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So what's your Earth Day plan?

You could be trying to recycle bottles before your neighbor finishes a sip or you make doubly sure to reuse your Styrofoam coffee cup several times over the next few days. Every bit helps, right?

Seriously, the plans in and around town are numerous on this Earth Day, the April 22 celebration of efforts to protect the planet.

One of the coolest may be right along the Tennessee River downtown as the good folks at the Tennessee Aquarium are reinvesting — literally — in the grand resource that means so much to our area.

Around 12:30 today, about 30 Calvin Donaldson Elementary School students, aquarium board members and supporters and local dignitaries will be on hand as the students and others put 65 lake sturgeon into the fresh water.

"We're super excited," Thom Benson, the Tennessee Aquarium vice president and chief communications and marketing officer, said about the renowned downtown facility celebrating its 30th anniversary later this year.

"But we get really excited when we can get involved with students it's exciting to see these kids get excited about science but more importantly, they can make a connection to the watershed," he said.

The lake sturgeon have traveled a long road to get to today's reintroduction to the Tennessee River.

Area biologists and U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents brought the sturgeon eggs from Wisconsin to a Georgia facility where they were hatched and cared for, growing from roughly an inch in length to the 6-to-7-inch size needed to be released.

Of course, sturgeon can reach lengths more than 6 feet and can reach the age of 100 in proper settings.

"As anyone who has been to our River Giants exhibit knows, it's really about these amazing fish," Benson said. "But getting back to a place where these fish are thriving here tells us that the general health of the water is also improving."

Yes, it's been three decades since the aquarium opened and helped redirect the direction of downtown. But it's also a hallmark year for the river too, as it's the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act of 1972.

With cleaner water comes more opportunity to reintroduce species like lake sturgeon that vanished from this area long ago.

"It's really a lesson about an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," Benson said about the efforts to get the sturgeon re-established in the Tennessee Valley. "And that's part of the reason that every time we release fish anywhere in the state we try to get kids involved. It's a chance to learn about the specifics of the fish in particular and why they are important to the ecosystem, and it also shows everyone all it takes to help endangered species to recover."

So Happy Earth Day, whether on land or in the water or in the coffee break room.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6273. Follow him on Twitter @jgreesontfp.

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Jay Greeson
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