Mill Creek and the Cumberland River

ADOPTED BY: Cumberland Kayak
PROGRAM: Metro Adopt-A-Stream

The purple boundary in the map below outlines a watershed of your adopted waterways. When it rains, water that falls within this boundary eventually finds its way to your stretch of Mill Creek and the Cumberland. These sections of water are directly impacted by all land within the purple drainage boundary. The blue line represents Cumberland Kayak's adopted stretch of Mill Creek and the Cumberland. Stewardship activities performed on land or water anywhere within these purple watershed boundaries will improve the condition of your waterways.

Information on this page was compiled using resources from iCreek

This adopted stretch of the Cumberland River is considered healthy by the State of Tennessee. The adopted section of Mill Creek is considered unhealthy as a result of four problems — Pathogens, Dissolved Oxygen, Nutrients, and Siltation. 

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Pathogens indicate that water is contaminated by human or animal waste. In urban areas, pathogens end up in creeks when dog owners don’t pick up their pet’s waste or when sewer lines leak. Pathogens typically reach problem levels during and after heavy rainfall, when storms wash pathogens from pet waste off our yards and into our streams and/or when this heavy rainfall overwhelms sewer infrastructure.

Dissolved Oxygen

Low Dissolved Oxygen can be a major issue in a stream environment. In fast-moving streams, rushing water is aerated as it churns over rocks, saturating these environments with oxygen. However, in slow, stagnant waters, oxygen only enters the top layer of water, and deeper water is often low in dissolved oxygen concentration. When algal blooms form in waters as a result of nutrients, the highly productive algae use the dissolved oxygen and leave the environment inhabitable for other organisms. Depleted dissolved oxygen in water will restrict or eliminate aquatic life. While some species can tolerate lower levels of oxygen for short periods, prolonged exposure will affect biological diversity and, in extreme cases, cause massive fish kills.

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Nutrient issues in streams result from over-fertilized urban lawns and gardens. Other sources include pet waste, municipal wastewater systems, and dishwashing detergent. When fertilizers exceed plant needs, are left out in the open, or are applied just before it rains, nutrients can wash into our waterways over land or seep into groundwater. High concentrations of nutrients, found in human and pet waste, can contaminate our waters via leaking sewer lines or neglected pet waste. Increased nutrient concentrations cause nuisance or toxic algae blooms in waterbodies, killing fish and aquatic life. High concentrations of nutrients must also be filtered from our drinking water, since they can cause methemoglobinemia, also known as blue baby syndrome.

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Silt refers to the dirt, soil, or sediment that is carried and deposited by our water. While some silt in water is normal and healthy, many additional tons of silt find their way to our water every year, negatively impacting water quality. Excessive silt clogs gills, and smothers eggs and nests. It can bury habitat aquatic insects need for survival, which impacts organisms up the food chain that eat these insects for survival. Siltation can also interfere with photosynthesis in aquatic plants resulting in a decrease in needed dissolved oxygen. Siltation also increases levels of treatment needed for drinking water, fills up reservoirs and navigation channels, and increases a waterbodies likelihood of flooding.

 

Plant and Animal Species Observations in Your Watershed

Plant and animal species within your watershed depend on clean water for survival. The work you do to improve water quality in your watershed benefits not only the people in your watershed, but also the many plant and animals that live there, as well. When iNaturalist users observe plants and animals species in your watershed they will display below. You can create your own iNaturalist account to start recording observed species in your adopted stream's watershed. 

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HOW YOU CAN HELP

 
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There are many things you can do to help your creek. We've got some ideas and resources below, but don't be limited to these alone. If you've got ideas for other activities or questions in general, feel free to contact the Cumberland River Compact.

In addition to the Compact, Mill Creek Watershed Association plays a role in stewarding water resources in your creek. Connecting with them to do activities below or to come up with other stewardship activities is highly recommended. Contact: millcreekwatershedassociation@gmail.com  

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  • Remember to always ensure you have landowner permission before doing stewardship work on public or private land. Feel free to contact the Compact, if you need help obtaining permission.  
  • Please give the Compact two weeks notice prior to any planned stewardship activity.  
     

STEWARDSHIP IDEAS

 06.12.18 Cumberland Kayak, Turnip Green Creative Reuse, and the Compact with volunteers after a cleanup of Mill Creek.

06.12.18 Cumberland Kayak, Turnip Green Creative Reuse, and the Compact with volunteers after a cleanup of Mill Creek.

Keep after those cleanups!
Cumberland Kayak has taken a leading role in removing litter from Mill Creek and the Cumberland. Keep up the great work!

Resources include:

  • Supplies (trash bags and gloves) for cleanups - Cumberland River Compact (Contact gray.perry@cumberlandrivercompact.org / 615-837-1151)
  • Example Stream Survey Guidelines - Cumberland River Compact
  • Consolidated Litter Pickup - City of Nashville can pick up consolidated litter if given two weeks notice. The Compact can serve as a liaison in obtaining this service. 
  • Report Litter (If it's on or near a road) - TN Department of Transportation
 Photo by Jordan Meeter

Photo by Jordan Meeter

Plant (or allow for) natural growth near your waterway. Remove invasive species. 
If permission from property owners along the waterway can be obtained, organize a planting of native trees, bushes, and groundcover. You could combine the event with invasive removals. Allowing a 35′ to 100′ no mow zone on a streams banks can filter pollutants before they reach our waterways and provide other water quality benefits that far exceed those of a mowed lawn. Natives plants also require less watering and fertilizer. Resources include:

If you can't do a planting, consider distributing free trees and educational information to the public somewhere in your adopted segment's watershed. Resources include:

 Cumberland River / Mill Creek iNaturalist Page

Cumberland River / Mill Creek iNaturalist Page

Observe and document species in your watershed using iNaturalist.
Your adopted segment has its own iNaturalist page! You can visit it here. This page will show you plant and animal species others are seeing in your watershed. It will also allow you and others in your group to observe and record plant and animal species seen in your watershed. In addition, it can also function like a social media platform, allowing you to interact with others who are making observations and tell them about your adoption or stewardship efforts and opportunities.

You can create an account on iNaturalist and email jed.grubbs@cumberlandrivercompact.org if you'd like to be an admin for your page. This will allow you to better tailor your page to your group.

Each Spring, the City participates in the Nationwide City Nature Challenge. This event is a fun way to obtain species data in your watershed and engage with the larger region within a regional BioBlitz. Contact the Cumberland River Compact if you're interested in participating in the City Nature Challenge. 

Distribute stewardship and educational materials in a public place for your waterway.
Consider passing out native wildflower seeds, pet waste bags, free soil sampling kits, and educational materials somewhere popular or public in the watershed. Pet waste bags can help keep out pathogens, native wildflowers and other forms of vegetation can filter out excess pathogens and silt, and soil test kits can help landowners not over-fertilize their lawns. 

  • Soil Test Mailers (Courtesy of UT Soil, Plant and Pest Center), Pet Waste Bags, Native Wildflowers - Cumberland River Compact (Contact jed.grubbs@cumberlandrivercompact.org / 615-837-1151)
  • 1 pager for distribution with general information about your stretch of the Cumberland and Mill Creek - (Contact jed.grubbs@cumberlandrivercompact.org / 615-837-1151)

Support public funding of water treatment plants and sewer infrastructure, as well as stormwater fees. Report sewer leakages and other water quality concerns. 
Water related infrastructure is expensive and obtaining funding for necessary sewer and water treatment improvements is often a challenge for communities. However, public dollars are critical to our water quality and public health. Support your community's efforts to properly maintain it's water related infrastructure. If you see pollution occurring in your waterway, call Metro Stormwater at 615-880-2420 or email StormWaterQuality@nashville.gov. If possible, send pictures and/or video. Additional resources include:

Organize with others in your community. Make your voices heard and your votes count.
Participate in community planning efforts and advocate for relevant measures that improve or protect water quality. Write to your elected official or to the media and let them know this is a concern or invite them to speak about the impairment with your home-owners association. When elections come up, vote for candidates who will address the problem and hold them accountable to their promises. Support local watershed / environmental associations. Resources include: 

Spread the word!
Do your neighbors, family, or roommates know about the challenges your stream is facing? Now that you know how to be an effective steward, enlist the help of others in your neighborhood. Share iCreek or resources within it with your neighbors and encourage them to join the effort to protect your creek.


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The Cumberland River Compact proudly works with Metro Water Services
to facilitate this and all other Metro Nashville stream adoptions.The Cumberland River Compact facilitates this stream adoption.