Big South Fork in Trouble?

Posted by Spalding Hurst

November 11, 2005


This was taken from a post at BWA’s forum:

Premium Coal Co., a coal company from Kentucky, wants to blow up Buffalo Mountain in the New River watershed. Not only will the mine destroy five intermittent streams, it will destroy the watershed on the mountain and result in a massive release of sediment into Ligias Fork.

Ligias Fork is a direct tributary of the New River, which was recently designated critical habitat for five species of endangered mussels. Mussels require pristine waters and will die if the water becomes sedimented. That means that Governor Bredesen and TDEC are about to violate the Endangered Species Act (applicable to state agencies) by issuing a permit allowing Premium Coal to murder five endangered species and annihilate their critical habitat.

Even worse, however, the New River joins with Clear Fork to become the Big South Fork, one of Tennessee’s (and Kentucky’s) most beautiful wild rivers and the centerpiece of the Big South Fork National Recreation Area, managed by the National Park Service. Designated an Outstanding National Resource Water by TDEC, the Big South Fork is supposed to be protected against pollution and degradation. Indeed, federal law and TDEC’s own rules forbid new discharges of pollutants, including sediment, into the Big South Fork, unless the discharger can affirmatively demonstrate that the discharge will not result in degradation or pollution.

Unfortunately, however, TDEC and Gov. Bredesen have embarked upon a pattern and practice of throwing the Clean Water Act, the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act and TDEC’s own rules out the window. TDEC and Bredesen have already issued illegal permits to allow the destruction of tens of thousands of feet of headwaters in the New River watershed and for the discharge of untoward amounts of sediment. In doing so, they’ve ignored both the plain language of the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act and the pleas of the Park Service to address the cumulative impacts of the mining in the watershed on the Big South Fork.

Premium Coal’s mine will destroy even more headwaters and result in the release of even more sediment into the New River and the Big South Fork. This will cause pollution in violation of the Water Quality Control Act and degradation in violation of the Clean Water Act, the Water Quality Control Act, federal regulations and TDEC’s own rules. In other words, the only way that TDEC and Bredesen can issue these permits is to flagrantly break the law.Don’t let them continue to get away with it. The only way to make them stop is to speak out and tell them “No.”

Tell TDEC and Bredesen that their duty is to uphold the law and protect the public and citizens’ rights to unpolluted waters and to use and enjoy one of Tennessee’s most beautiful wild rivers and National Recreation Areas. Come to the public hearing and stop Premium Coal Co. in its rapacious, coal grubbing tracks.

What: Public Hearing on Premium Coal Co.
When: 7 p.m., November 15, 2005
Where: Cove Lake State Park


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