Open Letter – By John Shaw
The County Executive and the County Commission created the Roane County Environmental Review Board (RCERB) to study environmental related issues in detail and provide factual-based recommendations. The RCERB serves in this advisory role solely to the Roane County government and is composed of educated professionals, concerned local citizens, and citizens familiar with or knowledgeable of local, regional, and national issues, whose task it is to search out, become familiar with, and review environmental issues that can and do affect our county. The RCERB is made up entirely of volunteers who serve at no cost to Roane County or its taxpayers.
In the past year, the RCERB has been involved in matters such as the determining the safety of the new soccer fields created by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), review of the TVA gypsum storage area expansion, status of the Clinch River Corporation Superfund Site, and the American Zinc Recycling processing variance. All of these activities involved immediate need issues important to the Roane County government.
The RCERB has also been involved in reviewing continuing issues important to the Roane County taxpayer safety such as clarification of water issues in streams bordering Tiger Haven, issues surrounding the new Y-12 associated waste burial grounds; activities at the Horizon Center (K-25) site; and legacy facility stabilization efforts at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Some of these issues have immediate impacts, while others have long-term impacts requiring in-depth review on not only current area residents but also future area residents as well.
The Roane County government has also requested the RCERB stay abreast of future planned activities on the Department of Energy (DOE) Oak Ridge Reservation. This has required the RCERB to examine and understanding the plans for the potential construction of a Small Modular Reactor on the old Clinch River Breeder Site by TVA and the Versatile Test Reactor by the DOE. Two future activities, a planned airport and racetrack on DOE owned or previously controlled land, will be followed. While not yet verified to be built, each of these new facilities could have different potential environmental impacts to the government, service departments, and taxpayers of Roane County. The RCERB is tasked to identify and quantify these potential impacts utilizing their educational knowledge, along with their skills obtained from years working in various areas of government and private sector work.
Recently, the Roane County Commissioners reestablished the Invasive Species Committee inside of the RCERB while also expanding its scope of concern to include not only aquatic but also terrestrial invasive species issues. One of the main issues currently being followed is the invasive silver carp issue, which the Roane County Commissioners have begun addressing based on RCERB recommendations. The Commissioners have already issued a resolution to encourage the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, TVA, United States Army Corp of Engineers, and the relevant Tennessee State Representatives for Roane County to aggressively pursue all possible opportunities to prevent the silver carp from moving further upstream in the Tennessee River system. Additional surrounding counties and cities have followed suit by passing similar resolutions as well. The RCERB will continue following this issue and presenting recommendations to the Commission as required.
From time to time, as terms for its members expire, or RCERB members can no longer serve, new people are needed to fill vacant positions. That time is now with three regular member positions open, each who will serve a three-year appointment. You may wonder about the time commitment needed to be a RCERB member. We meet once per month for about 1 – 1.5 hours. Per state law, all meetings are open to the public. In addition, we also spend a few hours per month reviewing documents, performing web searches, attending the public meetings of other organizations deemed informative to our activities, and even attending environmental conferences to collect information and/or gain insight into a particular subject matter. So the time commitment is typically only a few hours per month as review and meeting duties are divided up between the members. If you would like to see how the RCERB functions, our monthly meetings are open to the public and are held the first Thursday of each month at 6:00 pm in the Roane County Courthouse.
So if you are a legal citizen of Roane County (required to qualify) and desire to make a positive impact in your community (particularly if you are retired) we encourage you to consider becoming a member of the RCERB. You can contact John Shaw, RCERB Chair, at [email protected]. Please send a resume containing your complete educational and work experience history. Because the RCERB members must function independent of any external organizations, we also require a complete list of any other organizations to whom you may hold a membership to help identify any potential conflicts of interest.