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Chuck Denney, Narrator (UT Institute of Agriculture)
Oostanaula Creek winds its way through McMinn County – a few inches deep in spots and several feet in others. But the creek was not always the cleanest waterway around, full of sediment, pathogens or other pollutants. Sometimes it would be dirtied by cattle trampling in it or mud from soil erosion.

Dr. Forbes Walker (UT Extension)
“So when we first came here, there was really very little vegetation, very heavily eroded. So every time it rained, obviously we would have a lot of soil erosion, a lot of sediment would go into the creek and impact water quality downstream.”

Chuck Denney, Narrator

Dr. Forbes Walker and colleagues from UT’s Institute of Agriculture are working to restore Oostanaula Creek. They’ve made stream banks more secure so vegetation can be established to stabilize the soil, possibly saving this tree from falling in. The creek also runs through this dairy farm. The UT experts changed cattle access areas here with fencing and gates. They say farmers are open to these practices because they can maintain agricultural production and still have clean water.

Lena Beth Reynolds (UT Extension)
“They do, and once we have some improvements on their farm, they’re proud of it. They want to show it off, and those are the farmers generally that are ready to go to the next step and do another project.”

Chuck Denney, Narrator

That’s in the country, but the creek also runs through the town of Athens – which is projected to grow by more than 20 percent in the next dozen years. Rapid urban growth can put pressures on water quality, but the UT group is teaming with local leaders to protect the creek inside the city limits. a

Dr. Andrea Ludwig (UT Biosystems Engineering)
“It’s really important that we can identify best management practices for each of these different types of land uses. So here we’re working with the agricultural BMPs, whereas in the city we’ll be using some urban best management practices to try to decrease the amount of runoff getting to the creek, as well as filtering out some of these pollutants.”

Chuck Denney, Narrator

Here’s a result of that urban work – a wetland formed from the creek – surrounded by flowers and teaming with aquatic life. And when the creek floods into this area, the water is cleansed by the plant life here.

Shawn Lindsey (Athens Public Works)
“The wetland has a lot of different qualities. It’s beautiful for one thing, and it also is educational.”

Chuck Denney, Narrator

The creek is still on a list of impaired streams in Tennessee, but improvements have been documented. Oostanaula Creek runs past farms that have been in families for generations. But whether it flows through a rural or urban area, clean water is needed in both places.


OF NOTE: UT is doing this water quality work through a grant from the USDA and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. Other partners here include the Natural Resources Conservation Service, TVA, EPA, and the Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation.