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Research, Protection Continue for Clinch, Powell Rivers

The Powell River, which winds through rural northeast Tennessee for 114 miles, feeds the Norris Reservoir along with the Clinch River. (Clinch River/Wikimedia Commons)
The Powell River, which winds through rural northeast Tennessee for 114 miles, feeds the Norris Reservoir along with the Clinch River. (Clinch River/Wikimedia Commons)
July 13, 2018

RICHMOND, Va. – In southwest Virginia, two rivers will continue to get federal and state support, from agencies that say protecting and restoring them will pay off with better water quality – for people, and for endangered freshwater mussels.

Federal and state agencies are extending a 2008 agreement for another ten years of improvements for the Clinch and Powell rivers, which run through the Great Appalachian Valley into Tennessee.

Butch Lambert – deputy director with the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy – says while the mussel population is no longer dwindling, growth in numbers has yet to be seen.

"They're not declining, but they're just not a healthy population and recovering like they should be,” says Lambert. “So, that's the reason for continuing on with the research."

Apart from wildlife, he says water quality is important because the rivers have become hubs for public use, with swimming, fishing and canoeing. The creation of the Clinch River State Park and the Powell River Blueway in Tennessee have made the region even more of an outdoor recreation destination.

Lambert says honing in on abandoned coal-mine sites to clean up near the rivers has had a very positive impact.

"We've seen an improvement in water quality to not only the Clinch and Powell rivers themselves, but to the tributaries that fade into those rivers," says Lambert.

The Nature Conservancy is part of the efforts, along with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and the U.S. EPA.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - VA