Richland Creek Watershed Alliance blog

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Latest News

Read the Comment Letter RCWA sent to TDEC, Division of Water Resources here
The comment letter is regarding the permit request by Metro Parks to continue using Richland Creek to irrigate the McCabe Park golf course. This was a long process, beginning 2007 when we discovered excessive use of Richland Creek for irrigation. Later we discussed our concerns with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, who asked if we would like help with a instream flow evaluation for the stream, which we did.  The two-year study was a great opportunity to bring attention to our beloved stream, learn more about its ecology and collect data to better protect Richland Creek.  TDEC will decide on the permitm now that the comment period has ended. Thanks to all of you that participated!

October 6th is the RCWA Annual Gathering 2013-- 4 - 6 pm at 224 Carden Avenue. Join us if you can for conversation, news and refreshments. Bob Teague will share his spanish guitar music, the manager of West End Wine's is choosing a special selection of wines to enjoy and Nothing Bundt Cakes is making sure we have sweets to please. Many thanks to them for sharing their gifts, and to our board directors Catherine Hayden for putting the event together and planning tasty appetizers, and Steve Curnutte for welcoming us to gather at his creekside home. Come and enjoy

The RCWA Riparian Renewal Program continues this fall. Let us know if you have a group that would like to schedule a day to plant trees on Richland Creek, or you want to volunteer to help.  We will be planting in the months of Nov, Dec, Jan and Feb. There are two tree planting dates confirmed so far, Nov 9 & 16 and we will be publishing the full schedule soon.  Your neighborhood, community, school or volunteer group can get a date of your choosing now

Check out the RCWA Strategic Plan 2013We took the opportunity to unveil our new fresh watery logo, created and donated by the Loyal Brand Company. Many Thanks to Stacy Vereen, owner and former board director! He is also designing a new website for us that is still under construction.

You can help—Donate for Richland Creek Wildlife Conservation

Buck along Richland Creek this August taken by JP McNeely

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Public Hearing for Richland Creek - September 10


The first-ever public opportunity to comment about the use of Richland Creek to irrigate the McCabe Park Golf Course has arrived.
September 10th 5:30 pm
West Precinct Community Room
5500 Charlotte Pike

Informational session begins 5:30 pm and official comment period starts at 6:30 and ends at 8:30 p.m.  

RCWA worked 5-years to bring attention to the decades-old water-use. We have contributed scientific study, published information and discussed the impact on the fish and aquatic life with stakeholders and regulators.   The flow study we worked on for 2 years with TN Wildlife Resources Agency was focused on the McCabe Park golf course area of Creek, which concluded that pollution tolerant species were in greater number than freshwater stream species, due to  excessive withdrawal and its associated low-head dam.

For forty years McCabe Park has used Richland Creek to irrigate the golf course. Now a permit from TDEC to continue use is required.  Metro Parks has submitted a proposal to continue using the resource and supplementing their need for water with Metro Water Services.  Prior to the formal public hearing, an informational session with TDEC staff and the applicant is available.  Get the full Public Hearing announcement here.  TDEC will accept citizen-comments now, at the hearing and up to 10 days after (include permit #NRS12.236).  Send comments to or to his attention at TDEC Division of Water Resources, William R. Snodgrass Tennessee Tower, 312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue, 11 Floor Nashville, TN 37243.

Citizens have an opportunity to make a difference now, speak up for the resource to protect the Creek's  freshwater and restore the habitat to support fish and aquatic life  Your attendance and voice does matter. Richland Creek has endured much abuse and misuse and its time to give the stream all its flow so the fish and aquatic life have a real chance to recover, before its too late. 

DENY Aquatic Resource Alteration Permit #NRS12.236 and Restore Richland Creek because...
1) There is a viable alternative
2) Richland Creek is too smal for the job
3) Better dilution of urban pollution
4) The ecosystem needs all its flow to recover and do its business
5) McCabe Park can raise golfing fee $1 to cover cost for using Metro Water instead.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Position of the Richland Creek Watershed Alliance Public Notice NRS12.236

TDEC – TN Dept of Environment & Conservation
WPC – Water Pollution Control
TWRA – TN Wildlife Resources Agency
ARAP – aquatic resource alteration permit
RCWA – Richland Creek Watershed Alliance
cfs – cubic feet per second
TDEC PUBLIC NOTICE #NRS12.236 Metro Parks application for an aquatic resource alteration permit to authorize continued withdrawal of water from Richland Creek for irrigation purposes in connection with the operation of its McCabe Park Golf Course.

TDEC WPC Division determined, in accordance with Tennessee’s water quality standards that approval of the proposed activity will result in degradation.

Public Comment Period is May 28- June 28, 2013.

FIRST and NOW Request from TDEC to hold a public hearing for ARAP application (#NRS12.236) about water quality of Richland Creek.  Put your request in writing, and include permit number (NRS12.236), your name and your address, the reason you believe a hearing is needed, and the water quality issue you have interest-in or concern.  Send your request and/or comment to TDEC and address to:
Robert Baker
TDEC Division of Water Pollution Control, Natural Resources Section
7th Floor L & C Annex
401 Church Street
Nashville, TN 37243
If TDEC Commissioner holds a Public Hearing, citizens can ask questions and/or share a water quality concern at the hearing and still submit comments up to 10 days later.

The withdrawal of water from Richland Creek at McCabe Park has been under the grandfathered-in provision for forty years without any public scrutiny.  RCWA believes it is in the pubic interest to hold a public hearing and requests a TDEC Public Hearing be held to help better inform the public of water quality issues: whether mitigation proposed under permit NRS12.236, if approved, would better support the resources classified uses, and to better understand how Metro Parks’ proposed plan would improve or impact water quality.
The proposed activity has occurred since 1973, and caused cumulative impact, long-term harm, loss of value to resource (Richland Creek), and degraded its habitat and biological diversity (TWRA instream flow study - 2011). Applicant has not presented any scientific study to show a greater value would result from the proposed mitigation concept plan. Withdrawal of water from Richland Creek has caused water pollution and prevented resource water quality standards to be sustained (RCWA 2011 Dissolved Oxygen Study for McCabe Park).  Cease of water withdrawal would allow for removal of low head dam structure, necessary to operate activity, and provide full recovery of resources’ classified uses (fish and aquatic life, recreation).  Use of larger resource, the Cumberland River, for irrigation purposes through Metro Water Services is feasible without loss of benefit, and enables long-term restoration of the resource to begin that would provide more public benefit than the mitigation proposed in the Metro Park permit application (NRS12.236).  The RCWA 2011 Dissolved Oxygen Study Report has been included with this public submission.
1) Richland Creek is on the federal impaired list for water pollution.  According to Section 303(d) of the federal Clean Water Act, once a stream has been placed on the impaired List, it is to be considered a priority for water quality improvement. The activity at McCabe Park has been a major contributor to Richland's poor water quality under the grandfathered-in provision. In part, the immense water withdrawal (27 million gallons) annually by Metro Parks reduces dilution factor and raises concentration of resource pollutants and constituents caused by urban pollution. Now is the opportunity to provide sustained and measurable water quality improvement to Richland Creek, through returning natural flow.  This resource is part of the hydrologic (water) cycle, and a contributor to Cumberland River’s water quality. Improvement to water quality for this resource would help enhance the quality of a regional drinking-water supply (Cumberland River) that is a valuable public benefit and important community resource.  Approval of proposed activity would prolong 303(d) listing of Richland Creek, and the mitigation plan presented does not present any scientific study or information showing how measurable water quality improvement would occur.

2) To operate the water-use activity at McCabe Park a low-head dam, storage tank and impoundment is required. Discharge of urban run-off to creek, its constituents and pollutants are stored behind dam, allowing for continual and sustained mixing of non-point source pollution with freshwater flow of resource. The lake-like environment, (impoundment) impairs water quality and degrades stream habitat, enabling native species to become outnumbered by more pollution-tolerant species (TWRA instream flow study 2011).  Cumulatively and collectively, the water-use activity and its structures have been a contributor to water pollution, degradation to fish and aquatic habitat, and cause lost diversity of native stream species. Permit approval would authorize sustained pollution and degradation of Richland Creek.  Richland Creek discharge cannot continue to support irrigation of 27 million gallons annually for McCabe Park Golf Course, and doing so would prohibit full support of the resource’s designated uses, specifically the more stringent standard, fish and aquatic life. Water withdrawal and its associated structures, required to operate activity, would continue prolonged degradation and create condition for sustained water pollution.

3) The low head dam at McCabe Park and the water withdrawal from Richland Creek have caused two classified uses not to be fully supported — fish and aquatic life, and recreation.  General Water Quality Criteria, Chapter 1200-040-03 of Tennessee Water Pollution Control Rules state since all Waters of the State are classified for more than one use, the most stringent criteria will be applicable; and in cases of protection for more than one use apply at different stream flows, the most protective will also be applicable.  The irrigation use is fully supported, but the more stringent criterion of fish and aquatic life has not been supported for many years.  Support of fish and aquatic life use would provide more recreational choices and benefit to the public, such as fishing, wildlife watching, and paddling.

4) RCWA evaluated the dissolved oxygen levels of Richland Creek in 2011 at McCabe Park and found that 17% of all the dissolved oxygen results collected during three 24-hour periods were below the 5.0 mg/L standard. The diurnal fluctuations observed were presumed man-made and caused by the water-use activity. The study suggested a more thorough scientific evaluation for McCabe Park is warranted for the study area (impoundment and downstream from withdrawal point) for fish and aquatic life criteria and to determine the adverse impacts caused by the continued water withdrawal and its associated structures, which are required to operate the activity.  The RCWA 2011 Dissolved Oxygen Study Report is included with this public comment submission.

5) The Tennessee Antidegradation Statement requires that if waters are impaired, no additional degradation may be allowed, but can be rendered de minimis through in-system mitigation, or exempt if of short duration.  This water-use activity is not of short duration, and RCWA will not interpret whether the continued activity as proposed is de minimis, but questions the method used to determine magnitude of impact, what the discharge at McCabe Park is, and how much water is safe to withdraw.  The USGS stream gage at Charlotte Pike is two-miles downstream from the withdrawal point. The Charlotte Pike stream gage should not be used because it is too far away and receives flow from a branch that is close by that would skew interpretation of discharge. Approximately 100 feet upstream from the USGS steam gage is the confluence of the Neighborly Branch resource that contributes a measurable flow to Richland Creek. Determining when to withdraw water from Richland, especially during lower flow periods using the USGS stream gage would not provide accurate discharge of the upstream withdrawal point (McCabe Park).  A streamflow monitor would need to be installed closer and below withdrawal point to accurately and precisely measure discharge (cfs), to determine what is a safe amount of withdrawal, and to evaluate whether it is de minimis, or not.

6) RCWA believes that now is the time for long-term restoration planning for Richland Creek to be implemented, and that the resource has not received adequate consideration or ample protection. This public notice is timely to apply such a plan and to provide an opportunity for community support to restore this water resource to a more healthy state. There are thousands of citizens who use the park resource for recreation (golf, greenway and wildlife appreciation) who are unaware of the water-use activity occurring, or who do not fully understand the adverse impact it has caused.  Richland Creek is a well-known and appreciated resource, which RCWA has discovered firsthand over the last five years as we have worked to improve and restore the stream and educate about stream and water conservation through our community outreach activities.

RCWA believes if the natural flow were fully restored to Richland Creek, it could support fish and aquatic life again and also provide more recreational uses for community benefit and enjoyment.   Because of Richland Creek's high visibility, restoration of stream would also provide significant educational opportunities for the public to better understand water and stream conservation, while watching the stream transform from an impaired resource to a more natural state.  Restoration of Richland could have immeasurable and long-term benefits locally and regionally.

7) RCWA believes McCabe Park could minimally increase its golfing fee and still remain an affordable golf course for the average person.  Using the applicant’s application and Metro Water Services residential fees, RCWA calculated the use of the larger and alternative water resource (Cumberland River) to irrigate the golf course is affordable.  Using information that Metro Parks provided, RCWA calculated the use of Metro Water for irrigation of McCabe Park Golf Course is feasible and would eliminate the need to withdraw water from Richland Creek.  By adding only $1.00 to each 9-hole round of golf to the long-standing fee at McCabe ($12 weekdays and $13 on weekends), there would be no significant impact to the public golfing community, but instead, patrons would most likely appreciate knowing they are restoring and saving a water resource with a minimal increase in fee ($1.00 per golf round).

Metro Parks reported 85,379 rounds of golf were played at McCabe Park last year and an average of 78,000 rounds per year over the past five years. RCWA used conservative numbers for calculation and did not include other revenue, such as the cart and driving range fees.   
(Gallons of water used annually) x (Cost per gallon of water from MWS) = Annual expense to irrigate with Metro water
(27M gallons) x ($.003) = $81,000

(Additional $1 charge per 9-hole round of golf) x (Average number of rounds annually)
($1) x (78,000) = $78,000

The additional expense to use Metro Water appears very feasible, and cost of irrigation reasonably offset by the $1.00 fee increase per round of golf at McCabe. Metro Parks should restore and save Richland Creek with a fee increase to fully support the cost of its facility’s operation.  

A water conservation method could also be applied that would benefit McCabe Park cost.  Installation of moisture sensors to determine irrigation need would conserve water and wasted water fees. RCWA has observed on several occasions irrigation occurring during rain events, which would be eliminated with installation of rain or moisture sensors.

8) There is more public benefit by restoration of Richland Creek than there is not restoring it to a natural state. Besides fully supporting its classified uses, long lasting cultural value could be gained that may provide economic benefit. Saving an urban stream is no small feat, but it would attract visitors to a story, not often told — an urban freshwater stream is restored.  Richland Creek, once coined “the western edge of civilization” could become a pride of place for locals as we move toward Nashville’s goal of becoming the greenest city in the Southeast.  The historical mentions of Richland Creek in Nashville early development are not often recounted today, but it could become a custom that would produce environmental, economic, educational and cultural benefits.

Removal of the McCabe Park impoundment could produce public safety benefit by reducing flash flooding upstream and potentially provide more flood storage for the Richland Creek watershed.  Collectively, these benefits could enthuse more stream conservation planning for Nashville, and streams would be valued as a resource rather than only a conduit for storm water. The benefits of restoration of Richland Creek far outweigh the benefit from irrigation use.
    END —

Prepared by Monette Rebecca, on behalf of the RCWA Board of Directors and benefit to the public good. 
This document (RCWA Position - PN  #NRS12.236) was prepared for public use and information and educational purposes.

RCWA Board of Directors
Monette Rebecca (Founding President & Executive Director)
Catherine Hayden (Secretary)
Joel Covington (Treasurer)
Pat Williams
Steve Curnutte
Byron Benbow
Elizabeth Stein
Richland Creek Watershed Alliance (RCWA) is community supported stream conservation group focused exclusively on the environmental sustainability of the Richland Creek watershed and preservation of its ecosystem.
RCWA is a recognized 501(c)(3) public charity (2010).

RCWA P.O. Box 92016
Nashville, TN 37209 / (615) 525.3379

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cheers to Neighborly Branch Volunteers

Working to save a forgotten urban stream

On March 2, 2013 sixty volunteers gathered for coffee and to get supplies to help clean up Neighborly Branch, a tributary to Richland Creek.  Sergeant Chick hosted the Richland Creek Watershed Alliance event, West Precinct Community Room and then joined the clean up effort (photo below). Citizens from the watershed and beyond participated on a cold, wet, flurry day and  removed 6.5 tons of debris from 4 different stream areas, finding fun in the experience.  Debris was trucked from 3 locations to a fourth for removal. The beauty of the urban stream was revealed and appreciated.

More work needs done to help this urban stream become healthy again but a neighborly spirit took root and citizens took note of the neglect.  Volunteers came from many neighborhoods throughout the watershed to help, of all ages and backgrounds. Students from Nashville State Community College and boy scouts from Tennessee Wildlife Federation, Great Outdoors University program joined. A mile of stream was cleaned — headwaters, culverts, riparian areas and downstream.

75% of all the debris retrieved was taken for recycling.  Volunteers reported spotting a white milky discharge entering from a smaller branch, cave salamanders running for cover, syringes, tires, all sorts of debris, and what happens when a stream is forgotten.

Tennesee Wildlife Resources Agency
Dan and Margaret Maddox Charitable Fund
Metro Public Works
West Police Precinct