Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation keeps Duck River withdrawal limits

By: - April 5, 2022 6:59 am
A view of the Duck River, Tennessee longest river, from Old Stone Fort in Manchester. (Photo: John Partipilo)

A view of the Duck River, Tennessee longest river, from Old Stone Fort in Manchester. (Photo: John Partipilo)

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has agreed to keep water withdrawal limitations intact to protect the Duck River, denying an appeal from Marshall County to drop limits.

The Duck River, which is the longest river to be entirely contained in Tennessee, is also one of the most biologically diverse rivers in North America. It is home to 151 species of fish, 56 freshwater mussel species, 22 aquatic snail species and 225 species of macroinvertebrates, including aquatic insects and crustaceans. 

In August, TDEC issued a permit to the Marshall County Board of Public Utilities to build and operate a water intake facility on the Duck River but included water withdrawals limitations. 

Limitations are intended to keep companies from withdrawing water during times of drought, which can lead to depletion of oxygen levels, killing wildlife in the river. 

George Nolan, attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. (Photo: John Partipilo)
The Duck River is a “crown jewel,” said George Nolan, attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Marshall County appealed the water withdrawal limitations in an effort to meet rising demand from Middle Tennessee’s rapid growth, leading to environmental organizations to contest the appeal. 

The Nature Conservancy and the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), reached a settlement agreement with TDEC officials and Marshall County in March to keep the limits in place.

“The Duck River is the crown jewel of the Tennessee river system, and this settlement will help ensure that the waterway, its exceptional wildlife, and its outdoor recreation opportunities don’t become a casualty of Middle Tennessee’s explosive growth,” said SELC Senior Attorney George Nolan in a press release. 

The settlement also works to reinforce TDEC’s ability to reasonably limit water withdrawals for other sensitive waterways against future development.

“Looking forward, we want to continue to work with communities along the Duck River to seek a collaborative and regional approaches to water supply planning that will help protect the river, provide adequate water for people, and avoid contentious issues that are sure to come if we don’t act proactively now,” said Mike Butler, chief executive officer, Tennessee Wildlife Federation.

TDEC officials also agreed to participate in research to understand the flow needs of aquatic life in the Duck River, the impact that stream flows have on wildlife and any additional protections the waterway may need. 

After the study is conducted, TDEC will reevaluate Marshall County’s withdrawal limitations.

 

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Dulce Torres Guzman
Dulce Torres Guzman

Dulce has written for the Nashville Scene and Crucero News. A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, she received the John Seigenthaler Award for Outstanding Graduate in Print Journalism in 2016. Torres Guzman is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She enjoys the outdoors and is passionate about preserving the environment and environmental issues.

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