Saving a ‘World Class River’ – Winchester Sun
Saving a “World Class River”.
Published on Friday, May 26, 2023 at 10:00 am
The hearing sessions were part of a regional effort across the Ohio River watershed to gather information for an upcoming plan to be used to lobby Congress for funding to save the vast watershed. (Photo by Matt Cizek)
The Kentucky River meanders 216 miles through the Commonwealth for which it is named, from the Appalachian highlands to its confluence with the Ohio River near Carrolton.
Claire Sipple, a Clark County resident, has lived and drank by the river her entire life. She believes the river is one of the state’s greatest treasures.
“It is one of the most beautiful rivers in the world. It’s a world-class river and people don’t know about it,” Sipple said.
Sipple was among the many like-minded local residents who attended a listening session at the Waterfront Bar and Grill on Athens-Boonesboro Road on Tuesday.
The bar and the Kentucky Riverkeepers planned the listening sessions with the National Wildlife Federation. The event provided two opportunities for attendees to voice their concerns about the threat to the river.
Jordan Lubtekin is director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Ohio River Restoration Program. He shared some of the concerns shared by the Clark Countians regarding the river.
“I think there are a lot of concerns that people have, from farm infrastructure to farm runoff to flooding,” Lubtekin said. “Some other issues mentioned were faulty sewage systems, old pollutants, and emerging pollutants. We talked about a lack of access and enforcement powers, and a lack of research into what we need to do and when.”
According to Lubtekin, the good news is that there are “manageable solutions” to these problems, but more resources are needed “to exploit them before the problems get worse and it becomes more expensive to solve them”.
That’s why the National Wildlife Federation has hosted over 31 different meetings from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Illinois to gather feedback from the community in hopes of gathering enough information to submit a plan to Congress to save the Ohio River watershed .
“If we include the Kentucky River and all of its tributaries in a 14-state region, we have a tremendous opportunity to protect the resources to improve our drinking water, public health, economy and way of life,” said Lubtekin .
He commended Clark County for its involvement and said much of what he heard was said across the region.
“We spoke to communities in both urban and rural areas about what’s close to their hearts and what concerns they have. We believe community input and community priorities should be at the heart of the plan,” Lubtekin said.
The improvement of the Ohio and Kentucky rivers would be a boon to the region.
“The river has been important to what is now Clark County for over 200 years, and I think it may be again. Tourism is a big industry. We need to involve more people and use the natural resources,” Sipple said.
The existence of the river is why she is often appalled when younger people say there is nothing to do in the area.
“I think when people get into our river and see how beautiful the stockades are, how clean the water is or catch a fish, whatever you do, it’s a beautiful place.”
For Sipple, one of the main reasons younger Clark Countians don’t think much about the river is that it’s not part of their education like it was in the past.
“Education is important. We used to have a lot more educational resources in our schools and we don’t do that anymore. There used to be a lot of school groups that toured Fort Boonesborough and Lower Howards Creek and they don’t do that anymore,” she said.
However, due to the large attendance at the event and the existence of organizations such as Kentucky Riverkeepers, Sipple remained hopeful for the river’s future.
A non-profit organization dedicated to promoting good river stewardship, Kentucky Riverkeepers, was represented at the sessions by Pat Banks.
“What happens on our land and in our water affects each other. So if we can work with these other partners, we can restore and reclaim our land and our river,” she said of the waterway improvement efforts.
Banks hopes attendees were inspired by the larger community dedicated to the river.
“I hope it takes away the feeling that there are people who care about them and that they are part of a larger community. We can work together and make these things happen,” Banks said.