MountainTrue Raleigh Report, Issue 21: Hallelujah, That Session Is Over

MountainTrue Raleigh Report, Issue 21: Hallelujah, That Session Is Over

MountainTrue Raleigh Report, Issue 21: Hallelujah, That Session Is Over

Sine die (adverb). Definition: with reference to business or proceedings that have been adjourned with no appointed date for resumption, as in “On Friday, July 2, the North Carolina General Assembly adjourned sine die.”

In this edition of the MountainTrue Raleigh Report – It’s OVER! On Friday, legislators adjourned the short session sine die and headed back home – just in time for the Fourth of July holiday.

Up until the very end of session, there were a number of important bills still up in the air. Some good things happened and some bad things didn’t. Here’s the rundown on the end of session – and our overall take on what The Honorables did and didn’t do this year.

Coal Ash Rests With McCrory


If you remember, Chuck McGrady’s (and others’) coal ash legislation met with the veto stamp earlier this session. A veto override seemed likely, but the Senate stepped in and forged a “compromise” with Governor McCrory.

The new bill eliminates the state’s Coal Ash Commission and requires Duke Energy to provide drinking water either through water lines or filtration systems to residents within a half-mile of the coal ash pits. DEQ will also assess how far contaminants from the coal ash ponds have traveled in groundwater and could be required to take further measures for clean water.

Under the bill, once Duke Energy has provided the water lines or filtration systems to local residents and can certify that it has fixed leaks or problems with dams at a coal ash site, DEQ is required to classify the site as low risk. That designation could allow Duke to cap the site and leave the coal ash in place in unlined basins for the foreseeable future.

MountainTrue and a number of other environmental organizations – as well as Rep. McGrady – opposed this legislation. In our view, this latest coal ash bill guts the criteria the state uses to determine how dangerous the coal ash pits are to surrounding communities.  Unless something changes, the result will be that coal ash pits will continue to pollute our groundwater as well as our rivers and streams.

The bill is now awaiting action by the governor, who seems all but certain to sign it.

Crunching the Budget Numbers

There is plenty of good and bad in the new, $22.34 billion budget. You can read overview stories like this one from WRAL for a sense of the big-ticket items. Here are some provisions of special interest to us:

  • DuPont Recreational Forest receives $3 million in funding for new restroom and parking facilities, as well as a provision that would allow the forest to compete with other parks projects in the annual round of grants from the state’s Parks and Recreational Trust Fund. New staffing positions are also created to help oversee DuPont’s management.

  • The budget restores funding and positions for the Natural Heritage Program, which was reduced by $314,726 in 2015. The revised net appropriation for the program is $764,726.

  • An $8.6M increase for the Clean Water Management Trust Fund is included, bringing the total appropriation for FY16-17 to $22.4 million. That is the single largest appropriation to the CWMTF since 2010.

  • The Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust is increased by $1 million.

  • Funding for the Parks & Recreation Trust Fund was maintained, bringing the total appropriation for FY16-17 to $22.7 million.

  • A provision to repeal stream buffer rules, endangering water and habitat, was largely eliminated, but clean up rules for Jordan and Falls lakes in the Triangle were delayed even further.

Things Left On the Table

The two regulatory reform bills – S303 and H593 – died when session ended. That’s good news for those of us who care about the environment.

Some of the items of concern in these bills included:

  • A prohibition on the state Environmental Management Commission (EMC) and Division of Environmental Quality (DEQ) from enforcing air emissions standards that regulate fuel combustion that “directly or indirectly” provides hot water or heating to a residence, or heating to a business.

  • Requiring the EMC to achieve a 3/5 majority to adopt federal new source performance standards (NSPS), maximum achievable control technology (MACT), or hazardous air pollutant standards; and disallows state enforcement of federal standards until the EMC adopts them.

  • Prohibiting stormwater control measures, exempting landscaping material from stormwater management requirements and amending stream mitigation requirements.

H3, the Omnibus Constitutional Amendments bill, was also left on the table as session ended. The bill proposed three constitutional amendments for the November ballot. The amendments concerned eminent domain; the right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife; and capping the state’s personal income tax at 5.5 percent (the current cap is 10 percent). Look for the cap on income tax to be a major issue during the 2017 session.

Post Mortem

Judging the 2016 legislative session and its impact on the environment does not lead to clear-cut generalizations.

On the plus side, the state budget makes important – and substantial – new investments in open space preservation, both statewide (with a large bump in funding for the Clean Water Management Trust Fund) and in western North Carolina (DuPont State Forest).

On the downside, the budget also includes rollbacks on clean water provisions for two of the state’s largest drinking water sources – Jordan and Falls lakes. Here again, however, things could have been much worse, as the original language in the Senate budget would have repealed protections in a number of other river basins. Thankfully, those protections were left in place.

Lawmakers also get high marks (of a sort) for what they didn’t do. A political meltdown that occurred at the end of session meant that two regulatory “reform” bills died when the Senate abruptly ended the session before they could be approved – taking a number of bad policies down at the same time.

Still, it’s hard to give the legislature good grades on anything in light of what it did on coal ash. The revised legislation seriously weakens the protections approved just two years ago.  Perhaps most appalling, the new law allows DEQ to reclassify coal pits all over North Carolina and likely allows Duke Energy to leave the coal ash in place – in unlined pits – instead of moving it to safer, lined facilities.

Overall, we have to give the legislature low to middling grades – at best – this year when it comes to protecting our water, our air and our open space.

That’s probably enough about the General Assembly for now. In future updates, we’ll let you know about some upcoming meetings with legislators we are planning in WNC. And we’ll have news about our plans for the 2017 legislature, which begins in January.  In the meantime, enjoy the summer and the knowledge that the legislature is out of session and can’t do any more damage for the rest of the year.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

The Gospel in the Ecological Crisis

The Gospel in the Ecological Crisis

Creation Care Alliance Attends The Gospel In The Ecological Crisis

By Scott Hardin-Nieri, Director of the Creation Care Alliance

From the California drought to Missouri floods to our changing growing seasons, climate change is already affecting people around the world, in our country and here in North Carolina. The deeper ecological crisis that has been impacting vulnerable communities for decades is also coming to greater attention: toxic drinking water, leaking coal-ash pits, collapse of fisheries, soil erosion, oil spills and gas leaks have made headlines and received increasing news coverage.

To help our faith communities address the impacts of climate change and ecological crisis, the Center for Earth Ethics and Union Theological Seminary gathered 35 priests, ministers, preachers, pastors, nuns and evangelists in New York City from June 6-10 for a five-day training. As the Director of the Creation Care Alliance, I was fortunate enough to be invited.

We had a chance to learn from other faith leaders, brainstorm new approaches to addressing these global challenges, and attended presentations from Vice President Al Gore of the Climate Reality Project, Chandra Taylor Smith of the Audubon Society, Jacqui Patterson of the NAACP, Rev. Leo Woodberry and Tim DeChristopher of the Climate Disobedience Center, Rev. Ed Brown of Care of Creation, Shantha Ready Alonso of Creation Justice Ministries, and many others.  

Now that I am back in WNC, I’m looking forward to working through the Creation Care Alliance to put some of this training and into practice, facilitating climate conversations in our local communities. We’ll be bringing this work to a national gathering called the Wild Goose Festival this summer and will continue to accompany people and communities in caring for people and planet.  


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Bad Coal Ash Bill Being Rushed Through Raleigh

Bad Coal Ash Bill Being Rushed Through Raleigh

Bad Coal Ash Bill Being Rushed Through Raleigh

On the evening of Tuesday, June 28 the North Carolina Senate rushed through a rewrite to H630, the state’s coal ash cleanup law. This bad coal ash bill is quickly making its way through the legislature and we expect the House to take it up as soon as today.

Please call your NC Representative Immediately and ask them to NOT CONCUR with the Senate’s version of House Bill 630. 

Official statement by MountainTrue Co-director Julie Mayfield:

“The legislature’s rewrite of the state’s coal ash cleanup law is a betrayal of the people of North Carolina. The General Assembly has abdicated its responsibility to clean up North Carolina’s coal ash and protect us from the ill effects of toxic pollutants.

“HB630 would disband the Coal Ash Management Commission and with it any effective oversight of the Department of Environmental Quality, which has a poor record of protecting our communities and our environment. Worse, this new legislation delays final classification for North Carolina’s coal ash pits and completely guts the criteria the state uses to determine the threat of these pits to our communities. The result will leave coal ash in place to continue polluting groundwater, our rivers and our streams.

“The strength of the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014 (CAMA) was that it used science to guide the coal ash cleanup effort. That science indicated that there are no low priority coal ash sites or low priority communities. Now the legislature wants to scrap the  protections that are based on that science – protections lawmakers themselves have repeatedly touted as ‘the best in the country.’ The legislature’s willingness to weaken laws that protect so many people from such harmful pollution is both bewildering and shameful.”

Read the full text of H630.

H630, as passed by the Senate, would:

  • eliminate the Coal Ash Management Commission and, with it, legislative oversight over the NC Department of Environmental Quality, a deeply politicized agency with a poor track record;
  • eliminate criteria for risk assessment based on a site’s threats to public health, safety, welfare, the environment and natural resources;
  • give Duke two years, until October 15, 2018, to provide clean drinking water to affected households through a water line or filtration device;
  • require that DEQ classify ponds as “low risk” if dams are repaired and public water supply hookups are provided, regardless of whether they continue to pollute ground and surface waters;
  • allow the DEQ to revise and downgrade their classifications of coal ash pits for 18 months, until November 15, 2018;
  • delay closure plans for low and intermediate sites until December 31, 2019; and
  • give DEQ expanded authority to grant variances and extensions to the deadlines above, creating further delay and less accountability for Duke Energy.

The time to act is NOW. Call your representative and tell them that no North Carolina community is a low priority. Tell them to oppose H630.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Public And Scientists Document Diversity Of Bluff Mountain During Bioblitz

Public And Scientists Document Diversity Of Bluff Mountain During Bioblitz

Public And Scientists Document Diversity Of Bluff Mountain During Bioblitz

By Josh Kelly, MountainTrue Public Lands Field Biologist

On June 4 and 5, MountainTrue Staff and 43 volunteers documented the astonishing diversity of Bluff Mountain in Madison County, NC. Bluff Mountain has long been an iconic place to local residents who have hunted and gathered food and medicinal herbs on its slopes for generations. The music festival of the same name was started to celebrate the mountain and protect it from a legislative order in 1994 by former Congressman Charles Taylor that mandated two million board feet of timber be cut from the Mountain.


A coalition of local residents prevailed over Congressman Taylor so that only sustainable timber harvests occurred; much of Bluff Mountain, including several miles of the Appalachian Trail, remains a remote and wild place. The Bluff Mountain Timber Sale resulted in the Catpen Stewardship Project and the construction of two loop trails: The Betty Place Loop and The Bluff Mountain Loop. These trails provided good access to the north side of the mountain for bioblitzers.   

The Bluff Bioblitz included participation by 11 professional biologists from Mars Hill University, UNC-Asheville, Catawba Valley Community College, the National Park Service, the National Forest Service, and MountainTrue. Professional biologists acted as group leaders and were assisted by citizen scientists of all levels of knowledge. The result was a great learning environment and the documentation of over 400 species, including over 270 vascular plants, a dozen mosses and liverworts, more than 30 birds, over 40 lichen, five mammals, six amphibians, and more than 50 invertebrate animals in just two days! Following Saturday’s activities, there was a lively social hosted by Elmer Hall and the Sunnybank Inn, longtime supporters of conservation in Western North Carolina.

The scientific information documented during the Bioblitz is very valuable.  Several populations of rare species were documented, including what is possibly North Carolina’s most extensive population of heart-leaf hedge nettle (Stachys cordata), which is known from just four locations in the state.  The rare brown creeper (Certhia americana), a northern disjunct that requires mature, rich forests with large diameter trees was also documented. Continuing the theme of northern disjuncts, Lichenologist Laura Boggess of Mars Hill University discovered a lichen that has not been recorded south of Canada.  Despite being so dear to local people, who always knew what a rich place the mountain was, there had been only one study of the biological diversity of Bluff Mountain prior to the Bioblitz, and it focused on the Appalachian Trail corridor back in 1993.    

Ecologist Mary Sauls Kelly pointed out that Bluff Mountain is one of the highest peaks in Madison County. “The way it rises up above the French Broad Valley, it’s a lot like a sky island,” said Kelly. Retired Mars Hill University professor Alan Smith said, “These are very nice woods.  Bluff Mountain has a lot in common with other biodiversity hotspots in the Blue Ridge Mountains.”  The bedrock geology of Bluff weathers to form dark and rich soils. Unlike many areas in these mountains, Rhododendron and mountain laurel don’t dominate the hollows, ridges, and slopes of Bluff. Instead, most of the mountain is carpeted with the emerald green of a dense herbaceous layer that puts on a show during the spring wildflower bloom.

The Hot Springs Mountain Club and MountainTrue have proposed Bluff Mountain for backcountry management in the ongoing Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan Revision. National Forests are required to revise their management plans every 10-20 years and the Nanthala-Pisgah has had the same plan since 1994. A backcountry designation would be compatible with the Appalachian Trail and would continue to provide the habitat needed by bear, brown creepers and rare species that call Bluff Mountain home.  Backcountry management for places like Bluff would also prevent a repeat of the conflict seen in the 1990s and allow the Forest Service to increase the pace and scale of restoration on the parts of the Nantahala-Pisgah that need it most.  

While the weather could have been drier–It rained on us on Sunday–, everyone agreed that the Bluff Bioblitz was a success. Pairing participants with various areas of expertise and skill levels ensured that everyone learned a lot and also had a good helping of fun. MountainTrue plans to hold an annual bioblitz as part of its Forest Keeper program, and Bluff Mountain is a great place to for people to learn, make friends, and contribute to the scientific knowledge about one of the little-known jewels of the Blue Ridge.  



Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

French Broad Riverkeeper Father’s Day Clean-up

French Broad Riverkeeper Father’s Day Cleanup: Good Times and a Great Haul, Y’all

We want to thank all the people who came out for our French Broad Riverkeeper Father’s Day Cleanup. It was hot and sunny, and there were a lot of people splashing around and enjoying the river. And because of the hard work of our volunteers they were doing so in a river with less trash and debris floating in it. 

 


Removed from the river that day were: soda bottles, tires, a lot of tires, a porch swing, a washer/dryer unit and more. Good haul, y’all!

We’d also like to thank all the sponsors who made this event special, especially the owner of French Broad Chocolates, Dan and Jael Rattigan and their two wonderful sons Max and Sam, and Ben Meyers, owner of Vortex Donuts who all joined us for the cleanup. Asheville Greenworks helped us with organizing and provided us with extra boats.

Those who participated in the cleanup received a box of French Broad Chocolates’ Bourbon and Beer collection or handmade flavored marshmallows and a coupon for a free scoop of ice cream. They also received a free raffle ticket for a basket that included prizes and gift certificates from MountainTrue, Nantahala Outdoor Outfitters, Vortex Donuts, Green Man Brewery, Burial Beer Co., Catawba Brewing Company and Buxton Hall. It was great to have so many South Slope businesses supporting our efforts and our river.

WLOS had a cameraperson covering the event from our launch point. You can watch the newsreport here: http://wlos.com/news/local/families-give-back-in-fathers-day-river-cleanup

Want to join the French Broad Riverkeeper for their next cleanup? Come out to Westfeldt River Park on Saturday, July 9 and join us for a special clean up sponsored by Blue Ghost Brewing Company and Nantahala Outdoor Center. Get your hands dirty, then join us for a tasting of the July edition of the Riverkeeper Beer Series.

Hope to see you there!


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

June 19: Father’s Day French Broad River Clean-up

June 19: Father’s Day French Broad River Clean-up


June 19: Father’s Day French Broad River Clean-up

French Broad Chocolates, South Slope Businesses, MountainTrue, and Asheville Greenworks Team Up for Our River

Asheville, N.C. — French Broad Chocolates is partnering with MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper and Asheville Greenworks to present a special Father’s Day River clean-up. Fathers, mothers and children are all invited to come out on the water and lend a hand cleaning up the French Broad River. This will be a rewarding day of hard work. Pulling trash from the river helps to maintain the natural ecosystem and aquatic habitats and provides a cleaner environment for our river-users!

Father’s Day River Clean-Up by French Broad Chocolates, MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper and Asheville GreenWorks
Hominy Creek River Park, Asheville
June 19 at 10:30 a.m.
Link to register for the River Clean-up: http://action.mountaintrue.org/page/s/fb-river-clean-up-with-fb-chocolate-lounge-and-asheville-greenworks

Father’s Day French Broad River After-Party by French Broad Chocolates, Catawba Brewing Co. and MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper
Catawba Brewing Co, 32 Banks Avenue, Asheville
June 19 at 4:00 p.m.

As a thank you for all this hard work, participants will receive a goodie bag full of Father’s Day treats from French Broad Chocolates including the seasonal, limited-edition Bourbon & Beer Collection, made with local craft beers and fine spirits. The day’s volunteers will also be invited to join us for pints at an afterparty at Catawba, and will receive a complimentary raffle ticket to win a premium prize package valued at over $300 including products and gift certificates from French Broad Chocolates, Catawba Brewing Co., Buxton Hall, Burial Beer, Vortex Donuts, Green Man Brewery, Nantahala Outdoor Center and MountainTrue. Tia B’s Taco Truck will also be on location.

You don’t need to participate in the cleanup to be part of the fun and help keep the French Broad River clean and beautiful. The public is invited to the afterparty where additional raffle tickets for the South Slope prize package will be for sale and Catawba will be pouring their Astral Booty Beer IPA – proceeds from the sale of each benefit MountainTrue.

Dan Rattigan, co-owner and founder of French Broad Chocolates:
“The French Broad River, our company’s namesake, is a symbol of our relationship to Asheville, and a reminder that we are all connected. I can think of no better way to celebrate Father’s Day than to spend quality time making a positive impact on the river with my wife Jael and our two sons.”

Anna Alsobrook, MountainTrue Assistant French Broad Riverkeeper:
“We all understand how important the French Broad River is to Asheville and our community. We’re thrilled to have partners such as French Broad Chocolates, Catawba Brewing, Buxton Hall BBQ and other South Slope businesses supporting this work and willing to get their hands dirty to help us keep our river clean. Dads, moms, everybody, come out and care for mother earth! We all play a role when it comes protecting the environment.”

This event is a great opportunity to celebrate Father’s Day, make a tangible contribution to Asheville’s most important natural asset, and raise awareness about issues that affect the cleanliness of our French Broad River. The French Broad River is a natural and economic resource for Asheville and the region and is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. It is home to several fish species and a playground for the thousands of people paddle and play on the river every year.

There are limited canoes available, register your spot today: http://action.mountaintrue.org/page/s/fb-river-clean-up-with-fb-chocolate-lounge-and-asheville-greenworks

For more details or questions about this event, contact Anna Alsobrook, Assistant French Broad Riverkeeper at anna@mountaintrue.org  

 

About French Broad Chocolates:
Husband and wife team, Dan and Jael Rattigan lived and worked in the cacao-rich rainforest of Costa Rica for two years. At the restaurant they opened, Bread and Chocolate, they were able to source local chocolate for their handmade desserts, sparking a passion for cacao and all things chocolate. They moved to Asheville, NC in 2006 to pursue their chocolate path and opened French Broad Chocolates in 2007.

What started as a farmers market stand has grown to include a web store (frenchbroadchocolates.com), a dessert restaurant, French Broad Chocolate Lounge, a boutique, Chocolate + Milk (est. 2008), and a Chocolate Factory & Tasting Room (est. 2012), where they import cacao and then roast, winnow, grind, conche and temper it into bean-to-bar chocolate. The chocolate is transformed into their collection of artisan chocolate bars, and is used as an ingredient in their pastries and confections at the Chocolate Lounge.

Restaurant Summary:
French Broad Chocolate Lounge is devoted to creating superb chocolates and pastries, using ingredients thoughtfully sourced for their integrity. All of our chocolates and desserts are made using our own bean-to-bar chocolate, with cacao sourced directly from small farms and cooperatives, and made right down the road in our Chocolate Factory!  Our mission is to channel our love, our creativity and our passion through the gift of chocolate. We want to create a deeper connection with the source of our food, and we want to share it with you.

French Broad Chocolates + Sustainability:
Our commitment to sustainability and our local economy informs everything we do here at French Broad Chocolates. We aim to support “the little guys,” and we find we’ve found that we can obtain the majority of the ingredients we need from farms and producers right in our backyard (keeping dollars circulating locally as well as reducing our carbon footprint). If unable to buy locally (because, hey, we need things like chocolate and sugar!), we buy direct from farmers in other regions whose food standards match our own. In addition to ethical sourcing, we compost all food waste at both our Factory and the Chocolate Lounge and take great care to use as many biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable materials as possible –  even our gorgeous new bar packaging is 100% compostable and printed locally! We installed a 5-panel solar hot water system, including a 97% efficient hot water heater and ship all of our orders in biodegradable packaging, including insulation and ice packs in warm months. We also participate in programs like Bicycle Benefits, which incentivizes both cycling and supporting local businesses.
frenchbroadchocolates.com

About MountainTrue
MountainTrue fosters and empowers communities throughout the region and engages in policy and project advocacy, outreach and education, and on the ground projects. To achieve our goals, MountainTrue focuses on a core set of issues across 23 counties of Western North Carolina: sensible land use, restoring public forests, protecting water quality and promoting clean energy – all of which have a high impact on the environmental health and long-term prosperity of our residents. MountainTrue is the home of the Watauga Riverkeeper, the primary watchdog and spokesperson for the Elk and Watauga Rivers; the French Broad Riverkeeper, the primary protector and defender of the French Broad River watershed; and Broad River Alliance, a Waterkeeper Affiliate working to promote fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters in the Broad River Basin. For more information: mountaintrue.org
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Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

June 9: Hendersonville Green Drinks: Prioritization of Transportation Projects in North Carolina and Our Region

June 9: Hendersonville Green Drinks: Prioritization of Transportation Projects in North Carolina and Our Region

June 9: Hendersonville Green Drinks: Prioritization of Transportation Projects in North Carolina and Our Region

Hendersonville, N.C. — On Thursday, June 9, Hendersonville Green Drinks welcomes featured speakers Lyuba Zuyeva, Director of the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization, and Tristan Winkler, Senior Transportation Planner with the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization, who will discuss how transportation projects go from concept to funded project.

The State of North Carolina uses a data-driven process that is open and transparent, but not always the easiest to understand. Presenters will go through the process the state uses to prioritize projects, what projects are currently being considered, and how the public can get involved.

What: Hendersonville Green Drinks: Prioritization of Transportation Projects in North Carolina and Our Region
Who: Lyuba Zuyeva, Director of the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization, and Tristan Winkler, Senior Transportation Planner with the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Where: Black Bear Coffee Co. 318 N. Main St. Hendersonville, NC
When: Thursday, June 9 networking at 5:30 p.m. , presentation at 6:00 p.m.

About Hendersonville Green Drinks
Hendersonville Green Drinks is presented by MountainTrue and the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. Come to Green Drinks to learn more about current environmental issues, have relevant discussions, and meet with like-minded people. This is a monthly event and everyone is welcome. You don’t have to drink at Green Drinks, just come and listen. Black Bear Coffee offers beer, wine, coffee drinks and sodas. A limited food menu will be available.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

New Smartphone App Makes Anyone a Muddy Water Cop

New Smartphone App Makes Anyone a Muddy Water Cop

New Smartphone App Makes Anyone a Muddy Water Cop

Muddy Water Watch Launches New App; Announces Volunteer Trainings

Asheville, N.C. – Now anyone with a smartphone can help report illegal muddy water runoff and sources of sediment pollution. Muddy Water Watch, a project of MountainTrue, the French Broad Riverkeeper and the North Carolina Waterkeepers, has teamed up with Shiny Creek, an Asheville-based enterprise-class web and mobile application development company, to create a new smartphone app that makes documenting sources of dirty water easier than ever.

The Muddy Water Watch app can be downloaded for free from Apple iTunes or the Google Play stores. Once installed on a smartphone or tablet, a user can easily snap a photo of the pollution source, provide notes and submit a report. The report is geotagged so that it goes to the appropriate authority.

“This is a powerful new tool for tracking and shutting down sources of illegal sediment pollution,” explains Hartwell Carson, MountainTrue’s French Broad Riverkeeper. “Identifying the right group or official to submit a report to has always been the biggest challenge for our Muddy Water Watch volunteers. This app solves that problem, makes the reporting process much easier and allows anyone to alert the proper authorities.”

“We are excited to partner with MountainTrue to deliver a mobile app that can really make a difference for the environment here in Asheville where we work and around the country. Hartwell Carson and the crew at MountainTrue have a great team working to protect the environment and we are glad to be a part of that mission,” says Brett Crossley, President, Shiny Creek.

Sediment is the number one pollution source in the French Broad River Watershed and nationwide. It smothers aquatic life, warms the water, reduces oxygen levels, destroys habitats, and clogs fish gills. Sediment pollution often comes from the runoff from construction sites, stream bank erosion, and runoff from agriculture.

New Muddy Water Watch Trainings Announced

With the launch of the new app, MountainTrue and the Riverkeeper have also announced the first three Muddy Water Watch trainings of the season: June 20 at the Public Library in Marshall, June 28 at Haywood Community College’s Regional High Technology Center in Waynesvill and June 30 at REI in Asheville.

  • June 20 – Marshall Public Library from 4 p.m to 7 p.m.
    11 N. Main Street
    Marshall, NC
  •  June 28 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
    Haywood Community College, Regional High Technology Center 112 Industrial Park Drive – Room 3021
    Waynesville, NC
  • June 30 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
    REI Asheville, 31 Schenck Pkwy, Asheville
    Asheville, NC>> Register for trainings.

Participants will get training on how to identify, document and report sources of sediment pollution. Each training session will also include a site visit to an active construction site.

The French Broad Riverkeeper and Riverkeepers around North Carolina previously held dozens of Muddy Water Watch trainings around the state, training over 150 volunteers and reporting hundreds of sediment runoff from construction sites. This program proved to a great example of how grassroots volunteers can stop our biggest pollution source and clean up our waterways.

“The Muddy Water Watch program is a great way for people to have an immediate impact that benefits our local environment and water quality,” explains Hartwell Carson, MountainTrue French Broad Riverkeeper. “Western North Carolina’s rivers are some of our greatest treasures and economic assets. Both locals and visitors paddle, fish and play in these waters and we need to protect them.”

About Shiny Creek
Shiny Creek designs and builds data-driven cloud-based mobile and web applications for enterprises and nonprofit organizations. Established in 2013, their consulting team includes designers and developers with decades of combined experience taking client ideas from concept to product quickly and efficiently. Shiny Creek has developed applications that range from sports statistics to enterprise data and environmental monitoring. For more information on Shiny Creek, visit www.shinycreek.com.

About MountainTrue
MountainTrue fosters and empowers communities throughout the region and engages in policy and project advocacy, outreach and education, and on the ground projects. To achieve our goals, MountainTrue focuses on a core set of issues across 23 counties of Western North Carolina: sensible land use, restoring public forests, protecting water quality and promoting clean energy – all of which have a high impact on the environmental health and long-term prosperity of our residents. MountainTrue is the home of the Watauga Riverkeeper, the primary watchdog and spokesperson for the Elk and Watauga Rivers; the French Broad Riverkeeper, the primary protector and defender of the French Broad River watershed; and Broad River Alliance, a Waterkeeper Affiliate working to promote fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters in the Broad River Basin. For more information: mountaintrue.org


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

What The Heck Is Going On In Raleigh Re: Coal Ash? Some Answers

What The Heck Is Going On In Raleigh Re: Coal Ash? Some Answers


What The Heck Is Going On In Raleigh Re: Coal Ash? Some Answers

After approving comprehensive coal ash legislation in 2014, a Supreme Court battle in 2015 and an abrupt end to the state’s Coal Ash Commission in 2016, the North Carolina General Assembly took up SB 71 this week to revise the state’s coal ash clean up laws. The bill would reconstitute the state’s Coal Ash Management Commission, extend the timeline for making final classifications of Duke Energy’s coal ash pits and require Duke Energy to provide a permanent drinking water supply for some residents living near coal ash pits.


The Time To Clean Up Coal Ash is Now

Contact your legislators and ask them to reject any changes to the state’s coal ash laws that would allow the current classification recommendations submitted by the DEQ to be revised.

Take Action

The bill’s chief sponsor is Representative Chuck McGrady of Henderson County.

The GOP-controlled House passed SB 71 on Wednesday, May 25 by a vote of 86 to 25 and sent it to the Senate, after speeding the bill through several committees. The Senate could take up the bill as soon as next week. Senate leaders, including Hendersonville Republican Sen. Tom Apodaca, appear to support the legislation but want to fix a largely technical issue with some of the bill’s language.

You can read the current text of SB71 (version 3) here.

Here’s a summary of the major parts of the bill and MountainTrue’s take on each part:

1. Clean Drinking Water. The bill requires Duke Energy to provide a permanent source of clean drinking water to homes where wells are already or will potentially be contaminated by coal ash. Residents whose drinking water is threatened by coal ash contamination will be connected to public water supply, or, where doing so cost is prohibitive, Duke will be required to provide and maintain water filtration systems.

MountainTrue’s Take:
We support the legislature’s efforts to provide a safe, permanent drinking water supply to all residents who are or will be affected by coal ash. (It’s this section of the bill, by the way, that needs fixing in the Senate. An amendment approved during the House debate of the bill inadvertently disqualifies some people from receiving requirement of clean drinking water. Clearly, this mistake must be corrected.) While we support piping in clean water to these residents, requiring Duke Energy to do so does not take the company off the hook for thoroughly cleaning up North Carolina’s coal ash pits; nor should it be used to justify downgrading the risk classification for any coal ash pond.

2. Beneficial Use of Coal Ash. SB 71 requires that Duke Energy find safe, beneficial reuse of 2.5 million tons of coal ash annually, with at least 50 percent coming from existing coal ash pits.

MountainTrue’s Take:
We support a legal requirement that Duke Energy find a safe reuse of coal ash to reduce the amount that must be excavated and stored away from our rivers and drinking water sources. SB 71 specifically and correctly dictates that this coal ash be used to make concrete – a relatively safe application – instead of other less safe products, such as agricultural fertilizer or landscaping infill.

3. Reviving the Coal Ash Commission. The overriding goal of SB 71 is to reconstitute the Coal Ash Management Commission, which was disbanded when the state Supreme Court agreed with Governor McCrory that the commission created under the 2014 legislation violated the state constitution’s separation of powers requirement. In response to the court decision, SB 71 gives the executive branch more oversight of the Coal Ash Management Commission. Under the new bill, the governor would appoint five of the commission’s seven appointees, who would be subject to confirmation by the General Assembly. The previous commission included three members appointed by the Senate, three by the House, and three by the Governor.

MountainTrue’s Take:
MountainTrue supports oversight and review of the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) coal ash cleanup efforts, which have not inspired confidence in the agency’s leadership. The problem is that under SB 71, reconstituting the commission would also provide an opportunity to change DEQ’s recently announced classifications for most coal ash pits in the state. These classifications dictate the level of clean up at each coal ash pit, including whether a pit must be emptied and the coal ash moved offsite or simply capped in place. Many in the legislature believe these classifications are a political stunt by the McCrory administration to appear tough on Duke Energy – and that Duke will find a way around them.  Others believe Duke’s claims that the DEQ classifications will require clean-up efforts that are unnecessarily and prohibitively expensive – and will drive up utility costs for consumers and businesses. We believe these concerns are exaggerated and that, if they prove to be accurate, they can be addressed more narrowly, without revising all of the DEQ classifications.

4. Extended Comment Period. SB 71 reopens the public comment period for the proposed risk classifications for the state’s coal ash ponds until August 1, 2016. Under the proposed bill, DEQ will have until September 1, 2016 to submit new proposed classifications for review by the Coal Ash Management Commission, which is reformed under the legislation. The Commission will have up to 240 days to make a final classification.

MountainTrue’s Take:

We strongly oppose unnecessary delays to the approval of the risk classifications for the state’s coal ash ponds. Under SB 71, final decisions about classifications might not occur until March 2017. That is an unacceptable delay. Duke Energy and the state have been collecting data on coal ash lagoons for years. Earlier this month, DEQ issued its recommended classifications, as required by the 2014 Coal Ash Management Act. The Governor, DEQ and the legislature should accept these classifications. If there is concern about Duke’s ability to meet statutory deadlines for excavation, those concerns can and should be addressed without revising the 2014 legislation altogether.


Bottom Line:

We understand and agree with the motivations of Representative McGrady and other legislators who support this bill, and their desire to help the people of North Carolina who are most directly impacted by coal ash pollution. However, we believe that risks of SB 71 outweigh its benefits. We are concerned that in the process of revising the state’s coal ash laws, the legislature may provide an avenue for the reclassification of many of Duke Energy’s coal ash pits and substantially decrease the quality of their clean up, including the number that are required to be excavated rather than simply capped in place.  If there is concern about Duke’s ability to meet statutory deadlines for excavation or other requirements of the Act, those concerns can and should be addressed without running the risk of revising the entire classification process for most of Duke Energy’s coal ash pits.

Making Your Voice Heard

The legislature’s review of SB 71 is ongoing but moving quite quickly. North Carolinians who want to have their voices heard on this important legislation should act now.

We encourage you to contact your legislators and ask them to reject any changes to the state’s coal ash laws that would allow the current classification recommendations submitted by the DEQ to be revised.

Click here to take action.

If you have questions about this issue or MountainTrue’s coal ash work, please contact Joan Walker, Campaigns Director at joan@mountaintrue.org or 828.258.8737 x205.



Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Blitz the Bluff with MountainTrue, June 4 & 5

Blitz the Bluff with MountainTrue, June 4 & 5

BLITZ THE BLUFF WITH MOUNTAINTRUE

Bluff Mountain Bio-Blitz To Inventory Little-Studied But Very Diverse Ecosystem

 

Above photo by Steven McBride

MountainTrue is thrilled to announce the Bluff Mountain Bio-blitz happening this June 4 and 5th in the Pisgah National Forest near Hot Springs, North Carolina. During the Bio-blitz, expert and amateur naturalists will work in teams to document the biological diversity of Bluff Mountain.

“This event is a great opportunity for people to hike in a unique and diverse ecosystem, learn from expert naturalists, and see our native species and habitats first hand,” explains Josh Kelly, MountainTrue Public Lands Field Biologist.

Who: MountainTrue and Hot Springs Mountain Club
What: Bluff Mountain Bio-Blitz nature inventory
Where: Meet at Hot Springs Community Center – 356 US-25, Hot Springs, NC 28743
When: June 4-5, 2016.

 

Be a Bluff Mountain Bio-Blitzer!

Reserve your spots today and take part in this effort to inventory this beautiful jewel of Appalachia.

Register Now!

This event is free and each day bio-blitzers will have the option of taking part in either moderate or strenuous hikes led by expert-level naturalists. Hikers have the option of bringing their own lunch or paying for a packed lunch to be provided by MountainTrue.

Bluff Mountain is a massive peak that rises more than 3,500’ above the French Broad River to a height of over 4,600’. Bluff has many of the conditions associated with some of the most diverse sites in the Blue Ridge: high elevation relief, complex geology with circumneutral conditions, and numerous streams, springs, and seeps. These conditions should provide an ideal habitat for an abundance of rare and common species, yet few biological inventories of Bluff Mountain have occurred.

Bluff Mountain bio-blitzers will endeavor to inventory the biological diversity of Bluff Mountain. MountainTrue will provide maps and resources to help standardize data collection to participants. After the bioblitz, all the data collected will be submitted to the US Forest Service as part of a citizens’ proposal for protective management of Bluff Mountain.

Expert-level naturalists and knowledgeable locals participating include Jamie Harrelson of the Carolina Bird Club (Ornithologist), Bob Gale of MountainTrue (Botanist/Ecologist), Josh Kelly of MountainTrue (Biologist, Botanist) Rob Kelly, Madison County resident (Forester), Mary Kelly of Madison County Forest Watch (Ecologist), Alan Smith (Botanist, Birder, Wildlife Biologist), Scott Pearson of Mars Hill University (Botanist/Ecologist), Keith Langdon, retired from Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Plants, Insects, Snails), Becky Smucker of the Carolina Mountain Club (Bryophytes), and Laura Boggess of Mars Hill University (Plants & Lichen).


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.