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TVA River Neighbors
April 2006

 

Protecting your reservoirs and shorelines

TVA Watershed Teams

This is the third in a series of articles highlighting the work of TVA Watershed Teams. These teams perform a variety of functions, which include building partnerships for water-quality improvement, issuing permits for boat docks and other shoreline-construction activities, and managing recreation and natural and cultural resources on public reservoir lands.

The power of partnerships

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TVA Watershed Operations Manager Buff Crosby and Project Manager Joel Haden look over plans for a community workshop on how land use changes affect water quality.

 

As Senior Manager of TVA’s Watershed Operations, Buff Crosby understands the power of partnerships. “We’ve got to work together,” she says. “No single group or agency has the resources to go it alone. TVA Watershed Teams couldn’t do the work they do without the cooperation of community groups and other agencies.”

Efforts to enhance recreation opportunities or implement resource management improvements — protecting habitat for threatened and endangered species, for example — typically involve joining forces with federal, state, and local agencies. “Those kinds of projects take a concerted effort,” says Crosby. “The most effective partnerships allow each partner agency to meet one of its own goals at the same time that the partnership’s goals are being addressed. We all have different mandates and come to the table with different strengths, as well as different perspectives on the issues. So the challenge is to figure out where our areas of interest and focus overlap. When we get to that point, we can come together and make great things happen.”

In contrast, partnerships for watershed improvement typically center on local community groups. “Although agency support is essential," says Crosby, "stabilizing stream banks, reducing storm-water runoff, fencing cattle out of streams, dealing with failing septic systems, educating local residents — that kind of work is best accomplished at the grassroots level.”

TVA Watershed Teams carefully evaluate the potential for building an effective partnership before investing resources in a given location. Crosby explains: “If our monitoring data identifies a critical water quality problem, Watershed Team members try to identify local individuals and groups who are interested in water quality and want to work on the issue. If they can’t find local support, then we probably won’t be able to accomplish much in the way of long-term improvement.”

On the other hand, there are lots of reasons to be encouraged when citizens come together on their own around an issue. “The ideal situation is to provide support to local residents who really care about their water quality,” says Crosby. “Those are the kinds of folks who are in it for the long run. You can feel good about directing resources toward these groups because you know they’ll be there after the initial crisis has passed and TVA has moved on to address other issues in other locations.”

Groups just starting out often need technical assistance, according to Crosby. “First, we help them get the data they need to document a problem, and then we assist them in pulling in other agencies and resources. TVA Watershed Team involvement is frequently a kind of validation for grassroots groups; it gives them a boost in confidence as they begin to find their voice in the community.”

For the most part, Watershed Teams try to stay in the background as coalitions develop an organizational structure, identify leadership, articulate their mission, draft goals, and develop a plan of action. TVA assistance is frequently valuable when the group is ready to tackle their very first project. That initial taste of success is empowering, and one achievement often leads to another. By the same token, unexpected developments — anything from a changing political climate to the sudden departure of a group’s long-time leader — can take a toll. TVA Watershed Teams are prepared for that kind of eventuality; if projected scenarios don’t come to fruition, then adjustments are made and resources may be reallocated.

The goal is for community groups to stand on their own, according to Crosby, and therein lies a special challenge. “After you’ve worked with a coalition for quite some time, it can be very difficult to ‘let go.’ But that’s really what we are working towards. Our strategy has always been to provide citizen groups with the support they need initially, guide them through the developmental process, and then gradually step back as the group matures. I’ve heard Watershed Team members say that the best feeling in the world is when they’re sitting quietly in the back of the room during a community group meeting and suddenly realize that these citizens have grown into an engaged and empowered coalition, confident and capable of keeping the effort going on their own.”

For more information about partnership opportunities in your community, contact your local TVA Watershed Team.

TVA Watershed Teams are working with agencies, nonprofit organizations, municipalities, and community groups all over the Valley. Here are just a few examples of strong partnerships that are making a difference.

 

Haywood Waterways Association

The Haywood Waterways Association (HWA) is a nonprofit group made up of numerous local, state, and federal agencies, businesses, and interested citizens working together to maintain and improve water quality in the Pigeon River and its tributaries in Haywood County, North Carolina. Over the past seven years, HWA and its partners have collaborated on 41 successful grant applications. These awards have brought nearly $4.5 million to Haywood County for water conservation and educational projects. The group has undertaken a variety of projects in recent years, including establishing a volunteer monitoring network, working with TVA to create a database of the sources of non-point pollution in the Pigeon River watershed, writing a Watershed Action Plan for the county, supporting efforts to create a system of greenways along local waterways, and sponsoring awareness and educational opportunities for students and adults.

 

The Haywood Waterways Association includes: the Southwestern North Carolina Resource Conservation & Development Council; the Haywood Soil & Water Conservation District; the North Carolina Departments of Transportation and Environment & Natural Resources; the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission; the Haywood County Erosion Control Officer; the Haywood County Greenway Project Manager; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the Natural Resource Conservation Service; the University of Tennessee; and TVA’s Holston-Cherokee-Douglas Watershed Team.

 

Bullrun Creek Restoration Partnership

For the past seven years, the Bullrun Creek Restoration Partnership has worked to restore the water resources of the Bullrun Creek Watershed, which drains a 104-square-mile area that includes four counties in east Tennessee. The long-term goal is to restore Bullrun so that it can be removed from the state’s list of impaired streams by the year 2010. Accomplishments to date include establishing baseline monitoring of physical, chemical, and biological conditions to evaluate resource improvement, developing a Watershed Restoration Plan following EPA Section 319 criteria, and hosting public meetings and facilitating the formation of the Bullrun Creek Watershed Association, a citizens’ group dedicated to learning more about water quality issues affecting Bullrun Creek. The group has also developed a wide array of watershed information and education tools, leveraged over $500,000 in funding for watershed improvement efforts, and assisted property owners in improving 500 acres of pasture, establishing or enhancing 18,000 feet of riparian buffers, and stabilizing 8,000 feet of eroding stream bank.

 

The Bullrun Creek Restoration Partnership includes: the Soil Conservation Districts from Knox, Union, Anderson, and Grainger Counties; the Natural Resource Conservation Service; the University of Tennessee; the Knox County Engineering Department; the Hallsdale-Powell and Maynardville Utility Districts; the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation; the Tennessee Department of Agriculture; the Bullrun Creek Watershed Association; AmeriCorps; and TVA’s Watts Bar-Clinch Watershed Team.

 

Jackson Purchase Resource Conservation & Development Council

The Jackson Purchase Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D) Council, Kentucky Division of Water, and TVA's Kentucky Watershed Team work together to conduct water quality sampling in and around the Kentucky Reservoir watershed. Data from the partnership effort is being used to identify individual land-use practices that affect water quality in order to develop educational opportunities and identify areas for mitigation. TVA also is working with the Jackson Purchase RC&D and the Four Rivers Basin Team, a diverse group of locally based water resource professionals facilitated by the Division of Water, to develop a watershed action plan for portions of the Clarks River basin within the Kentucky watershed. TVA serves in an advisory capacity and provides monetary support for purchasing supplies for sampling efforts.

 

Powell River Partnership

The Powell River Partnership, a coalition of federal, state, and local agencies and governments, has worked for the past four years to improve water quality in the Powell River Watershed of southwest Virginia — one of the foremost locations for aquatic biodiversity in North America. Some of the Partnership’s accomplishments include: sponsoring an annual float trip down the river to educate local leaders, citizens, and public officials about the need to protect water quality; cleaning up illegal dumpsites; and helping to develop a greenway trail to connect the center of Pennington Gap with the town’s recreation area. The group is also working to reclaim abandoned mine lands through a brownfields grant, partnering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to implement nearly a million dollars worth of habitat restoration and water quality improvements, developing a watershed plan for the North Fork of the Powell River, and working in cooperation with the Office of Surface Mining to use VISTA volunteers to build the coalition’s capacity.

 

The Powell River Partnership includes: the Town of Pennington Gap; the Daniel Boone Soil and Water Conservation District; the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation; the Office of Surface Mining; the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries; the Natural Resources Conservation Service; the Virginia Department of Forestry; Wise County; the Canaan Valley Institute; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals; and TVA’s Watts Bar-Clinch Watershed Team.

 

Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition

The Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition started in the early 1990s as a small group seeking to educate local residents about sedimentation concerns affecting Brasstown Creek in southeastern North Carolina. Today, the Coalition includes nearly 300 individual, family, and business members from four counties in two states. The group coordinates reservoir and stream restoration work in the watershed, maintains an active volunteer monitoring program, and provides general public outreach and environmental education. In 1999, the Coalition was awarded $2.1 million by the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund for work in the Brasstown Creek Watershed. Working with 32 landowners, the group helped to restore more than five miles of stream, create and protect 45 acres of riparian buffer, and revegetate 160 acres of critically eroding bare areas. The Coalition also is actively involved in restoration of the Valley River Watershed.

 

The Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition includes these partners: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund; Georgia Department of Natural Resources; North Carolina Department of Environment & Natural Resources; North Carolina Division of Soil and Water Conservation; North Carolina Division of Water Quality; Cherokee County, NC; Clay County, NC; Union County, GA; Towns County, GA; Blue Ridge Golf & River Club; Peachtree Farm and Home Supply, Inc.; and TVA’s Chickamauga-Hiwassee Watershed Team.

 

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