The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Displaying items by tag: little river

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UPDATED: Opponents of Pellissippi Parkway Extension hammer bureaucrats, unelected economic development officials at public meeting

(This story has been updated with this link to the Tennessee Department of Transportation recording of the Sept. 21 public hearing on the proposed Pellissippi Parkway Extension project).

Raw emotions spilled over at a Tennessee Department of Transportation public meeting to collect citizen input on a nearly 5-mile, four-lane highway that would carve through creeks, forests, farms and homes in rural Blount County in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.

The meeting was held Tuesday evening at Heritage High School, not far from where the proposed Pellissippi Parkway Extension (which would originate at the terminus of the current parkway near Rockford) would abruptly bisect East Lamar Alexander Parkway, just to the west of Walland Gap and the Little River Gorge.

As Hellbender Press has reported on the Pellissippi extension, many people aren't happy with the proposition of spending at least $100 million on a 4.5-mile stretch of highway, and people are uncomfortable with both the use of eminent domain to force them from their homes or seize portions of their property and the unavoidable and long-lasting environmental and cultural impact such a project would have on the rural areas of Blount County. The projected cost of the project has vacillated by millions of dollars.

East Lamar Alexander Parkway (U.S. 321) terminates in Townsend; along the way are turnoffs to many valuable pieces of real estate and immensely successful high-end hospitality venues, such as Blackberry Farm. Hellbender Press reached out to Blackberry Farm through its Nashville-based public relations team about the nearby highway project and was simply told "we have no comment."

People who did not attend last night's meeting have the opportunity to voice their opinion on the TDOT website.
 
The comment period is open through Oct. 12.
 
Published in News

Daily Times: Biologists keep a close eye on imperiled mussel populations in Little River and beyond

The Little River in Blount County just west of Great Smoky Mountains National Park hosted just one of five known fine-rayed pigtoed mussel populations when federal officials placed the mussel on the Endangered Species List in 1976. 

The Daily Times in Maryville reports that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now conducting a regular five-year review of the mussel's status. It is one of at least 12 mussel species in the river, which has its headwaters in the Great Smoky Mountains and flows through Townsend on its way to its ultimate destination: the Tennessee River. Little River is the main source of water for an expanding Blount County population.

Native mussel populations face the same threats as many non-game fish in the Southern Appalachians. Oxygen is depleted by sediment plumes, which also smother fish eggs, and many mussels rely on small fish to reproduce.

“Reproduction depends on host fish. During the larval stage the young are stuck together in a packet that resembles the prey of shiners and minnows, which is how they become attached to the fish gills or fins to grow for a few weeks,” the Daily Times reports.

Published in Feedbag

img 2460State and local officials want to expand another 'road to nowhere' by way of the controversial $200 million Pellissippi Parkway extension in Blount County.   Lesli Bales-Sherrod/Hellbender Press

The newest road to nowhere

The former “missing link” of the Foothills Parkway. The “road to nowhere” in Bryson City, North Carolina. Blount County, Tennessee, has its own unfinished road project, without the catchy nickname: the Pellissippi Parkway Extension.This proposed 4.4-mile stretch of four-lane highway would lengthen State Route 162, known as Pellissippi Parkway, from where it ends at Old Knoxville Highway (State Route 33) to East Lamar Alexander Highway (State Route 73/U.S. 321) in Maryville.

The project, which would impact 56 properties and cost at least $60 million, is not without controversy. Citizens Against the Pellissippi Parkway Extension, “believe(s) this interstate highway is not needed, wastes state resources and will have negative impacts on the area along the route and on the quality of life in Blount County as a whole,” according to the group’s website, saveitdontpaveit.org. Besides loss of farmland, residences and businesses, CAPPE’s concerns include sprawl, traffic, water and air quality, noise, economic impact and the destruction of wildlife habitat and increased rates of roadkill.

State and local government officials, however, maintain the Pellissippi Parkway Extension will address needs such as “limited mobility options in Blount County and Maryville, poor local road network with substandard cross sections (with narrow lanes, sharp curves, and insufficient shoulders), lack of a northwest/east connection east of Alcoa and Maryville, safety issues on roadways in the area, and traffic congestion and poor levels of traffic operation on major arterial roads and intersections,” according to the Record of Decision signed by the Federal Highway Administration on Aug. 31, 2017.

The Pellissippi Parkway Extension has been part of the Knoxville regional transportation planning vision since 1977, according to a 2010 Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and has a long, storied history -- complete with a 2002 lawsuit from CAPPE, seeking to stop it. Nothing has happened publicly, however, since the Record of Decision selected a preferred route for the new stretch of road, which would cross Old Knoxville Highway, Wildwood Road, Brown School Road, Sevierville Road and Davis Ford Road before terminating near Morning Star Baptist Church in Maryville.  
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