The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Anita Wadhwani

Silver anchor and thin fishing line tied to a branch for an underwater trotlineSilver weight and thin fishing line tied to a branch for an underwater trotline.  Getty Images via Tennessee Lookout

Traditional Tennessee trot lines pose a fatal collision with river recreation

This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

NASHVILLE Brandon Archer was canoeing down the Buffalo River with friends over Labor Day weekend three years ago when he jumped out for a swim and drowned.

Archer had become entangled in a trotline, an unmanned fishing line studded with hooks that stretched across the river. The MTSU football player died a day shy of his 22nd birthday.

“When they found him he was under 10 feet of water and they found trotline wrapped around his ankle,” Courtney Archer, Brandon’s mother, told members of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission this month. “When I saw my son I remember the marks in his ankle from the trotline that was there.”

Monday, 24 October 2022 17:55

Praying for rain as the Mississippi breaks

MississippiLow-water challenges on the Mississippi River are evident at Memphis.  Dulce Torres Guzman/Tennessee Lookout

Despite the pump from Appalachian rainforests, the drought-stricken Mississippi River is the lowest it has ever been

This story was originally published by the Tennessee Lookout.

MEMPHIS John Dodson’s corn, cotton and soybean fields are fewer than 10 miles from the Mississippi River, the key transportation artery for West Tennessee grain farmers. But they might as well be a thousand miles.

Historically low water levels on the river are coming at the worst possible time for him. It’s peak harvest season, but he can’t get his crop to market. 

West Tennessee farmers have long relied on proximity to the Mississippi, delivering their crops directly from the field to the river. The ease of access has meant many farmers lack large grain storage silos that farmers in the Midwest and elsewhere rely on.  

While drought strangles transportation on the Mississippi, many of these farmers are now being forced to leave crops in the field and pray for rain to fall anywhere and everywhere else but above their harvest-ready crops.

TVA 4 Cumberland FP

Supreme Court air-pollution ruling calls into stark context all that must be done

This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

KNOXVILLE — The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling limiting the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions that cause climate change has renewed the spotlight on the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest public utility and Tennessee’s primary source of electricity.

The case involved EPA efforts to implement a key provision of the Clean Air Act in a challenge brought by 15 Republican-led states. That provision, which never went into effect, would have required existing power plants to shift from dirty sources of energy — such as coal — to cleaner sources, including solar and wind, as part of an urgent effort to reduce global warming.

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DSCF8531 scaledMarvin Bullock, president of the Sparta-White County Chamber of Commerce, opposes deforestation efforts in the Bridgestone-Firestone Centennial Wilderness Area to create quail habitat. John Partipillo/Courtesy of Tennessee Lookout

Oak Ridge Rep. John Ragan joins bipartisan pushback against state plans to raze forest for quail habitat

This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

SPARTA — For decades, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has kept the profits from the sale of timber and other natural resources on publicly owned lands, folding the payments from logging companies into the agency’s annual operating budget.

bipartisan bill introduced in the Tennessee Legislature this week seeks to bring that practice to an end. The measure, introduced by Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, and Sen. Heidi Campbell, D-Nashville, would require TWRA officials to transfer all proceeds from the sale of the state’s natural resources into Tennessee’s general fund — the process typically followed by other Tennessee agencies that generate income.

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DSCF8232 1 2048x1365 Tree trunks in the Bridgestone Firestone Centennial Wilderness Area in Sparta marked for clearcutting, despite local opposition.  John Partipilo/Courtesy Tennessee Lookout

Hundreds of citizens publicly reject TWRA Middle Tennessee deforestation plans

This story was originally published by the nonprofit Tennessee Lookout and is shared (with much appreciation) with Hellbender Press via Creative Commons License. 

Officials with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency faced considerable pushback Monday night (Oct. 4) at a public meeting in Sparta over plans to raze old growth forest in a popular hunting and recreation area located about halfway between Nashville and Knoxville.

A standing room-only crowd of more than 200 people filled the town’s small civic center to hear directly from state officials about what had been — until now — an unpublicized internal agency plan to clear forest on public lands in the Bridgestone Firestone Centennial Wilderness Area to create grassland habitat for northern bobwhite quail, a game bird whose populations have plummeted in Tennessee.

Bridgestone Main 2048x1365Mike O’Neal, a longtime hunter, surveys an expanse of the Bridgestone Firestone Centennial Wilderness Area in Middle Tennessee where clearcutting of public hardwood forest is planned to create quail habitat. John Partipilo/Courtesy of Tennessee Lookout

The plan to clear forest for quail habitat is raising the ire of hunters and hikers, as well as a bipartisan group of state lawmakers

This story was originally published by the nonprofit Tennessee Lookout and is shared (with much appreciation) via Creative Commons License. 

It’s a pretty bird, easily recognizable by dark stripes on rust colored feathers and a distinct two-syllable chirp that announces its name: “bob” (the high note) then “white” at a lower pitch — also known as the northern bobwhite, a species of quail.

The otherwise unassuming bird is now at the center of a fight over public lands in White County, Tennessee, pitting the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency against an unlikely coalition of hikers, hunters, cavers, local business leaders and state lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle.

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2306channelGrading along Maryville Pike in Knoxville pumped sediment into a nearby stream and on to the Tennessee River. The owner of the property was cited for violating state water-quality laws. Courtesy Knoxville Stormwater Management

Tennessee Homebuilders Association and Tennessee Chamber of Commerce support reduced site inspections

This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

Cindy Whitt and Judy Alexander, neighbors in the Westhaven subdivision in Williamson County for nearly 15 years, have watched their development grow from a small new-build subdivision of 500 homes to now more than 2,500.

In that time, on their regular walks together, they’ve also witnessed the results of dwindling green space as construction has surged:

“Almost everything from the construction runs through our storm sewer,” said Alexander. “Even though the developers put up fences (designed to prevent silt from escaping) all you need is a really steady rain — it doesn’t have to be heavy — and it all flows into our the Harpeth and the West Harpeth.”

The pair have contacted the Corps of Engineers, the city of Franklin and the state department of environment and conservation, but despite inspections, overflow ponds and new fencing, the problem persists.

“It blows my mind if we can’t even enforce the rules in wealthy Williamson County,” said Whitt, who worked for the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970’s.

The women are now among more than 100 Tennessee residents who have voiced their opposition in public meetings and in written comments to proposed revisions to the permitting process for construction companies that Whitt fears will make the problems worse.

The proposed change by the state’s environmental regulators would roll back longstanding regulation for construction site runoff — rainwater that sweeps soil or other particles off site and into nearby waterways, often creating deposits of silt that impact water quality and aquatic life.

In an unusual move, a division within the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation  — the Division of Natural Areas — has weighed in to take issue with the permit change.
 
“We believe that sites assessments remain a key tool in understanding the character of a site and can provide documentation of ecological resources prior to commencement of construction,”  a staff member in the Division of Water Resources wrote to colleagues at TDEC.
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Duck RiverMarshall CoThis biologically rich stretch of the Duck River could soon be the site of a large municipal water intake facility.

Duck River targeted by thirsty, growing municipalities in Nashville area

This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout

Marshall County, located outside what was once considered the boundary edge of growing suburbs circling Nashville, has seen explosive growth of its own in recent years — call it the Williamson County overflow effect, says County Mayor Mike Keny.

Drawn by more affordable housing, jobs and the rural character of the county — about an hour from Nashville in the “heart of the Southern Automotive Corridor” (as local economic development officials call it) — the influx of residents, and some relocating business and industry, has brought new urgency to a long-standing reality.

The county doesn’t have its own water supply. For decades, it has had to pay wholesale for drinking water from the cities of Murfreesboro and Lewisburg. That supply is no longer adequate.

A new proposal by county officials calls for building a water treatment facility along the banks of the Duck River in northern Marshall County capable of siphoning up to 6 million gallons of water per day; establish a reliable local water supply for decades to come.

The need for Marshall County,  to have its own water supply, which it has never had, is becoming more urgent with an influx of new residents. But environmental activists say the nearby Duck River, which is biologically diverse, may not be the best option.  
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2306channelGrading work at a site off Maryville Pike in Knoxville led to silt discharges that resulted in several notices of violation from Tennessee and Knox County regulators. Photo courtesy TDEC.

Critics say new rules could run afoul of Clean Water Act

 

This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

A state plan to rollback longstanding regulations for construction site runoff is drawing opposition from environmental groups who fear that Tennessee creeks and streams will suffer.

Stormwater discharges from construction sites — rainwater that sweeps soil or other particles off-site — can flow into nearby waterways, often creating silt deposits that impact aquatic life and water quality.

Historically, silt has been one of the primary pollutants in Tennessee’s waterways, a paper explaining the proposed new rules from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, or TDEC, said. Just one millimeter of soil spread over a one-acre site can weigh 5 tons, and “even a minor uncontrolled construction activity can cause major impairment in surface water,” through runoff, the paper said.

Nevertheless, TDEC is proposing significant changes in state environmental oversight of builders, developers, property owners, contractors and subcontractors in controlling runoff.

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