Tennessee River Cleanup Efforts To Increase With Expansion Of Nonprofit Fleet

Thanks To Donations From TVA And Yamaha Rightwaters

Friday, August 5, 2022
Some of the Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful board members, their family members, and Executive Director Kathleen Gibi (at the helm) pose with the new boat made possible thanks largely to donations from TVA and Yamaha Rightwaters
Some of the Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful board members, their family members, and Executive Director Kathleen Gibi (at the helm) pose with the new boat made possible thanks largely to donations from TVA and Yamaha Rightwaters

Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful can now boast a fleet of two 26-foot river cleanup boats after celebrating the maiden voyage of the organization’s second boat earlier this week with a cleanup held on Fort Loudoun Lake of the Tennessee River. The nonprofit’s board members and their families participated in the cleanup, removing 1,453 pounds of trash during the boat’s first venture on the water. 

The purchase of the custom aluminum john boat, named The Holston after one of the two rivers that converge to form the Tennessee River, was made possible largely through funding and donations from TVA, Yamaha Rightwaters, a Knoxville-based Home Depot (Schaad Road) store, and Premier Watersports of Knoxville.

“Having this second boat in our fleet is going to be a gamechanger that will allow us to arguably double our impact for the seven-state Tennessee River watershed,” said Kathleen Gibi, KTNRB executive director. “We’re particularly proud that such a wide-ranging representation of sponsors who we see as champions for our waterways were willing to step up to help us acquire this boat, because it’s going to take an effort from all levels of the community to protect our precious river system.”

Having just one boat up until now, KTNRB hosts over 40 river cleanups a year throughout the seven-state Tennessee River watershed, with more than 700 volunteers helping them to remove over 152,000 pounds of trash in 2021. Following the cleanup held this week, nearly 300 volunteers have helped to remove over 85,000 pounds of trash in 2022 thus far.

TVA, who helped to start Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful in 2016, provided funding that primarily assisted with the purchase of the custom john boat and trailer. Though TVA is primarily known for supplying power to 153 individual local power companies, it also has a Natural Resources group that supports more than 40 river cleanup groups each year.

“Since TVA helped KTNRB acquire their first boat in 2019 and was a founding partner, it only made since that we help with the expansion of obtaining the second boat," said Rebecca Hayden, director, Natural Resources at TVA. "Providing funding to organizations like KTNRB help TVA to meet is mission of service by providing natural resource stewardship and outdoor recreation opportunities on TVA’s public lands and waters across the valley. Their efforts help to provide a safe, natural environment not just for the public, but also for wildlife.”

Yamaha Rightwaters donated the V MAX SHO 90 outboard motor and tiller arm. The motor matches a replica donation Yamaha made in 2020 for KTNRB’s first boat, The Tennessee. Since the first motor donation was made in 2020, KTNRB has been able to remove over 293,000 pounds of trash from the Tennessee River watershed.

“Two Yamaha facilities call the Tennessee River home, so it only makes sense for Yamaha Rightwaters to work alongside of KTNRB to keep the Tennessee River’s waterways clean,” said John O’Keefe, specialist, Government Relations, Yamaha U.S. Marine Business Unit and KTNRB board member. “This is an organization that is really making a difference – it’s that simple. We look forward to helping KTNRB accelerate its mission with a second cleanup boat.”

Yamaha Rightwaters has also consistently sponsored KTNRB’s annual Ripple Effect Awards, through which river champions are recognized for outstanding efforts to protect local waterways. Preparing a boat to be river-worthy involves expenses beyond the boat, motor and trailer purchase, and KTNRB received help on this front, as well.

A Knoxville-based Home Depot (Schaad Road) store donated approximately $2,500 in supplies. This included a truck bed tool box that was welded onto the boat to serve as a dry box, pressure-treated wood that was used to make volunteer benches spanning the 26-foot boat, and a variety of river cleanup tools and safety gear that help the boat to meet U.S. Coast Guard standards.

Premier Watersports of Knoxville saved KTNRB a large sum by donating the labor expenses of installing Yamaha’s motor and tiller arm. They also donated a gas tank (filled with gas), and a boat battery with a water-proof case.

“For a nonprofit with a humble budget like ours is, these covered costs go a long way for us to be able to make an even greater impact on our waterways, and we’re so very grateful to each of our sponsors for making this boat purchase possible,” said Ms. Gibi.

Until now, Ms. Gibi said that KTNRB was in the position of each cleanup relying on their one boat being operational. As their first boat had been through several years of service and as the requests for river cleanups have increased, they realized that a backup boat was essential.

Soon, however, Ms. Gibi said that KTNRB staffing will add two positions that will serve as boat captains at cleanups, among other organizational responsibilities. Currently, Ms. Gibi is the only full-time staff member and sole boat driver for the nonprofit. She said they’re working on securing funding for the new positions now and hope to begin hiring in 2023.

“The momentum we’ve had from the support of volunteers, partners and sponsors over the last few years has been inspiring and overwhelming,” said Ms. Gibi. “It’s our mission to inspire others to take action for this river, and that’s what we’re seeing more and more.”


Some members of the Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful Board and their family members celebrate a drive back on the maiden voyage cleanup with KTNRB's new boat. The cleanup was held on Fort Loudoun Lake of the Tennessee River
Some members of the Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful Board and their family members celebrate a drive back on the maiden voyage cleanup with KTNRB's new boat. The cleanup was held on Fort Loudoun Lake of the Tennessee River

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