By MARK MCGEE
Since the early 1800s water from the Duck River has supplied the needs of the City of Shelbyville and Bedford County.
But concerns over the increase in usage along the Upper Duck River has prompted the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) to send notice to the City of Shelbyville, as well as six other utilities, concerning proposed withdrawal caps to be applied to the Shelbyville Power, Water and Sewerage System (SPWSS).
Shelbyville Mayor Randy Carroll said the intention of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) to propose a withdrawal cap of 8.35 million gallons a day from the Duck River was a surprise to the City. Waleed Albakry, Director of Planning and Community Development for the City of Shelbyville, said the City has received no letter from the TDEC, but were informed of a public hearing for the Upper Duck River Aquatic Resource Alteration Permits (ARAP).
Albakry has expressed the concerns of the City to the TDEC concerning the possible implementation of the cap.
In his response he writes, “Shelbyville is experiencing a substantial period of development and growth, both in terms of approved projects and those in the planning process. Our city has seen an increase in residential, commercial, educational and industrial development in recent years, driven by a growing local economy. These developments have contributed significantly to our city’s economy, creating jobs and expanding the tax base, but they have also put pressure on our existing infrastructure and resources.”
He emphasized the proposed water withdrawal cap would greatly hinder the City’s ability “to meet the growing water demands of our community.”
Albakry included a chart of the total number of residential lots approved by the City from 2019-2023. During that time 1950 lots have been approved with a high of 941 in 2022.
In addition Albakry pointed out the additions of Duksan Electera, the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) and the Middle Tennessee State University Aerospace program. He added the City is in “the planning stages for both residential and mixed-use developments totaling approximately 2.500 residential units and more than 100,000 square feet of commercial space”.
Both the TDEC and the Tennessee Wildlife Federation are studying both the ecological and recreational effects on the Upper Duck River if caps aren’t established.
The Duck River is considered to be the most biologically diverse river in North America. There are concerns on how increased water usage might affect some of these species.
Albakry says he understands the TDEC’s role in protecting the natural resources of Tennessee and that the City “shares those concerns.”
“We are committed to sustainable growth and environmental stewardship,” Albakry wrote. “However, a strict cap on water withdrawal would hamper our ability to provide essential services, such as fire protection, and accommodate the needs of both existing and futures residences and businesses.”
The proposed cap could also have a negative impact on the City of Shelbyville Fire Department’s Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating which could result in higher insurance premiums for residential, commercial and industrial customers.
Albakry concludes the letter by saying, “In light of these concerns, we kindly request the TDEC considers a more flexible approach to regulating water withdrawal in Shelbyville. We are willing to work closely with your department to establish mutually-agreed-upon guidelines that balance our city’s growth and development needs with responsible water resource management.”