Mark Twain is alleged to have said “In the West whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting. In Shady Valley, you might say “Cranberry juice is for drinking; water is for fighting. As the Bristol Herald Courier reports, a water dispute has broken out between the Nature Conservancy, which built low dams to create bogs for the southernmost growing cranberries near Mountain City, and the Shady Valley Watershed District (SVWD), which wants to tear those dams down.
The latter group is well named, for they were the shady characters in the 1960s who brought in the U.S. Corps of Engineers (our motto: We straighten streams) whose efforts all but wiped out the tart berries. The SVWD, fearing floods, wants to knock down the dams, and the Nature Conservancy doesn’t want that to happen again. The Conservancy filed a Federal lawsuit to halt the dam busters.
Now comes the Cranberry Festival this weekend, with both groups staffing booths to raise money and build support for their sides. The Appalachian Voices blog has some good background on the situation.
I’m pulling for the Nature Conservancy. This group has bought land and done everything they can to preserve this unique aspect of Tennessee flora. When the Ice Age had Massachusetts and other northern areas under ice, it was the Tennessee presence of cranberries that saved the species in North America and, as the ice retreated, enabled the berries to grow in northern bogs and to become a thriving industry and a staple of Thanksgiving dinners.