The Cumberland River Aquatic Center

As part of its environmental stewardship efforts at Gallatin Fossil Plant, in 2014 TVA constructed a state-of-the-art aquatic center dedicated to the study and preservation of rare aquatic species of the Cumberland River.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) had operated an aquatic species hatchery at the Gallatin plant site since 2006 in a facility constructed by TVA several decades ago. Through TWRA’s efforts, the facility—known as the Cumberland River Aquatic Center—was hugely successful in implementing techniques to breed mussel and fish species, including species listed as threatened and endangered.

In 2014, as a part of its air pollution control project at Gallatin, TVA began building a scrubber that necessitated relocation of the hatchery. Consequently, TVA also built a new state-of-the-art facility to replace the old hatchery and granted TWRA a long-term use agreement so TWRA could continue its study and preservation of the aquatic fauna of the region.

TWRA manages and operates the center, though TVA does provide essential services, including supplying the river water needed to nurture the aquatic species housed at the facility. Other partners include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Tennessee Nature Conservancy and aquatic conservation programs at Valley universities including Tennessee Technological University, Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee.

“This project demonstrates TVA’s commitment to environmental stewardship,” Brenda Brickhouse, TVA vice president for Environment and Energy Policy, said at the time of the facility’s construction. “Not only are we reducing our emissions at the fossil plant, but the new hatchery will provide for the protection and growth of threatened and endangered freshwater aquatic species.”

The new facility features a more flexible design to meet TWRA’s long-term goals. It has an open floor plan with the flexibility to arrange a variety of tank sizes to accommodate various species, as well as the ability better manage water temperatures in the tanks. A separate room is dedicated to the incubation of early life stages. With this increased flexibility, TWRA is better able to manage conditions under which it investigates ways to protect and grow endangered fish and mussels, helping ensure future generations will continue to enjoy the rich diversity of aquatic life in the Cumberland River. 

“This partnership with TVA recognizes the importance of conserving the rich aquatic biological diversity of fish, freshwater mussels and other aquatic fauna in the Cumberland River system,” says David McKinney, Environmental Services chief for TWRA.