected forested buffers along streams to protect water quality. Protected stream buffers account for 151 acres of the tract. 
  • improvements to promote diversity of plants and wildlife. 

Our work complies with North Carolina Best Practices Guidelines Related to Water Quality and recommendations in the North Carolina Forestry Best Management Practices (BMP) Manual to Protect Water Quality as amended in September 2006.

To read a letter in June 2015 from a biologist on the staff of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission about the effectiveness of forestry management at our mitigation tract, please click here.

Work to date at the mitigation tract near Buckhorn:

  • 2010:  Our contractor thinned a 25-acre hardwood area near the entrance to the site to enable more robust growth of the trees and to improve wildlife habitat. The contractor removed a 25-acre pine area on the north part of the property, and replanted it with loblolly pines as recommended by the WRC. 
  • 2013: Our contractor built an earthen access road and removable stream crossing to support our sustainable forest management activities. An aerial view of the Cane Creek Reservoir Mitigation Property and the approximate location of the stream crossing can be found by clicking here.
  • 2014: Our contractor thinned about 200 acres to promote overall forest health and vigor and improve wildlife habitat.  Thinning improves the genetics of the hardwood stand by removing the lowest quality trees and leaving the most desirable, vigorous, best formed trees of desirable species, especially oak and hickory. Thinning also enables new vegetation to grow on the forest floor as food and cover for wildlife. We cleared other small areas around the site including pines and trees damaged by Hurricane Fran.  Larger areas will be replanted with loblolly and shortleaf pines. 
  • 2015: Our contractors reseeded and stabilized the roads and “logging decks” to prevent erosion and protect stream water quality.  (A logging deck is a cleared area where logs are stored before they are loaded on trucks and where equipment can turn around.) We followed the recommendations of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission for seeding to grow grasses and groundcover as food and habitat for wildlife. The contractor spread out large piles of logs in low areas outside of streams and stream buffers to help filter sediment and thus protect the streams, and to provide cover for wildlife. 
  • 2016: We replanted trees in some of the areas managed in 2014 and thinned the 25-acre pine area cleared in 2010 and replanted with loblolly in early 2011.

Water quality monitoring

The US Forest Service and other agencies collected total suspended solids data on our property and five other sites in the Piedmont of North Carolina.  They collected data both upstream and downstream of stream crossings; the results do not show significant differences in upstream and downstream concentrations during base flow or storm flow conditions.  These results indicate that forest management best management practices help protect water quality.  To read their report, please click here.

For more information

Ruth Rouse, Planning and Development Manager, at 919-537-4214 or