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Innovative West Tennessee Project Promises Healthier Stream and Improved Wildlife Habitat

Monday, July 30, 2012 | 11:40am

Jackson, TN — Where the people of the Bemis community in Jackson, Tenn., now enjoy a more natural-looking meandering stream,  the representatives of the Tennessee Healthy Watershed Initiative see better water quality and stormwater control that benefit the region and the state. 

A restoration campaign to take small tributary of Cane Creek from a channelized stream to an engineered, meandering stream in Jackson is the inaugural project from the Tennessee Healthy Watershed Initiative. The restoration combines several new approaches to managing stormwater, improving water quality, enhancing wildlife habitat and viewing, and providing educational opportunities for the local community. A special gathering was held today to kick off the project. 

Prior to restoration, the site had a history of flooding after rainstorms, largely because its streams had been channelized (i.e., dredged and straightened). The restoration site now features an innovatively engineered meandering stream, stormwater detention (including a restored wetland), and a newly planted stream-bank habitat.  

Stormwater has become a growing concern for property owners as Tennessee has experienced flooding in recent years. Historic channelization of streams and draining of wetlands in west Tennessee have resulted in increased flooding and inability for natural streams to clean and store stormwater runoff. The social and economic benefits of restoring streams and buffers by eliminating channelization include less flooding, lower maintenance costs, and increased property values. Stream restoration also improves water quality for recreational purposes, stabilizes stream banks, and helps remove excess sediment from the stream.

Natural streams are free-flowing systems. They have meanders, swifter flowing areas (riffles) and deeper, quiet pools. Such streams are valuable in filtering out pollutants, because more pollutants are filtered when a larger portion of the water is in contact with stream beds. 

This stream restoration project was made possible through the support of the Tennessee Healthy Watershed Initiative, formed in August 2011 by the four signatory organizations that comprise its Executive Committee:  the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and the West Tennessee River Basin Authority (WTRBA). This is the first project of the Initiative.  It is expected that there will be many more to come throughout the state.

For more information about the Tennessee Healthy Watershed Initiative or to discuss projects and involvement opportunities, please contact THWI Coordinator Trisha Johnson at (931) 854-1552 or trisha_johnson@tnc.org.   

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