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You are here: Home Cooperative Our Plan Section 3. Management Capacity Within the Appalachian Community Illustrative Case Study - Clinch Powell Clean River Initiative

Illustrative Case Study - Clinch Powell Clean River Initiative

Why are these rivers important - The Nature Conservancy and many other natural resource agencies identify the Clinch-Powell River system of northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia as one of the most ecologically important freshwater systems in North America. These rivers support a globally important community of freshwater fishes and mussels, containing the highest concentration of rare and endangered aquatic species in the United States. Due to their ancient and stable geology, these watersheds have been called a “cradle of diversity” for aquatic life in the southern Appalachians. Of the 222 native fish species in the Tennessee River basin, the Clinch and Powell rivers alone are home to 118, including five threatened or endangered species. The mussel diversity is equally impressive with at least 45 extant species. Many of these are globally rare mussels with their strongest and even last populations located here, including 18 endangered species. And in the context of the entire temperate world, the Clinch-Powell system ranks as one of the top two in terms of biological richness. These natural free-flowing rivers are critical to these species survival and to the conservation of the Earth’s biological diversity.

Names and status of the rare and endangered mussels and fishes occurring in the Clinch and Powell Rivers.

Common Name

Scientific Name

Status

Clinch River

Powell River

Spectaclecase

Cumberlandia monodonta

Candidate

X

X

Fanshell

Cyprogenia stegaria

Endangered

X

 

Dromedary pearlymussel

Dromus dromas

Endangered

X

X

Cumberlandian combshell

Epioblasma brevidens

Endangered

X

X

Oyster mussel

Epioblasma capsaeformis

Endangered

X

X

Tan riffleshell

Epioblasma florentina walkeri

Endangered

X

 

Snuffbox

Epioblasma triquetra

Candidate

X

X

Shiny pigtoe

Fusconaia cor

Endangered

X

X

Fine rayed pigtoe

Fusconaia cuneolus

Endangered

X

X

Cracking pearlymussel

Hemistena lata

Endangered

X

 

Birdwing pearlymussel

Lemiox rimosus

Endangered

X

X

Slabside pearlymussel

Lexingtonia dolabelloides

Candidate

X

X

Littlewing pearlymussel

Pegias fabula

Endangered

X

 

Fluted kidneyshell

Ptychobranchus subtentum

Candidate

X

X

Rough pigtoe

Pleurobema plenum

Endangered

X

 

Rough rabbitsfoot

Quadrula cylindrica strigillata

Endangered

X

X

Cumberland monkeyface

Quadrula intermedia

Endangered

X

X

Appalachian monkeyface

Quadrula sparsa

Endangered

X

X

Purple bean

Villosa perpurpurea

Endangered

X

 

Slender chub

Erimystax cahni

Threatened

X

X

Duskytail darter

Etheostoma percnurum

Endangered

X

 

Pygmy madtom

Noturus stanauli

Endangered

X

 

Yellowfin madtom

Noturus flavipinnis

Threatened

X

X

Blackside dace

Phoxinus cumberlandensis

Threatened

 

X

Unfortunately, a number of species in the Clinch-Powell are imperiled; and population surveys indicate that mussels are declining precipitously in many portions of the river basin.  Data collected by researchers over the past 30 years reveal patterns of decline among freshwater mussel species in the Powell River and in several significant reaches of the Clinch River system. Of the 60 mussel species once documented, at least 11 are now considered extinct or extirpated (gone from these rivers), 29 are considered imperiled (in jeopardy of extinction), and 18 are federally listed as endangered.

A landscape conservation cooperative in action - LCCs provide a forum to foster continuous exchange, feedback, and understanding among resource managers, scientists, and stakeholders to inform conservation actions related to climate change, habitat fragmentation, and other landscape-level stressors and resource issues.  The Clinch-Powell Clean Rivers Initiative (CPCRI) is a group of interested stakeholders focused on improving the water quality and ecological health of the Clinch and Powell rivers. It was launched in 2008 with a mission to restore and maintain stable populations of native aquatic species along with a broader range of representative aquatic fauna. The initiative unites a broad array of groups and agencies working in both Tennessee and Virginia. Working as partners with shared goals and commitments, these agencies, non-profit organizations, scientists, and business groups have an unprecedented opportunity to conserve these rivers. The following organizations have played an active role to date:

  • Tennessee Dept. of Environment and Conservation
  • Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality
  • Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries
  • Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
  • Virginia Dept. of Conservation and Recreation
  • Virginia Dept. of Mines, Minerals, and Energy
  • US Environmental Protection Agency Regions 3 & 4
  • US Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • US Geological Survey
  • US Army Corps of Engineers
  • Tennessee Valley Authority
  • Alpha Natural Resources
  • Arch Coal
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Upper Tennessee River Roundtable
  • Virginia Tech
  • North Carolina State University

 

The CPCRI capitalizes on a broad range of expertise, experience, and responsibilities, including expertise of biologists, hydrogeologists, water quality specialists, stream restoration practitioners, land conservation specialists, education and outreach professionals, regulators, coal mining reclamation professionals, and coal mining process professionals. Members include representatives from state and federal agencies, private business interests, academia, and non-profit conservation organizations.

How CPCRI works - The initiative has a balanced organizational structure and uses a collaborative decision-making process guided by a Steering Committee which has broad oversight over four working groups:

  • Regulatory Team: Addresses regulatory issues across state borders
  • Monitoring and Information Management Team: Shares data among agencies
  • Science Team: Coordinates and Conducts studies to address critical knowledge gaps
  • Outreach Team: Maintains Web site and organizes symposia

 

The CPCRI is set-up to draw on the collective resources, combined skills, expertise, experience and perspectives of our diverse partners to find the best solutions to challenging natural resource issues. Projects involve true cooperation among our many different partners and membership is open to any organization that wants to advance our mission. CPCRI’s philosophy holds that sharing information and building consensus are essential. Our partnership strives to establish a common, science-based understanding of key conservation issues.

What CPCRI does - The CPCRI protects and restores water quality in our nation’s most important river system for imperiled freshwater animals by:

  • conducting cutting-edge science and river monitoring;
  • using science and monitoring results to help people, communities, governments, and industries take better care of the river;
  • fostering increased coordination among state and federal agencies responsible for protecting water quality in Virginia and Tennessee;
  • implementing on-the-ground river conservation and restoration projects;
  • raising awareness of the Clinch Powell River system as a national model for collaborative and effective environmental management.

Sharing results -- Members and affiliates organize symposia to address key land use and watershed questions to serve as information-sharing platforms. Thus, all stakeholders have access to information needed to make sound decisions. The CPCRI held its first symposium in September 2007 to provide a forum for presentations and discussion on the interaction of coal mining and aquatic environments.  The CPCRI held its second symposium in May 2010 and addressed how the “built environment” (towns, roads, etc.) affects water quality and aquatic systems.   Additional symposiums will address other critical land use and watershed management issues.  CPCRI also maintains a website as an important outreach tool.

Improving bi-State, bi-region agency coordination – CPCRI fosters collaboration and dialogue among regulatory agencies encouraging open information sharing and planning among state and federal agencies with Clean Water Act, Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, and Endangered Species Act responsibilities. The Regulatory Team is focused on this effort which has thus far included joint biological monitoring, information exchange on mining regulatory programs, accelerated development of Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) plans, and coordination on a straight pipe discharge study.

On the ground river conservation and restoration – CPCRI partners combine resources strategically to improve watershed conditions through a variety of projects including abandoned mined land restoration, agricultural best management practices, improved stormwater management, land acquisition, targeted mitigation and stream restoration, and augmentation of freshwater mussel populations.  In September 2010 CPCRI partners engaged school children and community members in the single largest release of an endangered species (Oyster mussel) in the eastern United States at the Nature Conservancy’s Clinch River- Cleveland Island Preserve.

The initial success of CPCRI has been due to the commitment, leadership, and improved communication of the many partners involved. Achieving future success and greater collective impact will require even more effective planning, coordination, and management of strategic relationships among the growing number of partners involved in the effort. With continued coordination and a focus on results, the CPCRI has the opportunity to gain national recognition as a model for collaborative watershed management.

 

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