FRANKFORT, KY. – The Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation have signed a statement of principles establishing a pilot project for interstate environmental cooperation.
The initial focus of the agreement is on watershed management to protect and improve the water quality in four of the larger river basins shared by the two states. Watersheds are areas that drain to a common waterway, such as a stream, lake, wetland or river.
Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher hailed the historic agreement. “I believe our environmental issues are best solved in collaborative efforts and have made a healthy environment a priority of our administration,” Governor Fletcher stated. “The partnership between Tennessee and Kentucky is an example of how we can reach across our borders to work to improve the environment for the benefit of the citizens of both of our states.”
Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen agreed. “In this year’s State of the State address, I proposed an increased level of collaboration with other organizations to preserve special places in Tennessee for future generations,” said Governor Bredesen. “The Land and Water Conservation Forum we held in February and our initiative to protect the Cumberland Plateau were important first steps toward achieving that goal. This unique pilot project, with its focus on the protection of our common watersheds, represents another.”
The four river basins that will be the initial focus of the agreement include the Red River basin of the Cumberland River watershed, Mud Creek and Elk Fork basins of the Upper Cumberland River watershed, East Fork basin of the Clark’s River watershed and the Big South Fork River basin of the Upper Cumberland Watershed.
Outgoing TDEC Commissioner Betsy L. Child said the agreement will help the two states work together to improve the quality of shared watersheds and create opportunities to work cooperatively on other projects such as sustainable development initiatives. “Streams and rivers recognize no political boundaries, and it’s just as important to protect them in one state as the next,” she said. “This initiative will also improve efficiencies and help avoid duplication of efforts to maximize resources and minimize red tape.”
In addition to the four river basins at issue and the Mississippi River watershed encompassing both states, LaJuana S. Wilcher, Secretary of the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, noted that there are at least 68 smaller-scale watersheds that overlap the Kentucky-Tennessee border.
“No matter where you live or work you are in a watershed,” said Wilcher. “Because we are connected by a web of streams and rivers the activities that take place within that watershed affect the public health and safety of others downstream.”
In addition to improving interstate environmental protection and relationships between environmental staff and management in the two states, the partnership may also serve to improve opportunities to receive federal funding and establish consistent water quality designations of interstate waters.
“The commitment shown by our two states in supporting the cooperative agreement between our states is visionary,” said Margo Farnsworth, executive director of the Cumberland River Compact. “At its core, water is the basis for life. This Kentucky-Tennessee agreement is a model for all states, supporting our people by working together for the water that supports us. The Cumberland River Compact is proud to be a part of this effort and completely supportive of this common sense approach to better managing our watersheds.”
To review the statement of principles, visit www.tdec.net.