Environment agency seeks to undo TWRA’s dam
NASHVILLE (AP) — State wildlife officials and Tennessee environmental regulators are squaring off again over the construction of a dike in Obion County that is intended to improve duck hunting.
The state Department of Environment and Conservation has ordered the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to remove the concrete dike and other structures on a stream near the Black Swamp in Obion County.
After The Tennessean newspaper began asking questions about it, the environmental regulators concluded in a Nov. 9 letter that the levee required permits under the state’s clean water laws.
The dike aims to turn the 845-acre Black Swamp into a pond during the winter months to attract ducks and improve hunting. The levee was built by TWRA over the past several weeks and has cost about $100,000.
The swamp near Kenton is spring fed and forested with cypress and tupelo trees. Conservationists are concerned damming up the swamp will harm the trees.
Ron Fox, TWRA assistant director, disagrees.
“Our foresters don’t feel like there’s any concern for the timber resources in the swamp,” he said.
“We’ve done everything we could — we have baseline information to see if it could harm them. Why is putting water in a swamp detrimental?”
TWRA was given 30 days from the date of the TDEC letter to present a plan to remove the dike and fill material.
“I think we’ll take issue with that,” said Gary Cook, TWRA’s regional manager for the Black Swamp area.
“I have absolute faith in the TWRA people that designed it (the dike), that they’re familiar with the law,” he said.
TWRA officials contend they didn’t need state permits to build the dike because it is outside the wetlands area.
This isn’t the first time TWRA and TDEC have tussled over the swamp. During Gov. Don Sundquist’s term, avid duck hunter and politically connected Nashville businessman J. Clark Akers III pushed for the project.
An almost identical plan to construct the dam in the wetlands and flood the same area was stopped in 2004 after two independent researchers said it would undermine trees and water quality and might do little to improve hunting.
The environmental regulators also said TWRA needed permits for other work nearby, including rerouting an unnamed stream through the Hop-In wildlife refuge, which is just across State Route 89 from the Black Swamp. TWRA owns both parcels.
That new stream channel, which empties into the South Fork of the Obion River, is “experiencing significant erosion,” the letter said.
Many streams and rivers in West Tennessee have been diverted into straight channels that contribute to erosion.
Jim Johnson, a retired TWRA supervisor, said his former agency probably could have gotten TDEC to agree to a permit for rerouting the stream.
“The water really wants to go down there anyway,” he said.
But Johnson is among those who oppose the damming of the swamp because of concerns about its environmental impact. He said duck hunters, farmers and conservationists would all benefit if tall levees were removed and rights of way acquired to let the rivers of West Tennessee move more freely.
Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com
Published in The Messenger on 11.19.07
Black Swamp, Department of Environment and Conservation, Obion County, Tennessee, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency