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 Background: On February 14, 1998, the EPA and USDA jointly released the Clean Water Action Plan. These agencies had been directed to prepare an "aggressive action plan to meet the promise of clean, safe water for all Americans." The Clean Water Action Plan is a blueprint for restoring and protecting the nation’s water resources.

A key element in this plan calls for a new cooperative approach to watershed protection in which state, tribal, federal, and local governments and the public identify the watersheds with the most critical water quality problems and agree to focus resources and implement strategies to solve those problems. This approach is called the Unified Watershed Assessment and Restoration.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Division of Water Pollution Control has been using a watershed management approach for assessment and permitting since 1996. This new federal Unified Watershed Assessment will prioritize additional funding and enhanced cooperation with other agencies to clean up impaired waters of the state.

The Clean Water Action Plan outlines several steps in the Unified Watershed Assessment. The first charges states to identify watersheds with the most critical water quality problems. Secondly, specific projects are to be identified in these critical watersheds for available funding for restoring impaired waters.

Tennessee’s Unified Watershed Strategy:

TDEC’s Division of Water Pollution Control, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Nonpoint Source program cooperated to develop Tennessee’s Unified Watershed Assessment Strategy. Critical impaired watersheds were identified using existing priority watershed and resource lists. The lists used include the following:

1998 303(d) List of Impaired Waters for Tennessee

1997 &1998 EQIP Priority Watersheds

Section 319 Funded and Proposed Nonpoint Source Project Areas

This information was used to categorize all watersheds in Tennessee. The Unified Watershed Assessment Framework guidance outlines four assessment categories. These categories are as follows:

Category I - Watersheds in need of restoration: These watersheds have significant portions that do not now meet clean water or natural resource goals. Category I watersheds showed 15% or greater impairment of the assessed stream miles and show up as the red watersheds in Figure 1.

Category II - Watersheds meeting goals: These watersheds have less than 15% impairment of the assessed stream miles and are generally considered to be meeting clean water goals according to the Clean Water Action Plan.

Category III - Watersheds with pristine/sensitive systems: These watersheds have exceptionally pristine water quality. Tennessee has many high quality waters. At the watershed scale, however, we did not find any entire watersheds that we could call pristine.

Category IV - Watersheds with insufficient data to make an assessment: These watersheds lack enough data to make a reasonable assessment at this time. At the watershed scale, Tennessee does not have any waters in Category IV.

A DRAFT map of Tennessee’s Unified Watershed Assessment Categories is shown in Figure 1.

Future Actions:

We are currently forming a list of proposed restoration projects for these impaired watersheds. This list will be finalized by mid-September to be included in Tennessee’s final document to EPA on October 1, 1998. Any comments on project proposals should be sent to:

Richard Cochran
7th Floor L&C Annex
401 Church St.
Nashville, TN 37234
or call (615) 532-0997
fax (615) 532-0046
email: [email protected]