Water is something many take for granted and something we cannot live without. In Wilson County, plans are under way to make the most of every drop.
The public and several local and state dignitaries came to the Wilson County Fairgrounds on Tuesday morning for the Tennessee Healthy Watershed Initiative dedication of a project at the James E. Ward Agriculture Center.
Visitors were treated to an update of the plan that includes the implementation of a pervious parking area, rain gardens, nature trails, wetlands, and other techniques to capture and clean stormwater on site before it enters Tennessee’s waters.
Project Coordinator John Dewaal spoke to the crowd about the project close to his heart.
"This is a huge project, and I could not list the individuals - federal, state and local - who helped," he said. "We want to protect our water reserves so in 20 or 30 years when we look back we'll say 'wow.'"
The project combines several new approaches to managing stormwater, improving water quality, enhancing wildlife habitat and viewing and providing educational opportunities for the local community.
The site will be available as an educational facility for anyone interested in learning about the benefits of these techniques and how to implement similar efforts in their own communities. This is the second of many projects across Tennessee funded through the initiative. A request for proposals was announced earlier this year and more projects are expected to begin in January.
County Mayor Randall Hutto, state Rep. Mark Pody, TDEC Commissioner Robert Martineau,TDEC Deputy Commissioner Dr. Shari Meghreblian, Project Coordinators Gary Gaskin and Dewaal, David Salyers of West Tennessee River Basin Authority and Gina Hancock and Trisha Johnson of the Nature Conservancy all spoke about the projects and the importance of protecting the state and the county's water supply by
promoting healthy watersheds.
"We've heard some testimony," Hutto said. "They've got me here to pass the plate. I'm excited about this innovative plan, which uses best management practices."
As part of the project, the fairgrounds and Fiddlers Grove will be the site of an education and demonstration center, as well as a research site to enhance and construct innovative green infrastructure techniques to provide water quality treatment for as much as 75 percent of the site.
The educational site will include a permeable pavement parking lot with pavers and concrete that allow water to filter through to the ground below. The idea is that with the proper set up water can be naturally filtered instead of becoming runoff that causes flooding and puts polluted water into the local watershed.
Dewaal took guests on a tour of the site and explained how everyone from Ag Center workers to Master Gardeners will be used to make the fairgrounds an example of how caring for the watershed protects the states waterways and makes sure clean water is available for all.
"They envision a lot of little rain gardens of any shape or any size," he said, adding that planting trees will also be part of the plan.
He said even the parts of the grassy parking area at the fairgrounds will be changed.
"In the parking lot there is wet area. They tried to drain it, but it's a little almost wetland," he said, adding the muddy spot is a bane to fairground workers and will be turned into a wetland and with traditional plants such as cattails.
His enthusiasm was contagious as he described all the plans to turn the fairgrounds into a model of a healthy watershed.
"As you can tell, I'm excited," Dewaal said.
Launched in August 2011, the Tennessee Healthy Watershed Initiative is the result of a partnership among the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Tennessee Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, and the West Tennessee River Basin Authority.
The initiative’s primary goal is to maintain and improve water resources across the state by bringing together the public, landowners, resource management agencies, and conservation-focused organizations to promote communication, collaboration and thoughtful water resources planning.
To learn more about the Tennessee Healthy Watershed Initiative and for a detailed summary of today’s projects and those funded to date, visit tn.gov/environment/thwi/.