Mill Creek Nolensville

Mill Creek

Nolensville has been selected as one of four municipalities nationwide to receive technical assistance through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program in an effort to aid in sustainable growth and preserving natural resources such as Mill Creek.

The partnership between the Town of Nolensville, the Mill Creek Watershed Association and the EPA will see the entities plan for ways to identify and address linked needs and concerns between watershed planning, storm water management and floodplain protection, as well as identifying green infrastructure projects.

“Through the Building Blocks program, EPA continues to help communities improve quality of life, and become more economically and environmentally sustainable,” EPA Acting Region 4 Administrator John Blevins said in a news release. “This program provides not only tools but a pathway towards additional resources designed specifically to build resilience and strengthen communities.”

Nolensville Commissioner Joel Miller said in a phone call that he saw this as an opportunity to take advantage of top-tier experts, information and other resources at no cost to taxpayers as it was part of a grant program.

“As we continue to develop we want to make sure that we’re not adding to the problem,” Miller said.

Mill Creek Watershed Association Director Kathleen Dennis and another MCWA member brought the grant opportunity to Miller’s attention, and Dennis said that MCWA’s goal is to help promote the health and sustainability of one of the region’s most vital resources.

“We’re looking at the creek’s health,” Dennis said. “How do we want to see it go forward into the future, how do we want to preserve and protect it?”

That eye to the future doesn’t just see the creek, but the development surrounding the creek and how they impact each other.

Dennis said that historically the creek has been impacted by erosion, sedimentary deposits and fecal contamination from agriculture, but those have evolved into new challenges as industrial and residential growth has exploded in Middle Tennessee.

Mill Creek Nolensville 2

A pipe feeds water from Nolensville Park into Mill Creek.

“If you start develop extensively on that land, like what’s happening in Nolensville and Cane Ridge and Antioch, all throughout these areas that have this almost swiss cheese-topography, you end up getting a lot of problems with storm water management and flooding and that’s what’s happening to Nolensville,” Dennis said. 

“Some of the things that we get out of this program are experts who look at it from the point of view of mapping predicted climate change in our area and how that’s going to impact our weather, rain, how it’s going to impact the creek and activity in the creek,” Dennis said. “Then you bring in the development [factor.]”

Mill Creek is also home to the endangered Nashville Crayfish and the near-threatened Streamside Salamander, meaning that continued adverse impacts to the local environment could have a wide range of consequences.

“It’s not only frustrating and difficult for the people and communities because they have to deal with the storm water, it’s also detrimental to the creek because it brings non-point source pollutants into the creek bed when the areas flood, it erodes the creek banks which makes it even harder for the creek to function and it brings sedimentation and other kinds of damage that no only impacts Nolensville, but the communities further down the creek,” Dennis said.

Nolensville is the only municipality in Tennessee to receive the Building Blocks program assistance this year with other communities in South Carolina and Florida also having been selected.

“They selected us because they are aware of the unprecedented growth pressures that Nolensville and the greater Nashville region are experiencing,” Miller said, noting the creeks flow from South to North into Nashville. “If we don’t get it right, we’re not even giving other communities the chance to have clean water and a healthy ecosystem in that water, so it starts with us.”