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Photo of Conasauga River, Polk County (33084 bytes)
Conasauga River, Polk County


The Tennessee Rivers Assessment Program is a coalition of federal, state and regional government agencies, nongovernment organizations, conservation groups and citizens. The mission of the Tennessee Rivers Assessment Program is to assess the biological, aesthetic, recreational and cultural resources of the rivers of Tennessee, to educate Tennesseans about these resources, to use this information to assist in river conservation efforts and to encourage the wisest uses of the waters of Tennessee.


As the American Rivers organization rightly points out in their strategic plan, "Rivers are our lifelines. They connect us as a nation, sustain natural systems, provide homes for fish and wildlife, supply half of our drinking water, enrich the quality of our lives and fuel our economy." Clearly, we are connected to rivers in many ways; we cannot simply pull the plug and disconnect ourselves. We are attracted to rivers. Rivers provide life and recreation and tend to our inner spirit. Yet, judging by the way they are treated, rivers frequently are taken for granted.

As the following mission statement indicates, the Tennessee Rivers Assessment was guided by a Steering Committee motivated by a deep concern for the condition of the rivers of Tennessee (please see inside cover for a complete listing of partners).

These simple words capture the spirit and usefulness of the Tennessee Rivers Assessment Program, sometimes called the Tennessee Rivers Information System, or TNRIS. Housed in the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the Assessment is a consensus-building partnership representing diverse interests and perspectives.

The Assessment is simple in concept: To understand river resources in Tennessee in order to promote informed decision-making. Decisions not just by state and federal agency personnel, but by local citizens as well.

The success of this Summary may be measured in several ways. It was intended to be easily understood and to be used by the average Tennessean who cares about his or her future. Here is another measure of success: Enabling and empowering local citizens to take an active role in guiding the future of their watersheds, much as they would take responsibility for the future of their communities.

The data collected in the Assessment is intended to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of Tennessee’s rivers and to enhance planning and management by developing a better understanding of river resources, not to determine policy or to impose regulations. The information in this Summary may enhance the rivers and streams of Tennessee simply by increasing public knowledge of their uses and values. One outcome, for example, may be that the Assessment will help to formulate locally-based strategies about the futures of Tennessee’s remote rivers and urban rivers, alike.

The Assessment has many facets, the components blending seamlessly to become greater than the sum of the parts. It was always the intent that this Summary would serve both as a publication reviewing the findings of the project and also as a reference manual. We hope we were successful in this, and we hope you will find this Summary both informative and interesting.

David Duhl, Manager
Tennessee Rivers Assessment Program