News: Little River Watershed Assessment garners local support
Story by Leon Roberts
ALCOA, Tenn. – The Little River Water Quality Forum met here today at the Water Treatment Facility and a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District planner informed the group of plans to conduct a watershed assessment of the local waterway.
David Bishop, a Nashville District project manager, addressed the group and said the assessment is simply a short report that identifies problems and opportunities for improving the watershed.
During the forum, Bishop said the Corps has $90,000 available to conduct the watershed assessment, and a project delivery team is going to work with local stakeholders such as federal, state and local agencies; tribes, non-profit groups and educational experts to gather existing data on the Little River Watershed.
The Corps team includes archeology, environment, cost estimate, real estate, hazardous toxic radioactive waste, economic, regulatory, geotechnical, geographic information system, and public affairs specialists. Together, they plan to work with stakeholders to compile information such as ecosystem protection and restoration, flood damage reduction, watershed protection, water supply and drought preparedness.
“Working through the Water Resources Development Act of 1986, there’s a section in there called 729,” Bishop explained. “It lets the Corps do watershed studies. And I am in the initial phase of that. It’s called the initial watershed assessment. We’re focusing on the Little River Watershed.”
Bishop said the assessment will help to determine what, if any, problems exist with the watershed, what interest do the different groups have, and put together a report that provides a synopsis characterizing the watershed, identifying issues, and possibly suggesting strategies on how to address any problems using a holistic approach.
“So the report I hope would be of great value to this group and the local government in that we can address your interests,” Bishop said. “We have an interest and we want to learn from this group and others, characterize the needs and the problems, opportunities to improve the watershed, and hopefully be successful in getting the authority to do future studies.”
Carol P. Harden, a University of Tennessee Geography Department professor in Knoxville, Tenn., and member of the forum, said the Corps’ study will undoubtedly benefit from the members of the Little River Water Quality Forum and the combined resources of the group.
Forum members noted the existence of several completed studies and plans, including a drought management plan, which the project delivery team can utilize during the assessment.
Eric Henry, director of conservation for the Blount County Soil Conservation District, said he remembered that the water quality forum sponsored a meeting, Oct. 18, 2005 where John Lamb, director of the Blount County Planning Department, along with storm water coordinators for two cities and the county, met to discuss what was going on in the Little River Watershed.
“It was such an effective meeting,” he said. “We basically gave a summary of what all the grant partners were doing regarding water quality management. If we brought together all the grant partners to reproduce a meeting of that type would that be beneficial to you?” he asked Bishop.
Bishop agreed and set up a tentative meeting in March 2011 between the Corps and the Little River Water Quality Forum where the project delivery team can meet the various stakeholders to obtain information and tour the watershed to learn about the issues directly affecting the Little River.
Bishop said the coordination of resources by all stakeholders benefits the taxpayer because it eliminates redundancies between many different organizations that have interest in the Little River watershed.
The Little River is approximately 55 miles long with 18 miles of the waterway contained in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. The Nashville District plans to complete the watershed assessment by the end of the summer in 2011.