Uprooted tree balances over Doe River

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   An uprooted tree on the west bank of the Doe River near the Broad Street Bridge hangs precariously over the river. While drought conditions have ebbed the river's flow considerably, who would take on removing the tree if it created a water problem in the river is uncertain.
   The tree's branches extend just above the flowing water of the Doe River behind Rustlers Restaurant near the Broad Street bridge. The length of the tree extends just over the midpoint of the river, but as of Friday did not visibly appear to be diverting the river's flow.
   "Some agency would have to designate it as a public hazard before we could get into the river," said Ted Leger, director of public works for the city of Elizabethton.
   Before being uprooted, the tree had been located on private property that abuts the Doe River, according to maps in the county Assessor of Property's office.
   Leger said last week that since the Doe River was "about as low as I've ever seen it", he did not feel the tree posed an immediate flood hazard.
   The Tri-Cities region is roughly 6 inches below normal in average rainfall for the year, according to the National Weather Service.
   The U.S. Drought Monitor reported areas of far northeast Tennessee were under extreme drought, as were several counties in northwestern North Carolina. Exceptional drought conditions were reported from southwest Virginia to northern Georgia, according to the Drought Monitor.
   Leger said that if the city was required to get involved in removing the tree, they would likely seek the help of the Carter County Work Camp prisoners.
   Usually, debris threatening rivers and streams fell to the Division of Water Pollution under the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, according to Gay Irwin with TDEC's Environmental Assistance Center in Johnson City.
   However, TDEC personnel would probably not get involved in removing the tree unless the city or county requested assistance, she said.
   Wes Lambert of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) office of Public Affairs in Atlanta also said Friday that the EPA would probably not take on the effort of removing the tree from the river.