Effort to protect Duck River advances in Tennessee legislature
A portion of the Duck River in Coffee County. The Tennessee Legislature is considering a measure to protect the Duck, one of the most biologically diverse rivers in the U.S. (Photo: John Partipilo)
A bill to designate a stretch of the Duck River in Maury County a “scenic waterway” advanced in the Tennessee Legislature on Tuesday — a measure that may come into play with local efforts to fight a for-profit mega trash complex along its banks.
The measure by Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka and Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hoenwald, would designate a portion of the Duck in western Maury County a Class II scenic waterway, a category intended to protect river quality as well as vistas, shorelines and adjacent lands.
The Duck has long been recognized as one of the most biodiverse in the world, a pristine river used for recreation and a critical source of drinking water, Cepicky told lawmakers on the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee Tuesday.
“But it did not get that way — and it was not that way before,” he said. “We had major industry along that river that polluted it really bad and it’s taken a long time to get the river back to the way it was.”
The bill, in its early stages in the legislature, would “protect the water source for southern Middle Tennessee for the next 100 years.”
Under state law, a scenic waterway designation also comes with restrictions on commercial timber harvesting, parallel roadways and landfills for up to two miles from the center of the river.
The bill comes as residents and county officials are pushing back on a plan by a Louisiana-based Trinity Business Group to establish a 1,300 acre waste complex on a federal Superfund site adjacent to the river.
The Superfund site is the former home of the Monsanto Chemical Company, which mined phosphorus, manufactured fertilizers and, for a time, chemical warfare agents. The site, now overgrown with kudzu and other green vegetation, has unknown quantities of toxic material buried beneath the surface.
Trinity’s plans caught local residents and officials by surprise last fall, but they quickly mobilized. The Maury County Commission passed new zoning rules restricting industrial activity within 1,000 feet of the Duck River. Nearby the city of Columbia conducted a review of their records, finding they had the authority to deny the landfill.
The company is fighting back with new legal arguments that neither the city nor the county have the authority to restrict their plans, which include two landfills, a recycling facility, metal salvage, tire shredding and other waste operations, along with a solar farm.
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