Wheel Creek

Wheel Creek Watershed Assessment
Bel Air, MD
Harford County Department of Public Works

Wheel Creek is a tributary to Winters Run in the Bush River Basin.  Clear Creeks teamed with BayLand Consultants and Designers to conduct a watershed assessment of 0.94 square miles (435 acres) mixed land use watershed draining to Atkisson Reservoir.   Mr. Powell served as Senior Scientist and Restoration Design Specialist.  He supervised and conducted the field reconnaissance, conducted the geomorphic mapping and reach classifications, developed a methodology for and completed ranking of subwatershed segments  and stream reaches by stream condition.  He identified  and prioritized potential restoration projects and developed cost estimates for those restoration projects.

A Findings Report and Recommendations for stream restoration and stormwater BMPs was prepared.  Conceptual designs and preliminary cost estimates were developed for the restoration and retrofit projects identified.  The field work and report were completed in 2008.


Over the last four decades the Bel Air area, as well as Harford County in general has experienced a rapid growth in population that has transformed this once rural area to suburban, residential and commercial land uses.  These changes have had a tremendous effect on the natural resources of the County.  In particular, increased sedimentation from construction activities, stream channel erosion in response to increased storm water runoff, and an overall increase in pollutant loadings due to the conversion from forest and cultivated land to residential and commercial uses have significantly degraded the water quality, reduced flood storage capacity, and damaged public infrastructure as well as public and private land along the County’s stream corridors.  Of particular concern is the contribution unstable headwater streams make to sedimentation problems in tidal creeks that necessitate costly maintenance dredging.

In response to these concerns, the Harford County Department of Public Works, Water Resources Engineering have focused their efforts on identifying water quality problems and developing strategies for correcting those problems.  In addition, the Department of Public Works initiated capital improvement programs focused on remediation of erosion and sedimentation problems caused by uncontrolled or inadequately controlled stormwater runoff.

It is the intention of the Harford County Department of Public Works, Water Resources Engineering to control runoff from developed areas, correct stream channel instability problems, reduce sediment loadings, and improve the overall water quality of Wheel Creek and the Atkisson Reservoir.


  • GIS Mapping and Analysis
  • Evaluation of Historic Aerial Photographs
  • Field Reconnaissance Survey of 2.2 miles (11,642 LF) of stream channels to identify problem areas with a special emphasis on channel condition and sediment sources
  • Geomorphic Assessment including geomorphic mapping and Level II Rosgen stream classifications of all channel reaches
  • Preliminary Hydrologic Analyses
  • Identification of Opportunities Potential Stream Restoration Projects and Potential Stormwater Retrofits.


Although current conditions in the Wheel Creek watershed are characterized as highly variable, channel instability was observed along all stream segments that were evaluated.  Gully erosion, stream bank erosion and lateral migration, channel blockages, and streambed aggradation are common problems along the mainstem and tributaries draining subwatersheds where high percent impervious area and high density development are the dominant land uses.

The unstable conditions throughout the watershed have severely degraded water quality, in-stream habitat, and supplied significant sediment loadings to Atkisson Reservoir.  Public and private land as well as public infrastructure has been damaged.  Left uncorrected the stability problems in this watershed will continue to be long-term maintenance issues as well as a significant source of sediment to Atkisson Reservoir.


Identification and Prioritization of Restoration Projects

  • Potential projects were identified from a list of main stem and tributary problem sites identified during the field reconnaissance.
  • The feasibility of implementing specific restoration projects at the selected problem sites was evaluated. This included a planning level, qualitative analysis used to screen the projects for ease of implementation, project cost and long-term maintenance, and landowner acceptance.
  • Those projects determined to be feasible were prioritized based on their potential for correcting channel instability, reducing loadings of sediment and other pollutants to downstream reaches and Atkisson Reservoir. Another important consideration was public safety issues and the potential for damage to public or private infrastructure if a particular project was not implemented.
  • A total of twenty one (21) restoration projects were identified and prioritized accounting for a 6,768 linear feet of restoration.
  • Preliminary cost estimates were developed for the 21 restoration projects.

Storm Water Management Plan

  • A comprehensive analysis was conducted to identify, evaluate and develop stormwater retrofits that would provide quantity and quality benefits for the Wheel Creek watershed.
  • Five (5) existing SWM facilities and outfalls were assessed for retrofit opportunities.
  • Peak discharge attenuation was calculated for each retrofit site.
  • Pollutant loadings and BMP pollutant reductions were calculated for each retrofit site.
  • Design Concepts and cost estimates were developed for the 5 retrofit sites