By Matthew Cimitile
For Shannon O’Quinn, a watershed specialist at the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Tennessee River provides much more than a livelihood. “It is a special place to my family,” he says. “It is where we live and play and work to ensure the river stays healthy for people and wildlife.”
Considering that the Tennessee River Basin is one of the most biologically diverse watersheds in North America, that’s a critically important job. Winding its way through roughly 650 miles and encompassing over 41,000 square miles, the Basin is home to 270 species of fish and over 100 species of mussels. For comparison, the state of Wisconsin, which includes portions of the Upper Mississippi River, Lake Superior, and Lake Michigan is only home to 160 fish species. In China, there are only 60 species of mussels. In Europe, just 12.