EPA Offices, Tenn., Va. Agree to Protect and Restore Clinch, Powell Rivers

EPA Regions 3 and 4, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, announced recently that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to protect and restore the Clinch and Powell Rivers in Virginia and Tennessee.

These five agencies have the responsibility for administering the Clean Water Act and the corresponding state laws in Tennessee and Virginia. There are also many other governmental agencies and non-governmental environmental and conservation organizations that have demonstrated an interest in and commitment to these two rivers. It is the intent of the signatories to continue to work with such other organizations to accomplish common goals.

The Clinch and Powell Rivers originate in the mountainous terrain of southwestern Virginia and flow southwest into Tennessee, eventually flowing into the Tennessee River. The watershed historically has been home to some of the most diverse fish and mussel populations in North America, however, studies have documented declining mussel populations.

Human activities in the watershed, including coal mining and processing, agriculture, urbanization, and the development of transportation corridors, have impacted the rivers and their mussels and fish. Both rivers support populations of federally threatened and endangered fish and mussel species, and segments of both rivers have been designated as critical habitat for some of these species.

The tasks to be accomplished under the MOU are both scientific and regulatory in nature. Further scientific research is required to determine the pollutants, diseases and habitat destruction that may be impacting aquatic life, and the best methods of treatment or prevention.

Regulatory decisions to be made include a determining whether the rivers are impaired. Further, necessary Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) may need to be developed. Appropriate permit conditions for future discharges into the rivers and appropriate restoration priorities will also be determined.

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