$2M in stimulus funding for levee improvements at Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge

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PARIS, TN, Jan. 20, 2010 -- Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded a $2 million contract to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to repair an 11-mile levee at Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

The ARRA funding will be used by the TVA to make much needed repairs on the levee, which is crucial to managing water levels in impoundments where more than 150,000 waterfowl winter each year. This investment will also create new jobs for the local economy.

"This project will ensure continuation of one of the primary missions of the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge, which is to provide a wintering sanctuary for migratory waterfowl," Secretary Salazar said. "Rebuilding this levee will ensure the annual planting of crops and management of natural foods for the birds. It also means less destruction of wildlife food and facilities from flooding. Without these improvements, the refuge would eventually lose its ability to provide the best habitat it can for these waterfowl."

"The dike was created around 1945, when the refuge was established, and was originally designed to manage hydrology for mosquito control," refuge manager John Taylor said. "It's a perimeter dike that encloses about 5,000 acres. But it is now used, along with the pumping station, to help control water levels to benefit the waterfowl and other wildlife. It's become the backbone that supports thousands of wintering waterfowl and other migratory birds along the Tennessee River, and our most important management infrastructure on the refuge."

"Over the years, the dike has deteriorated from floods and settling, even though we have patched it up as best we can after a flood," Taylor continued. "This will restore the dike to its original elevation in the places where we have had the worst over wash from floods."

The ARRA funding will enable the TVA to make the following improvements:

• Nine spillways will be constructed or repaired, and five spillways will be restored to proper elevation;
• Levee tops will be restored to a width of 22 feet on sections open to the public and 12 feet on other sections;
• A long section of the levee will be cleared of vegetation;
• Installation of fill material, gravel and rock on interior and exterior of the levee will protect against further deterioration.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 gave $3 billion to the Department of the Interior. The ARRA funds represent an important component of the President's plan to jumpstart the economy and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so the country can thrive in the 21st century.

Under the ARRA, Interior is making an investment in conserving America's timeless treasures - our stunning natural landscapes, our monuments to liberty, the icons of our culture and heritage - while helping American families and their communities prosper again. Interior is also focusing on renewable energy projects, the needs of American Indians, employing youth and promoting community service. "With its investments of Recovery Act funds, the Department of the Interior and its bureaus are putting people to work today to make improvements that will benefit the environment and the region for many years to come," Salazar said.

Secretary Salazar has pledged unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability in the implementation of the Department's economic recovery projects. The public will be able to follow the progress of each project on www.recovery.gov and on www.interior.gov/recovery.

Secretary Salazar has appointed a Senior Advisor for Economic Recovery, Chris Henderson, and an Interior Economic Recovery Task Force to work closely with Interior's Inspector General and ensure the recovery program is meeting the high standards for accountability, responsibility, and transparency set by President Obama.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For questions, comments or concerns email us at recoveryact@fws.gov. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

For more information, visit the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge website.

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