Duck River among the ‘most endangered’ in the nation

Published 3:39 pm Friday, April 19, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Anita Wadhwani

Tennessee Lookout

The Duck River, which winds through seven Middle Tennessee counties for more than 260 miles before reaching the Tennessee River, is among the most endangered rivers in the United States, according to a new report by the advocacy group American Rivers.

Email newsletter signup

Threatened by population growth, development and climate change “urgent action is needed to safeguard this vital ecosystem,” the report released Tuesday said.

The Duck River serves as the source of drinking water for nearly 250,000 Tennesseans, and industry and agriculture depend on it, too. Often considered one of Tennessee’s most pristine waterways, it draws more than 150,000 people each year for boating, fishing and other recreation. Last year, in an effort to protect the river from a controversial plan to establish a landfill near its banks, state lawmakers designated a portion of the river in Maury County an official state scenic waterway.

But threats continue to the health and vitality of the river, one of the three most biodiverse rivers in the world. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has proposed to increase the amount of water withdrawals local utilities can take from the river by 16 million gallons each day; some water companies are seeking to increase the take even more.

American Rivers along with Tennessee environmental advocacy groups — the Southern Environmental Law Center, Harpeth Conservancy and Tennessee Wildlife Federation — are calling on Gov. Bill Lee to take action.

“Right now, we’re on a collision course,” a statement from Grace Stranch, CEO of the Harpeth Conservancy, said. “This river is our lifeblood, but poorly planned growth will suck the river dry.”

The groups are asking Lee to establish a group of experts to make recommendations on water management and conservation, direct the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to develop a long-term watershed plan and to fund scientific studies.

The Duck landed third on the American Rivers’ list of most endangered rivers in the U.S. after the rivers of New Mexico and the Big Sunflower and Yazoo Rivers in Mississippi.