July 14, 2008

Black Swamp Duck Damming Effort Refused — State Environmental Department Says No to Creation of Wetland

NASHVILLE - State environmental regulators have denied a permit to wildlife officials to dam up the Black Swamp in Obion County, rebuffing their attempts to create a 900-acre wetland as a wintering area for ducks.

But officials said they would decide whether to appeal the decision by the state Department of Environment and Conservation.

Wildlife and environmental agencies have been in contention over the construction of a dike and other structures that would transform nearly 900 acres into a swamp environment to attract ducks.

On Friday, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency assistant director Ron Fox said the environmental agency denied their request for a permit, but they were considering an appeal.

"It is regrettable that TWRA is having this much difficulty in mitigating the past destruction of the Obion River system for the benefit of wildlife and the people of Tennessee," Fox said in a news release.

The environmental regulators have said the levee could damage trees and affect water quality, but the wildlife agency cited foresters as saying the project would not harm indigenous cypress and tupelo trees in the area.

The wildlife agency has been trying for years to restore the swamp, which was drained and cleared for agricultural use in the 1960s. In 2007, TWRA began levee construction in the adjacent Hop- In Wildlife Refuge using privately raised funds, but without getting a permit.

TWRA agreed in a consent order to apply for a permit and, if denied, they would remove the dike.

The Division of Water Pollution Control said in a June 30 letter that they were denying the permit because the levee would degrade water quality and there were other alternatives that would pose less harm to the ecosystem.

The wildlife agency contends the lands are their property and restoring the swamp would help create new opportunities for fisheries and waterfowl.

"Black Swamp was adversely affected through destructive channelization of the river by the U.S. Corps of Engineers in the 1960s and our goal has always been to bring the area back, as close as we could, to its pre-channelized state," Fox said.

Originally published by Associated Press .

(c) 2008 Commercial Appeal, The. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.