Ensure Clean Water and Safe Shellfish Habitat Throughout Tennessee River Watershed

Tennessee mussels

Target: Environmental Protection Agency

Goal: Gain protection for two endangered species of mussel in the Tennessee River Watershed, and thus maintain clean water and safe habitat for river fish and wildlife.

The Tennessee River Watershed, comprised of rivers and streams running through Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia is home to two species of freshwater mussel seriously threatened by pollution and habitat destruction. These mussels are important indicators and regulators of stream health, and thus their protection under the Endangered Species Act would ensure clean water and safe habitat for fish and other wildlife as well.

The Slabside Pearlymussel and the Fluted Kidneyshell mussel reside in the Tennessee River, but are no longer found in many of the streams they once inhabited, about 70 percent of their original habitats. Many similar species have already gone extinct and these were marked as threatened and in need of federal protection in 1984 and 1999, respectively. Dams, urban and agricultural runoff, gravel mining, coal mining and processing, among other disruptions, have taken a huge toll on these important species which can live for centuries. The presence or absence of these mussels signifies the health of streams and the watershed overall because their survival depends on clean, clear and free-flowing streams. In addition, they filter small particles from the water, enhancing stream balance and health.

Please ensure clean water and healthy streams and fish for the Southeastern states by urging the Environmental Protection Agency to designate 1,400 miles of stream and river in the Tennessee River Watershed for protection and list the Slabside Pearlymussel and the Fluted Kidneyshell Mussel as endangered species.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Environmental Protection Agency,

Two freshwater mussels species important to the health of the Tennessee River Watershed are seriously threatened and need protection. The Slabside Pearlymussel and the Fluted Kidneyshell Mussel have been threatened by habitat disruption and water pollution for decades. Meanwhile, many other mussel species no longer exist in this area and the habitat of these two species is now severely limited.

These mussels are indicators of stream health because they need clean, free-flowing water to survive. Thus, protecting them through the designation of 1,400 miles of river habitat would ensure a clean water supply for the Southeastern states, healthy rivers for fishing and recreation, and conducive habitat for fish, shellfish and other wildlife. Such protection would necessitate evaluation and possible removal of dams and other obstructions to river flow, strict monitoring and regulation of urban and agricultural runoff, and prevention of pollution from coal and gravel mining operations.

Seriously consider the proposal to protect two valuable mussel species along with 1,400 miles of river habitat in the Tennessee River Watershed. The health of Southeastern rivers and freshwater ecosystems, along with a clean water supply and fishing resources are at stake.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: USFWS/Southeast via Flickr

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