Tennesee – The Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWN) and Tennessee Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) have released a report today on the Army Corps of Engineer’s (COE) operation of the Center Hill Dam on the Caney Fork River that compromises the health of the local fishery.

“No one should be allowed to violate water quality standards.” Says Renée Hoyos, Executive Director of TCWN. “The COE is not exempt from following the law through its dam operations. If the Tennessee Valley Authority can fix their dissolved oxygen problems at their tailwaters, so can the COE.”

For well over 10 years, the COE has been violating the state of Tennessee’s water quality standard for dissolved oxygen that threatens the health of the fish population in the Caney Fork River- especially trout. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and environmental groups have been working for years to encourage the COE to rehabilitate the Center Hill Dam to increase the amount of oxygen in the tailwater.

“Trout Unlimited has known for years that the Caney Fork could be a much better trout river if a way could be found to persuade the COE to spend the money it would take to mitigate some of the problems, such as low DO and bad flow regimes. Let’s hope this is a step in the right direction.” says Steve Brown, Chairman Tennessee Council of Trout Unlimited

Low dissolved oxygen decreases fish viability. Fish stocking activities by TWRA and the US Fish and Wildlife Service provide essentially all of the trout found in the Caney Fork River. Economic studies show that the Caney Fork River is the most popular fishing destination in Middle Tennessee. However, poor dam operation practices by the COE may compromise aquatic life and thus this economic driver to the region.

Though the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has recently issued a Notice of Violation to the COE, the COE continues to degrade a thriving trout fishery.

“Staff at government agencies have known about and ignored this problem for too long,” say Barry Sulkin, Director PEER. “Although good scientists within the agencies tried to remedy this problem, it has not been given the support needed.”

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