Category Archives: News

Strategic Plan for Increasing Populations of Rare Mussel Species Completed

The Upper Tennessee River Mussel Recovery Group recently completed a new 10-year strategic plan for increasing populations of rare mussel species in two critical sections of the Clinch-Powell River system.  Thriving freshwater mussel populations are the foundation of a clean and healthy river system.  The work to restore these populations has important benefits for people and nature.  A copy of the plan can be found here.

Healthy Watersheds Team (2)

TVA Funds a $100K Restoration Effort to Increase Mussels in the Powell River

A new $100K restoration effort to increase populations of native freshwater mussels in the Powell River system is now officially underway following the first mussel release, which took place on October 6.  Students from Lincoln Memorial University helped with the first mussel release.  The program is being led by The Nature Conservancy and funded by The Tennessee Valley Authority, with additional assistance provided by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and Virginia Tech University.  More information on the project can be found at the following links:

Nature Conservancy Media Release — http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/virginia/newsroom/new-effort-underway-to-increase-native-mussel-populations-in-virginia-and-te.xml

WBIR-Knoxville Television — http://www.wbir.com/news/local/mussels-released-to-help-grow-population/329713059

Knoxville News Sentinel — http://archive.knoxnews.com/news/local/the-powell-river-in-tazewell-tenn-gets-infusion-of-freshwater-mussels-in-restoration-effort-3e337426-396226791.html?d=mobile

 

Upper Tennessee River Roundtable and Partners Clean Up the Clinch River

Thirty-one volunteers recently spent most of a day cleaning up the2016-09-27-01-38-39
Clinch River behind the Richlands Tabernacle and the Richlands Christian Academy in preparation for a stream bank stabilization
project. The number one item found was tires, with 349 being dragged out of the river by volunteers with assistance from three trucks with wenches.

Volunteers also picked up 92 pieces of old metal, including a vehicle hood. The cleanup resulted in volunteers finding and removing 69
pieces of construction materials, such as wood and cinder blocks.2016-09-27-15-18-18 An assortment of other litter was removed, such as beverage bottles and cans and assorted pieces of plastic and paper. The most unusual item found was the center of an old wooden wagon wheel.

The cleanup was a project of Upper Tennessee River Roundtable and volunteer-picKeep Southwest Virginia Beautiful with USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife, Richlands Tabernacle, Stewards of the Clinch, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and Clean Virginia Waterways. Supplies were furnished by TVA and Clean Virginia Waterways. The cleanup served as part of the International Coastal Cleanup, which is coordinated in Virginia by Clean Virginia Waterways and locally by Upper Tennessee River Roundtable and Keep Southwest Virginia Beautiful. As part of that large cleanup effort, volunteers filled out data cards to count each item picked up. This data will be compiled by Clean Virginia Waterways with other cleanup results in order to categorize the top 10 littered items in Virginia as well as the total tonnage collected statewide.

Richlands Tabernacle prepared a home cooked lunch for all of the volunteers, some traveling from Dickenson and Wise counties to help with the cleanup, which is known as a regional stream cleanup for Keep Southwest Virginia Beautiful. The Dickenson, Wise and Tazewell folks are members of Keep Southwest Virginia Beautiful, which is the largest regional Keep America Beautiful affiliate in the nation.

Upper Tennessee River Roundtable and Partners for Fish and Wildlife will begin a stream project at the site in the near future to stabilize the stream banks and plant trees.

Upper Tennessee River Roundtable is a regional watershed nonprofit that focuses on the Cilnch, Powell and Holston rivers in Virginia that comprise the upper Tennessee River Basin in Virginia.

For more information, contact the Roundtable at 276-628-1600 or visit the website at www.uppertnriver.org.

The Tennessee River Watershed

The Tennessee River watershed is one of the most biologically diverse watersheds in North American. It is home to approximately 270 fish species and over 100 species of mussels. Check out the video to see some of the native fish and learn what’s being done to protect the waterways and the animals that live there!


270 Fish Species

The Tennessee River watershed is one of the most biologically diverse watersheds in North American. It is home to approximately 270 fish species and over 100 species of mussels. Check out the video to see some of the native fish and learn what’s being done to protect the waterways and the animals that live there!

Posted by Tennessee Valley Authority on Friday, September 4, 2015

Healthy Watersheds Report Released

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Clinch-Powell Clean Rivers Initiative (CPCRI) have released the Integrated Assessment of Watershed Health in the Clinch and Powell River System.  The purpose of this report is to characterize the relative health of watersheds in the Clinch and Powell River System to guide future protection, restoration, and education activities.  Areas defined as most healthy will become priorities for additional conservation effort.  A copy of the report can be found here.  Fact sheets are under development and will be posted soon!

Building Momentum for a New Clinch River State Park

Momentum continues to build towards the establishment of a new Clinch River State Park. The park nearly came to fruition during the last session of the Virginia General Assembly; however, funding to acquire new core parkland was not included in the final version of the budget.

The proposal still enjoys strong support from Legislators, local communities, the recreational community, educators, and economic development specialists. “We look at it as a way to connect people to nature,
support local economies and educate people about the global importance of the Clinch River,” says TNC land protection specialist Steve Lindeman.

The vision for the park involves purchasing some 600 acres or more as a hub for traditional amenities
such as campsites and trails. The river itself would serve as the primary trail, with additional or
enhanced access points along its length and new interpretive materials to foster local pride and
educate visitors.

“The state park is exciting because it starts with the idea of getting more people onto the river for the benefit of local economies,” says TNC Clinch Valley director Brad Kreps. “Increased public access and use will raise awareness and appreciation of the river’s beauty, incredible number of rare species, and the role the Clinch plays in our region’s water quality.”

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Reports Stream Improvements (Draft Report)

In its recently released 2014 Water Quality Assessment Report, Virginia DEQ reports that several streams previously classified as “impaired” under the 303-D program have now been de-listed.

Stone Creek
Located in Lee County, this segment includes Stone Creek from the confluence with Ely Creek to the Straight Creek confluence at the Stone Creek community. The segment is 3.33 miles long and was first listed as impaired for failure to support the general standard for aquatic life in 2002. Recent biological sampling indicated the segment is no longer considered impaired but fully supporting the aquatic life use.
The source of the benthic impairment on Stone Creek was a combination of impacts from abandoned mine lands and acid mine drainage. Over 215 acres of mined land have been reclaimed in the Stone Creek watershed, primarily to forest. In addition, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy (DMME) has completed three important abandoned mine land reclamation projects with total costs of nearly $420,000. These projects have addressed acid mine drainage and landslides. DMME believes the pollution reductions from these areas have contributed to the improved benthic macroinvertebrate scores that DEQ has observed in the stream.

Gin Creek
Located in Lee County, this segment includes the headwaters and tributaries downstream through the Darbyville community to the Straight Creek confluence at Turners Siding. The segment is 2.59 miles long and was first listed as impaired for failure to support the general standard for aquatic life in 2002. Recent biological sampling indicated the segment is no longer considered impaired but fully supporting the aquatic life use.
The source of the benthic impairment on Gin Creek was a combination of impacts from abandoned mine lands and acid mine drainage. There is currently only one active coal mine permit in the Gin Creek watershed. The total permit area for that facility is 23.5 acres but the mining was finished in 2008 and 20 acres of the permit area has now been reclaimed. The remaining permitted area is the haul road to the site. The site will be under a performance bond for a minimum of three more years to insure a successful post mining land use of forest.

Swords Creek
Located in Russell County, this segment of Swords Creek includes the mainstem from the Sulphur Spring Branch confluence at Dye downstream to the confluence with the Clinch River. The segment is 2.91 miles long and was first listed as impaired for failure to support the general standard for aquatic life in 2002. Recent biological sampling indicates this segment is no longer considered impaired but fully supporting the aquatic life use.
The suspected cause of the impairment was runoff from rural residential areas. The reasons for improvements are unknown; however, the improved benthic scores reinforce the point that the segment is now fully supporting the aquatic life use. This segment remains listed as impaired for failure to meet the bacteria water quality standard.

Clear Creek
Located in Wise County, Clear Creek is a tributary of the Guest River located near the Ramsey community downstream of the Jefferson National Forest. The segment is 3.77 miles long and was first listed as impaired for failure to support the general standard for aquatic life in 2010. Recent biological sampling indicated the segment is no longer considered impaired but fully supporting the aquatic life use.
The suspected cause of the impairment was runoff from rural residential areas. The reasons for improvement are unknown; however, the improved benthic scores reinforce the point that the segment is now fully supporting the aquatic life use.

Eastland Creek
Located in Wise County, Eastland Creek is a tributary to Clear Creek south of Norton in the Jefferson National Forest. The segment is 2.00 miles long and was first listed as impaired for failure to support the general standard for aquatic life in 2010. Recent biological sampling indicates this segment is no longer considered impaired but fully supporting the aquatic life use.
The suspected cause of the impairment was unknown. The reasons for improvement are unknown; however, the improved benthic scores reinforce the point that the segment is now fully supporting the aquatic life use.

Machine Creek
Located in Wise County, this segment includes the headwaters of Machine Creek on Stone Mountain in Jefferson National Forest. The segment is 2.24 miles long and was first listed as impaired for failure to support the general standard for aquatic life in 2010. Recent biological sampling indicated the segment is no longer considered impaired but fully supporting the aquatic life use.
The suspected cause of the impairment was unknown. The reasons for improvement are unknown; however, the improved benthic scores reinforce the point that the segment is now fully supporting the aquatic life use.

Stony Creek
Located in Scott County, this segment includes from Greens Chapel to the Clinch River confluence near Fort Blackmore. The segment is 5.25 miles long and was first listed as impaired for failure to meet the recreational use in 2008. Recent ambient sampling show 0 bacteria violations in 11 samples.
The source of the bacteria impairment on the Stony Creek was unknown. The reasons for the improvement are unknown; however, the improved bacteria data reinforces the point that the stream is no longer impaired but fully supporting recreational uses.

Wallen Creek
Located in Lee County, this segment includes the mainstem of Wallen Creek from the confluence with Lone Branch downstream to the confluence with the Powell River near Towell Fork. The segment is 2.04 miles long and was first listed as impaired for failure to meet the recreational use in 2006. Recent ambient sampling show 1 bacteria violations in 11 samples.
The source of the bacteria impairment on the Wallen Creek was unrestricted cattle access and rural residential areas. The reasons for the improvement are unknown; however, the improved bacteria data reinforces the point that the stream is no longer impaired but fully supporting recreational uses.

Agroforestry Riparian Buffer Program

In 2013, the USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (PFW) partnered with Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD) to incorporate marketable Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs), or native fruit and nut trees and shrubs like pawpaws and elderberries, into riparian buffer enhancement projects. Since then, 8 acres of multifunctional agroforestry riparian buffers have been established within the Clinch, Holston and Powell River watersheds of Southwest Virginia. Prior to project implementation, conservation partners observed that many landowners were hesitant to establish riparian buffers using traditional hardwood trees, in fear of losing valuable, arable farmland for agriculture and livestock use. Based on our project experience in these watersheds, participating landowners have embraced the practice and are actively engaged in our NTFP program as well as promoting the practice to their neighbors and friends. Our program now has a waiting list of landowners who would like to participate and we are seeking funding sources to grow our NTFP program over the next few years. Our partnership continues to grow, with collaboration through existing conservation programs in the watershed.

Riparian NTFP buffers are an innovative approach to conservation because they have the potential to promote water resource protection along with economic development in rural communities. Since NTFPs can be harvested and sold for profit or used for self-consumption, they serve as an innovative alternative to both traditional agricultural practices and conservation approaches. At the same time, since only their fruit and nuts are harvested, they maintain their conservational integrity by: stabilizing the streambank and reducing sediment erosion; filtering pollution run-off; providing shade that reduces heat pollution, increasing flood resiliency, and enhancing wildlife food and habitat. In this sense, multifunctional agroforestry riparian buffers provide a “win-win” situation for both the enhancement and protection of a watershed and the economic viability of a landowner. The proven result is increased riparian buffer adoption.

Upper Tennessee River Roundtable Completes Stone Creek Outdoor Classroom and Community Park

before Aerial view Stone Creek with trail near end of project April 2014Upper Tennessee River Roundtable celebrated the grand opening of the Stone Creek Outdoor Classroom and Community Park in April 2014 following a nearly four-year project to transform this former coal tipple site in Pennington Gap. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided funds from the Natural Resource Damages Assessment and Restoration settlement to the Roundtable to purchase the land and transfer ownership to Lee County. Funds came from a 1996 coal slurry spill in the Powell River watershed. The Roundtable secured additional funding for the project, which cost $216,125 to complete. Located along Straight Creek in the Stone Creek Community, this site once served as a transfer station where trucks delivered coal to be loaded onto rail cars.

Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and Daniel Boone Soil and Water Conservation District led the next step to reclaim the land. This phase included removing coal loading structures, an old office building and debris as well as capping the site with two feet of soil and sowing seed. Following reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stabilized the stream bank to prevent further erosion from the site. DMME estimates that the project will keep about two tons of sediment a year out of Straight Creek. The Service also led the creation of a wetlands planted with native species.

The Roundtable collaborated with many volunteers and project 2014-04-24 10 49 03partners for the last phase of the project to create an outdoor classroom and park. A grant from Keep American Beautiful and Lowe’s helped create a walking trail, decorative pavers made by the community, split rail fencing around the site, benches made from recycled plastic bags, and a parking lot in front. The outdoor classroom features eight learning stations with educational signage. To complete the transformation of the site, 150 trees and 150 live tree stakes were planted.

Other funding contributors included Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, LG&E KU Plant for the Planet, Appalachian Coal Country Team Reforestation Initiative, Tennessee Valley Authority, Lone Mountain Processing and Upper Tennessee River Roundtable. Many other in-kind donations included chestnut trees from the American Chestnut Foundation, recycled park benches from Trex ®, pizza boxes from Pizza Inn of Abingdon, housing for an AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps from Appalachian Service Project, and other in-kind services from Appalachian Sustainable Development, Verizon, Norfolk Southern Railroad, Old Dominion Power Co., Vaughn and Melton Consulting Engineers, Virginia Fuel Corporation and Virginia Department of Transportation.

New Lands Protected Along a Key Stretch of the Clinch River

In partnership with the US Army Corps of Engineers (COE), Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy (DMME), and others, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) acquired ownership of three tracts totaling approximately 161-acres in Russell County, Virginia in two transactions on October 23, 2012 and February 5, 2013. Acquisition of these tracts contributes to the conservation of globally significant habitat on the Clinch River on lands adjacent to the Pinnacle State Natural Area. The partners combined available stream mitigation funds for the acquisition, restoration, and protection of significant frontage on the left bank of the Clinch River and two tributary streams flowing into the Clinch.

Cliff at hayfield upstream 7_21_11 (2)The reach of the Clinch River stretching from the Pinnacle State Natural Area to the town of Cleveland, Virginia is extremely scenic and has some of Virginia’s best remaining freshwater mussel populations. Protecting and restoring lands and waters through this stretch of river is a high priority for partners in the Clinch Powell Clean Rivers Initiative. This stretch of the Clinch contains federally designated critical habitat for at least four endangered mussel species; and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) tracks at least eighteen (18) globally or state rare species/communities in this area.

TNC intends to transfer the property to Virginia DCR as an addition to the Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve. The Pinnacle is a popular outdoor recreation and environmental education destination in Russell County, Virginia. The Conservancy is managing the property until it is transferred. Plans are underway to have an abandoned power line removed; and 7 acres of stream-side buffer are being planted with a mix of native hardwood trees. Funding for the tree planting is coming from the Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund- a mitigation program administered by TNC with oversight from the COE and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

CONTACT: Steve Lindeman, Clinch Valley Land Protection Program Manager, The Nature Conservancy, (276) 676-2209, slindeman@tnc.org.

Freshwater Mussel Augmentation on the Clinch River

mussels2In September, 2010 CPCRI partners engaged local school children in the largest release of a federally endangered species in the eastern United States. Several varieties of rare freshwater mussels were carefully placed into shoal areas at the Nature Conservancy’s Cleveland Island Preserve.

Partnering in the release of these mussels were the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF),Tennessee Wildlife Resources AgencyU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech, and The Nature Conservancy.

Below, watch video footage of the event by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

For more information about this event, click on the following links: