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February, 2008 

Upper Cumberland Group Sierra Club

Sierra Scene Vol. 14, No. 1





Saturday March 1, 2008, 11 am - 3 pm -Meadow Creek Conservation Coalition Potluck Picnic/Outing/Environmental Issues Day.  At Bob Lee's --From I-40 take Exit 300 toward Monterey.  Turn right at 2nd traffic light just past Imperial Hotel.  Go 6 miles on Hwy 62 toward Clarkrange/Jamestown (note mile markers).  Driveway (on left) is just past Forestry Station on right.  Street address is 20166.  Bob's cell phone number is 265-7318We'll have signs out - or you can call Peggy Evans 931-432-6680 to carpool from her house in Cookeville.  We'll have some hikes and outings set up if the weather's good.  Learn about the issues! See the Plateau Sand mine site.  Visit a previous coal mine site and see acid mine drainage.


Thursday February 28, 7 pm Putnam County Library, downstairs meeting room - UCG Monthly Program Meeting. Brian Paddock and Mary Mastin will show slides of their recent trip to Costa Rica with Ric Finch and Rutahsa Adventures.


We'll also have available for your signature a Petition the Tennessee Chapter has put together for a specialty state license plate to benefit the Sierra Club.  We need 1000 signatures.




Frog 1
Learn about the
Sierra Club's
Cool Citites program

Sierra Club
Cool Cities



Related Topics


Keep an Eye Out for  
action on the UCG
campaign to get the
City of Cookeville to
 join the
International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) and
to do an inventory
of greenhouse gas
and for the Next Mayor's Forum on Water Resources and Climate Change



Learn about The Container

Deposit Bill supported by

Sierra and other

environmental organizations.


A resolution supporting the

bill is currently before the

Planning Committee of the

Putnam County Commission



The Tennessee Chapter endorsed BoD candidates as follows:


Lane Boldman

Clark Buchner

Jeremy Doochin

Jim Dougherty

Jerry Sutherland


Katherine Pendleton, Chair

Tennessee Chapter Sierra Club



Congratulations to UCG Sierra Student member Chance Finegan for receiving an award for special services to the Park at Big South Fork's volunteer luncheon.



Give us feedback on this newsletter 


Dear Sierrans,


After five years of dedicated service, Peggy Evans has asked to be relieved of responsibilities of Upper Cumberland Group (UCG) Chair, so yours truly has agreed to take on the task.


The UCG's new officers are: Mary Mastin - Group Chair; Josie McQuail - Vice Chair; Peggy Evans - Secretary; Ralph Bowden - Treasurer; Eston Evans - Conservation Chair; Peggy Evans - Political Chair; Josie McQuail - Publicity Chair.


This is your Group Executive Committee.  We still need an Outings chair and a Program chair.  Please let me know if you're interested in helping with either of these.


We hope to revive interest in the activities of the UCG.  We will be meeting every fourth Thursday of every month at 7pm in the downstairs meeting room at the Putnam County Library, alternating planning meetings with program meetings.  See the left-side column, Save these Dates, for details of our program meeting February 28.


We're also planning a major outing activity March 1.  Check the left-side column, Save these Dates, for details.


As you can see, this electronic newsletter is a new look for the too-long dormant Sierra Scene. We're going to be trying some other new things this year - so come along and join us for some fun informative times. And please give us your feedback on the newsletter and other new plans.


Rare and Ancient Crayfish Threatened by Plateau Sand Mine Quarry

Both the Upper Cumberland Group and the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club have recently supported the Meadow Creek Conservation Coalition (MCCC) in MCCC's challenge to water degrdation permits issued to the Plateau Sand Mine Quarry in Monterey, Tennessee.

MCCC is a association of landowners, including active UCG Sierra members Bonita and David Barger and Richard Simmers (also Carolyn Powell and Judy Roberson) who have covenanted to meet certain requirements limiting land use and protecting the environment on lands in eastern Putnam county that are adjacent to the proposed Plateau Sand facility.  The proposed sand mine is also adjacent to two well-known and longstanding summer camps, Camp Monterey for girls and Camp Country Lad for boys.

Plateau Sand's proposal for a surface sand pit mine at the top of the Hurricane Creek watershed of the East Fork Obey River threatens the existence of an  crayfish

ancient and rare crayfish, Cambarus obeyensis.  The Hurricane Creek basin is the only known locality where the Obey crayfish is known to occur. The watershed is very small and is highly vulnerable to disturbances.

The Obey Crayfish is one of eleven crayfish species protected by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission (TWRC).  Due to such an extremely small range distribution and habitat degradation, C. obeyensis is considered vulnerable to extirpation and is currently listed as "Threatened" by the TWRC.

The company proposes to blast out sandstone from pits and then use 300,000 gallons of water a day to process and clean the sand.  The Little Piney Creek which feeds the pond from which this process water will be taken is an annually intermittent stream and was dry a good part of last summer and fall.

In addition to these environmental concerns, there is a major procedural issue - TDEC's failure to follow its own Antidegradation Policy.  TDEC failed to make an independent threshold determination that there was no alternative to sandstone mining at this site and to require the permit applicant to meet its burden of showing demonstrated economic and social necessity for the project.

This is contrary to the Anti-Degradation procedure required by TDEC's regulations and carried out, for instance, with the pending ARAP application for the Upper Cumberland Regional Airport (UCRA)  where the permit applicant was required to establish social and economic necessity for the project and the public was allowed to produce evidence as to economic and social necessity.  This evidence (or lack thereof) has been instrumental in TDEC's  refusal to grant the UCRA ARAP in the more than 16 months since the last public hearing.

TDEC staff, after initially noting that there would be likely adverse impacts to high quality Tier II waters (and destruction of wetlands) by Plateau Sand, never looked at alternatives or economic necessity but worked over a period of several months with the permit applicant to revise the permit application.  Eventually, TDEC proclaimed to the public that there would be no degradation. TDEC completely sidestepped the Anti-Degradation determination required by its own regulations and ignored public comments on alternatives and the lack of economic and social necessity.

After more months and a much revised set of applications, TDEC issued final permits very different than the proposed permits first put on public notice.  TDEC asserted there would be no degradation and that it need not consider alternatives or necessity.  The NPDES permit to discharge to the Little Piney and the ARAP to destroy wetlands and withdraw water are now on appeal to the Water Quality Control Board.




Sierra Club Instrumental in Protection of Airport Wetlands

The Upper Cumberland Regional Airport (ICRA) has announced that it is revising its plans for expansion of the airport in White County so that the 10.08 acres of high quality, Tier II wetlands set for destruction in the original expansion proposal will not be impacted. 

Frog 1The airport wetlands are a real treasure, a favorite spot of local birdwatchers.  The wetlands are home to a state threatened species, the Tennessee barking tree frog.  The largest of the three wetlands, 7.9 acres, is deep enough that folks have been known to fish in it. Check them out yourself.  You'll be amazed to see an Okeefeenokee like swamp here in the Upper Cumberland.

The revised plan lengthens and strengthens the runways and increases the number of hangars, but does not increase the parking and other landside development that had originally been slated for the area over the three wetlands.

A public hearing was held on the original plan in September 2003.   The UCG Sierra Club submitted comments that the UCRA had failed to establish that there was no practicable alternative to filling the wetlands.  It appeared that the area to the southeast of the airport, that the UCRA planned to level to use as fill or borrow dirt to extend the runways could be utilized for the landside expansion as an alternative to filling the wetlands.

The Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), however,  issued an Aquatic Resource Alteration Permit (ARAP) in February 2004.   The Sierra Club appealed the ARAP to the Water Quality Control Board and while that was pending, filed a federal court lawsuit, along with the National Wildlife Federation, the Tennessee Environmental Council (TEC), the Tennessee Clean Water Network (TCWP) and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) against the Army Corps of Engineers challenging the Corps' failure to require a federal wetland permit. The environmental organizations showed through a dye trace test that the wetlands at the airport have a hydrologic connection to the nearby Falling Water River.

The Army Corps subsequently agreed to require a federal permit, causing the state permits to be withdrawn.  Over the next two and a half years the UCRA's permit applications have been pending with both TDEC and the Corps. 

During this time, the Sierra Club, as well as the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, also challenged the Tennessee Department of Transportation's role as the agency responsible for compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for this project and was successfully argued that the agency responsible for compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for this project was the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  An Environmental Assessment (EA) has been pending at the FAA since May 2005.

In October 2006, a TDEC public hearing was held in Sparta on the question of whether the UCRA had established social and economic necessity for the project. The Sierra Club submitted economic information calling into question the need for the expansion as planned.

The revised Environmental Assessment, submitted to the FAA on January 28, 2008, is available for public review until February 15 at the Putnam County Library. 


Mary Mastin, Upper Cumberland Group Chair, Sierra Club