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‘Watershed’ signs big waste of money

Larry Woody, Outdoors Writer • Updated Aug 20, 2013 at 4:55 PM

You’ve seen the signs along every interstate: “You are now entering the Stones River Watershed,” “the Cumberland River Watershed,” the “Caney Fork River Watershed,” and so on.

My first reaction: “So what?”

My second reaction” “I wonder how many millions of tax dollars the government is wasting on those needless signs?”

I’ve tried to get an answer, with no luck.

The only information I can find is posted on a state government website:

“The Department of of Environment and Conservation have partnered to locate unique Watershed Signs along the interstate and highway routes. These signs increase public awareness about the importance of watersheds and encourage good stewardship of the state’s valuable rivers, streams, wetlands, lakes and ground water.”

There’s no mention of the cost, and I’m skeptical about the signs’ purported purpose.

How does posting a sign along the interstate – a sign that nobody understands – promote water conservation and “good stewardship?”

The state website even has to explain what, exactly, a watershed is:

“A watershed is the entire land area that drains into a lake, river, or other body of water. Watersheds can be small, like the area that drains into a neighborhood creek, or large body, like the area that drains into a lake.”

It goes on to explain why watersheds are important:

“Watersheds are a logical way to think about the connection between the land and the quality of water we enjoy. How we manage and treat the land has a direct impact on the ability of water to support a number of important public uses like swimming, fishing, and aquatic species, and our drinking water supply.”

We get it. Watersheds are ecologically important. So is oxygen, but we don’t need the government to post signs along the interstate to remind us.

I first noticed the signs popping up along roadways a couple of year ago. How did we get along for so many decades without them?

As a conservationist, I generally support efforts to make the public more environmentally aware. But for the life of me, I can’t see how these watershed signs accomplish anything. There are many more worthwhile, pressing conservation projects on which the money could be spent. (Trying to combat invasive carp and kudzu are two that come to mind.)

As we cruise down the highway, why does it matter that we’ve entered the “Caney Fork River Watershed?” There already are signs telling us the name of each river that we cross. That’s interesting and informative; what more information do we need?

Imagine the millions of dollars that are invested in the watershed signs – their planning and design, their manufacture, their distribution, installation and maintenance -- at a time when taxpayers are feeling an economic pinch.

Every time I see one of those signs it doesn’t remind me about water conservation. It doesn’t remind me to be a better steward of our natural resources. The only thing it reminds me of is more government waste.

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