Shaped by Water

In 2001, the Kentucky Foundation for Women awarded an “Arts Meets Activism” grant to four women artists/activists working with the Kentucky RIVERKEEPER, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in residence at Eastern Kentucky University’s Center for Appalachian Studies. The planning grant was designed to promote arts activism within eastern Kentucky schools and communities and devise a funding strategy to give the project legs. The long-term goal was to establish an annual River Festival as an art/environmental event with feminist leadership. Co-directors of this project included Judy Sizemore (Circuit Rider for the Kentucky Arts Council), Pat Banks (artist-educator), Joanne Guifoil (Professor of Art Education, Eastern Kentucky University), and Gabrielle Beazely (independent videographer/photographer).

Poem by Louan Christensen


The purpose of this ongoing program has been to promote watershed awareness and cultural heritage education through arts experiences. Led by Kentucky Riverkeeper Pat Banks, various teams of environmentally active artists/educators have provided workshops/retreats for artists, educators and activists Kentucky River watershed communities.  An annual exhibit and reception is held at Richmond’s Gallery on Main. 

The goals of the projects in this program are to:

  • Recognize rural women as leaders and guardians of their community watersheds.
  • Inspire more rural women to use their creativity as environmental activists.
  • Develop a network of rural women artists and leaders who will promote watershed awareness.
  • Reconnect rural women with cultural heritage in the rivers and creeks as they work toward watershed restoration and preservation.


Poem: Splashing


by: Louan Christensen


Goose bump water rushes

over near frozen feet


on a hot summer afternoon.

Child-hands launch

hollowed out cucumber boats

And the race begins!

Bare feet sink in garden mud

of thirsty dirt and irrigation water.

Back- bent farmers hoe peas and beets.


on ragged jeans

Then eat them.

We slurp clear water from cupped hands

letting it trickle down our chins;

We pick green apples and pucker

at their sour sweetness.

Beyond the pasture fence

A tire swing hangs

From a sycamore tree.

We soar above the canal

Our voices squeal, ”Higher! Higher!”

Still, we drag

delighted toes and sunburned feet

through the gentle coolness.


>How I wish I could gift you

the long ago afternoon

when your daddy and the city kids

opened up the hydrant

in the humid streets of Philadelphia, <

bent their backsides

into the fierce, escaping Niagara,

creating water umbrellas,

rainbows, splashing puddles,

and laughter.

Oh to fill a bucket with

long agos and yesterdays

till they spill over the rim

and flood the summer grass.

To dance child, in the mist

of the garden hose

and paint wet footprints

on concrete canvas.

Kentucky River (67 Miles) Impaired by Mercury



The 2008 Integrated Report on the condition of Kentucky’s streams and waterways was recently released by the Kentucky Division of Water (KDOW).  While monitoring results for all of the Commonwealth’s water bodies were reported during this two-year cycle, the Kentucky River Basin was one of the primary focuses of this 2008 reporting cycle.

A review of the monitoring results from the 2008 report for waters within the Kentucky River watershed show area waters to be typically impaired by fecal coli form, e-coli, eutrophication and sedimentation/siltation and other biological indicators.  But, perhaps of most concern, is that the 2008 Integrated Report lists 67 river miles of the Kentucky River, starting in Estill County (56 miles) to Owen County (another 11 miles) as impaired by methyl mercury (p.76).

Considering that methyl mercury (like lead) is a potent neurotoxin, the Kentucky Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) recently asked for clarification and more information from KDOW on this matter. During May of this year, mercury impairment levels were discussed via a teleconference session and at the May 28 EQC open forum with KDOW regulators.

Considering the number of river miles involved and the type of contaminant, the Kentucky State Environmental Quality Commission has placed this issue on its agenda for its November meetings. KDOW regulators will be invited, as well as members from the 2004/2005 Special Taskforce on Mercury. EQC meetings are open to the public and members of the Kentucky RIVERKEEPER and other stakeholders are encouraged to attend to discuss these results on mercury from the 2008 Integrated Report.

 By Stephanie McSpirit, Ph.D.
Board Member, Kentucky State Environmental Quality Commission

Kentucky River Water Trail

Pool 9 was dedicated June 4th, 2011. We are currently working on Pools 11 & 12 for 2012 with the eventual goal of completing the entire Kentucky River.

Pool 9 was dedicated June 4th, 2011. We are currently working on Pools 11 & 12 for 2012 with the eventual goal of completing the entire Kentucky River.

The following documents are available in PDF format. You will need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader in order to view and print the files.

Clark Receives Award

Kent Clark, Madison County Judge-Executive, received a Kentucky Riverkeeper award from the students at Mayfield Elementary.

Kent Clark, Madison County Judge-Executive, received a Kentucky Riverkeeper award from the students at Mayfield Elementary.

Judge Clark met with the students during a field trip to the Kentucky River Museum, the beach, Riverkeeper boat and Fort Boonesborough. The students were researching images and materials for their cafeteria wall mural. The mural has been six years in the making.

Mayfield art teacher Sharla Davidson wrote grants and partnered with community groups to secure the funding to support this project. The Kentucky Arts Council Roster Artist and the Kentucky Riverkeeper Pat Banks has worked with this project from the beginning. The river story was incorporated through out the process. Students learned about plants, animals, fish and some history surrounding this region and watershed.

Burke’s 67 Mile Run


I’m soliciting your help.

Since I am 67, I thought it would be a good idea to try to run 67 miles all at one time. So, I intend to run around Bear Lake in northern Utah on August 2-3 this summer.

My goal is to finish in about 14 hours… that’s about 12 minutes per mile; not very fast.

I’m doing this run to raise funds for The Kentucky Riverkeeper, an environmental group here in Kentucky where my wife, Louan, and I serve with some really nice people on the board of directors.

The help I would like is your willingness to spread the word about an old guy like me running 67 miles around a lake. I would also like your financial support and the support of anyone you know in terms of making a donation to The Kentucky Riverkeeper.

I have run 10 marathons but I have never run any distance longer than a marathon – which is 26.2 miles. Put another way, my little overnight run around the lake will be equal to slightly more than two and a half marathons.

If you can help with a financial contribution of $1.00 or $2.00 per mile, please send your check to The Kentucky Riverkeeper; put 67@67 on memo line.  Results will be posted on our website and facebook.

The Kentucky Riverkeeper contact information and the place to send your tax-deductible contribution is:

Kentucky Riverkeeper
P.O. Box 1296
Richmond, KY 40476
859-859 200-7442

Thanks for your help!

Burke Christensen

Published on May 08, 2013

U.S. Army Corp of Engineers


Alan Banks, Kentucky Riverkeeper, (859) 622-1622, alan.banks@eku.edu
Teri Blanton, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, (859) 986-1648,tblanton@mis.net
Judith Petersen, Kentucky Waterways Alliance, (270) 524-1774,director@KWAlliance.org

Kentucky Groups Sue U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Permitting Coal Companies to Destroy More Than 35 Miles of Kentucky Streams

 “Streamlined” Permit Violates Clean Water Act, groups say

KY_water_trail_BanksLEXINGTON (January 27, 2005) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is illegally allowing the destruction of Kentucky streams under tons of coal mining waste, according to a lawsuit filed today by three Kentucky environmental and citizen organizations.

“In the last three years, the Corps has rubber-stamped more than 50 permits for 191 valley fills that will destroy more than 35 miles of Kentucky’s streams,” said Teri Blanton of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth. “This is an absurd and outrageous abuse of their power and neglect of their duty to protect the nation’s waterways.”

The groups — Kentucky Riverkeeper, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC), Kentucky Waterways Alliance (KWA) — charge that the Corps’ use of a Nationwide Permit 21 (NWP 21) for valley fills violates the federal Clean Water Act.

“The NWP 21 program was meant for activities that have only minimal adverse environmental effects, both individually and cumulatively,” said Alan Banks, president of the Kentucky Riverkeeper board in Richmond, Kentucky.

The groups are challenging 54 NWP permits issued in the last three years by the Corps “for mining operations with valley fills.”  Instead, they want the Corps to apply another section of the Clean Water Act that calls for “individual” permits which considers site-specific environmental impacts on the stream and watershed and provides an opportunity for public comment.

The valley fills cited in the suit are located in the Cumberland, Kentucky, Big Sandy and Licking River watersheds.

“Since 1992, the Corps has used NWP 21 to allow ‘Big Coal’ to bury more than 1,200 miles of headwater streams throughout Appalachia,” added Banks.  “The Corps has also buried the truth by calling this major environmental disaster a cumulatively minimal impact.”

Valley fills bury streams with sediment and rock.  This “fill” smothers aquatic life, and filling headwater streams with sediment can harm aquatic habitat downstream.  Therefore, sediment is considered a pollutant requiring a discharge permit under the Clean Water Act.

“Coal mining and valley fills bury more streams than any other activity in the country,” said Judith Petersen, KWA’s Executive Director.  “Valley fills bury streams under tens of thousands of tons of waste rock, dirt and sediment, killing all aquatic life below and affecting water quality downstream.”

“We are asking the court to declare that the Corps’ use of NWP 21 in Kentucky is illegal and to block the Corps from using NWP 21 to authorize any new valley fills in Kentucky,” said co-counsel Amanda Moore of the Appalachian Citizens Law Center based in Prestonsburg, Kentucky.

In a similar suit in a different jurisdiction, the Corps of Engineers was enjoined from issuing permits under NWP 21 for valley fills in West Virginia. The West Virginia decision, however, does not apply to Kentucky valley fills, and hence the lawsuit in Kentucky.

“Last July, a West Virginia federal judge decided that the Corps’ use of this same general permit for coal mining valley fills in southern West Virginia was illegal,” said Jim Hecker, Environmental Enforcement Director for Trial Lawyers for Public Justice. “This case applies the same legal principle to Kentucky.”

The groups do not intend to stop coal mining, but do demand that the Corps and the coal companies comply with the law. “Valley fills are so damaging that the Corps must use individual permits, not NWP 21.  Individual permits under the Clean Water Act can only be issued after careful scientific review and public comment, which the Corps has evaded by using NWP 21,” said Joe Lovett, Executive Director of the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment (ACEE).

“It is totally unnecessary for the coal industry to destroy our streams in order to mine coal. The coal industry is flaunting the law, and the Corps of Engineers has been a willing partner in this crime,” added KFTC’s Blanton. “For the sake of Kentucky’s future, we need to put an immediate end to practice.”

The plaintiffs are represented by Joe Lovett, Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment; Brent Bowker and Amanda Moore, the Appalachian Citizens Law Center; Jim Hecker, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice; and Joe Childers, Esq.


Legal Representatives:
Joe Childers, Attorney, Lexington, Kentucky (859) 253-9824,childerslaw@yahoo.com
Brent Bowker and Amanda Moore, Appalachian Citizens Law Center, (606) 886-1442,
Jim Hecker, Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, (202) 797-8600,JHECKER@TLPJ.ORG
Joe Lovett, Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment, (304) 645-9006, jlovett@appalachian-center.org

A copy of the complaint in Kentucy Riverkeeper et. al. v. Rowlette is available online at http://www.tlpj.org/, together with a map showing the locations of the permitted mines that are being challenged in the case.

The West Virginia court decision in Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition v. Bulen is available athttp://www.wvsd.uscourts.gov/district/opinions/pdf/BULEN_FINAL.pdf.


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