MT Raleigh Report: Time To Vote Early & Planning For Our 2021 Agenda

MT Raleigh Report: Time To Vote Early & Planning For Our 2021 Agenda

MT Raleigh Report: Time To Vote Early & Planning For Our 2021 Agenda

Debates, town halls, early voting, campaign ads and voting rights lawsuits – the election season is at its height! So if you don’t have a plan for voting, now is the time to make one. This is a great week to participate in early in-person voting, which allows you to register or update your voter registration and vote at the same time. Remember that you can vote at any early voting site within your county during the early voting period, but must go to your assigned polling location if you vote on Election Day. You can find early voting sites within your county if you live in North Carolina here and if you live in Georgia here. For more information on early voting, visit MountainTrue’s 2020 voter information page. 

While we all wait to see the results of the election, MountainTrue has already started our planning for the 2021 General Assembly. Earlier this month, we convened a half-day planning meeting to develop our first draft of ideas to protect Western North Carolina’s natural resources. We’ll spend the next few weeks refining these ideas, take in the results of the election and then finalize our legislative agenda in November. 

Our goal is to spend December and January talking to legislators – and to members like you – to build support for our 2021 priorities so we can hit the ground running when the legislature begins its 2021 efforts in January. While our to-do list for next year is still being developed, look for proposals to keep our rivers and streams clean, to improve enforcement of water pollution rules and to fund new investments in paddle trails and public access to our most popular rivers and streams. 

Thank you for supporting MountainTrue, and happy voting!


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.

October 2020 E-Newsletter

October 2020 E-Newsletter

October 2020 E-Newsletter

To get this in your inbox, sign up for our email newsletter here.


October 14, 2020

 

If You Can, Vote Early!

Early in-person voting in North Carolina starts tomorrow and lasts until October 31. In Georgia, early voting began on Monday and will last until October 30. No matter where you live, we encourage you to vote early if you can. Here are some other tips to make sure your voting experience goes as smoothly as possible:

  • While the first day of early voting tends to be pretty busy, the first week of early voting should be your best bet to avoid crowds. Try to arrive in the morning if you can.
  • Wear your mask and practice social distancing.
  • If you see anything unusual or have problems voting, immediately report it to election staff on site and call the voter protection hotline: 888-OUR-VOTE (888-687-8683). It’s against the law to intimidate voters or interfere with the voting process.

For more information, visit our 2020 voting page here.

Happy voting!

 

Announcing Our 2020 MountainTrue Award Winners!

We’re honored to be recognizing five critical MountainTrue supporters next week at our Virtual Annual Gathering: Representative Chuck McGrady, Craig Weaver, Joan Parks, Maureen Linneman and Suzanne Hale. Click here to read more about the great work these folks have done on behalf of a healthy environment over the years, and click here to register to attend the Annual Gathering on October 21 and celebrate them in real time. We hope to see you there!

 

Support MountainTrue and Enter to Win a Handcrafted Paddle!


We’re excited to announce a raffle drawing for a handmade, one-of-a-kind wooden paddle crafted by your Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell! The winner will be announced at our Virtual Annual Gathering on October 21. You can get one entry ticket for $10 or three tickets for $20, and all funds raised will support the work and programs of MountainTrue. Enter today for your chance to win one of these beautiful paddles!

 

MountainTrue Members Successfully Defend Solar Projects On Asheville City Schools!

Last Monday, October 5, the Asheville City School Board made a surprise decision to no longer pursue nine solar panel installations on city school properties. The projects in question were among the 40 solar projects approved by the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners this summer, which MountainTrue members advocated fiercely in support of.

Even though it was a long shot, last week we decided to do everything we could to try to save these solar projects and get the school board members to change their minds. Since the County was closing on the financials for all of the solar projects this Monday, October 12, the school board had to make its decision by last Friday – leaving a very short timeframe to reverse the decision. But when we called, you answered, and MountainTrue supporters sent over 250 messages to the school board calling for them to reverse their vote on the solar panels in only two days. As a result, the school board convened an emergency meeting last Friday afternoon and approved eight of the nine solar installations. Thanks to everyone who made this quick turn of events to support solar energy possible!

 

Local Residents Fend Off the Asphalt Plant Proposed for East Flat Rock!

We’re so excited to share the good news that developer SE Asphalt has withdrawn their application to the Henderson County Board of Commissioners requesting rezoning to allow construction of an industrial asphalt plant in East Flat Rock! We are confident that the pressure applied by concerned residents like you raising your voices in opposition to this dangerous proposal is what resulted in this victory for our community. Together we have proven, yet again, that engaged citizens can and do make change for the better in our communities. Huge thanks to the Friends of East Flat Rock and everyone that spoke out in opposition of this project.

 

Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) Biomonitoring Is Underway

Students from Gardner-Webb University’s Animal Physiology class join our macroinvertebrate sampling on the Broad River.

Despite challenges presented by the pandemic, our fall season of Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) biomonitoring is underway. Benthic macroinvertebrates, also known as water bugs, tell us a lot about water quality in our rivers because different species have various levels of tolerance to pollution.

Students from Gardner-Webb University’s Animal Physiology class recently joined Water Quality Administrator Grace Fuchs and Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell on the Broad River in Boiling Springs to sample macroinvertebrates. If you’d like to get involved as a volunteer with this program, reach out to Grace at wqa@mountaintrue.org.

 

Broad Riverkeeper and Appalachian State University Partner to Study Heavy Metal Pollution

For over a decade, fishermen in our region have been concerned about the contamination of game fish in the Broad River due to discharges from industrial operations. To assess the level of contamination, a team of Ecotoxicology students from Appalachian State University have sampled for heavy metal contamination on the Broad over the past few years – revealing that almost all of the fish and water samples taken downstream of industrial polluters have elevated amounts of arsenic, lead, zinc, selenium and chromium.

To continue this research, Appalachian State University’s Ecotoxicology team came down to the Broad River again last month and spent three days taking water, sediment and fish tissue samples on 30 miles of the Broad River. The team has now collected over 120 samples that will be processed and analyzed for the presence of 20 different heavy metals. The results of this study are important to help determine safe fish consumption rates, and to help the Department of Health & Human Services issue fish consumption advisories if needed.

 

Inaugural Union County Environmental Awareness Day Was a Success

Students checked out our Native Tree ID Scavenger Hunt at the first ever Union County Environmental Awareness Day.

Western region staff had a great morning at Meeks Park on the inaugural Union County Environmental Awareness Day! We had visits and meaningful conversations with many Union County residents about water quality, recreational safety, native and invasive plants and MountainTrue’s work. Several people enjoyed a nature walk with Tony on one of the many park trails, and five homeschool students and their teachers participated in the Native Tree ID Scavenger Hunt. We hope to make future celebrations of the environment on this day bigger and better! Mark your calendars now for October 1, 2021!

 

10th Annual Lake Chatuge Shoreline Cleanup Is Happening November 7

Although we’re changing things up a bit to keep people safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Lake Chatuge Shoreline Cleanup will proceed on the first Saturday in November in conjunction with Georgia Rivers Alive! The event will again kick off at the Towns County Swim Beach Pavilion at 9 AM. After signing waivers, volunteers will be assigned to specific areas of the lake to clean up trash, as usual. Bags, gloves, coffee and grab-n-go breakfast snacks will be available, but we ask volunteers not to congregate in the pavilion this year before heading out to their assigned site.

Also new this year, we are encouraging everyone to register in advance by noon on the Friday before the cleanup to make the site assignments easier for event organizers. When registering it is important to verify the number of vehicles as well as the number of people in your group, so that we can assign volunteers to clean up areas with enough parking for them. We ask that participants do not carpool with others outside of their families for this year’s event. As in prior years, volunteers will leave trash piled up near the entrance to the assigned site for pickup by the big truck toward the end of the event.

We will not gather for awards after the cleanup this year; however, your team can still win prizes for your good work! Just be sure to take photos and send them to callie@mountaintrue.org for a chance to win. More details on the categories and prizes will be available at the event. Since we had a light turnout last year due to very cold temperatures, We hope to see lots of registrations coming in for the event this year!

 

Fall Native Tree Sale Ongoing Through November 4

Orders are still being taken for the Native Tree and Shrub Sale through November 4! Choose from 36 species of native trees and shrubs ranging from large shade trees to native ornamental shrubs while supplies last. Descriptions for the various plants indicate that there are good pollinator and wildlife species on the list. All plants are quality nursery stock ranging in size from one to three gallon potted trees.

You must pay for the order at the time you submit it and pick up your plants from our Western Regional Office parking lot in Murphy, NC on Saturday, November 14 between 9AM and 1PM. Why so late? The dormant season is the best time to plant woody trees and shrubs so that they can develop a strong root system before putting energy into flowers, leaves and fruit in the spring.

Place your plant order today!

 

 

2021 Watershed Gala: February 25, 2021

Save the date of February 25, 2021 at 6 PM for the first ever virtual Watershed Gala! Yes, we are disappointed too, but the difficult decision had to be made. The team agreed that too much is still up in the air related to the pandemic to count on being able to gather 200 people for an indoor meal in February. We’re working hard to make sure it’s still going to be fun – and you’ll want to celebrate our Holman Water Quality Stewardship Award winner with us!

We are also planning an online auction fundraiser that will start on February 15 and run through the evening event on February 25. More details will be rolling out soon. In the meantime, please consider what you might be able to donate or recruit for the auction and email callie@mountaintrue.org about your ideas.

 

Update on Pollution from The Ponds Sewage Plant

Water samples in our lab.

After identifying a significant source of pollution stemming from a deteriorating private sewage plant on the Watauga River, our Watauga Riverkeeper program has continued to monitor the area and follow up with the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). “DEQ found multiple sources of regulatory non-compliance such as corroded leaking pipes, inactive overflow alarm systems, and uncontrolled solids buildup,” said High Country Water Quality Administrator Hannah Woodburn. “Overall, the facility shows a serious lack of regular maintenance and a significant threat to water quality on the Watauga River.”

As a result of our diligent sampling, the plant is now receiving fines and notices of violations, and has been required to make repairs to fix their failing infrastructure. Thanks to all our members who make this work possible.

 

High Country Swim Guide Season Wraps Up

The results are in! Our top 3 cleanest sites are Watauga Point, Wilbur Dam and Wildcat Lake. The three sites that failed the most frequently this summer were Boone Greenway, Guy Ford Road, and WR 321 Gorge Access. The sampling season is over for now, but we will start back up in May. Thank you to our wonderful team of volunteers that makes this program possible!

 

Calling All Volunteers For Our Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) Program in the High Country!

We’re starting a Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) program in the High Country! The SMIE program mobilizes volunteers to check our local waterways for the presence of macroinvertebrates (also known as bugs). Since the presence of certain bugs in streams tells us a lot about the health of those waters, this is a useful metric that we plan to collect, analyze and share widely. Within MountainTrue, we will join our Green Riverkeeper, French Broad Riverkeeper and Broad Riverkeeper programs in collecting these samples in October and April. We’ll distribute new data on the High Country’s waters to the Environmental Quality Institute in Asheville, the NC Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Resources, partner organizations and the public.

If you’re willing to get out in a stream on one or two weekends this October, click here for more info!

 


Events Calendar

September 21-November 4: 2020 Fall Native Tree & Shrub Sale
Once again, our Western Regional Office is holding a native tree and shrub sale to raise awareness about the resilient plants that are native to the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains and to raise some funding for our ongoing non-native invasive plant eradication efforts. Orders must be picked up from the parking lot of our Western Regional Office in Murphy.

October 17, 9AM-4PM: Fall Scenic Hike
Join MountainTrue’s Ecologist and Public Lands Director, Bob Gale, for a gorgeous and educational hike on the Pilot Cove Loop Trail through Pisgah National Forest. This hike offers breathtaking views of the fall foliage, and if we’re lucky, we’ll catch glimpses of the monarch butterfly migration.

October 17, 10 AM-5PM: Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) Training
Interested in helping preserve our waterways? Then join us for our Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) training to learn how to safely examine macroinvertebrates in order to determine stream health. The rain date for this training is October 31.

October 18, 1-4PM: Broad River Race Day
Join us for the 2nd annual Broad River Race Day! We welcome folks to race at their own pace and enjoy five miles on the most beautiful stretch of the Broad River. Remember, the hare may not outrun the tortoise!

October 21, 6-7PM: Virtual Annual Member Gathering
For this year’s Annual Member Gathering, we’ll be gathering virtually on Zoom to celebrate recent accomplishments and honor recipients of this year’s MountainTrue awards – such as it is in 2020!

October 28, 12PM-1PM: MountainTrue University: Recycling & Waste Diversion
Tune in for this discussion on municipal recycling and waste diversion programs in WNC with MountainTrue’s Southern Regional Director, Gray Jernigan, and Henderson County Environmental Programs Coordinator, Christine Wittmeier. They will cover what materials can and cannot be recycled, logistical challenges with recycling vendors, local and global markets and more.

November 1, 10AM-2PM: Microplastics Volunteer Program
We’re hosting this training for volunteers who can collect water samples from the river every month going forward that we will test for the presence of microplastics. If you’re willing and able to collect small amounts of river water each month, rain or shine, we would appreciate your help!

November 7, 9-11:30AM: Lake Chatuge Shoreline Cleanup
MountainTrue will host the 11th Annual Lake Chatuge Shoreline Cleanup in conjunction with Georgia Rivers Alive! The event will kick off at the Towns County Swim Beach Pavilion with breakfast and coffee, and volunteer coordinators will lead teams of 5-10 to clean up designated trash sites along the shores of Lake Chatuge. We’ll meet back at the swim beach pavilion at 11:30 for prizes.

November 7, 10AM-2PM: High Country Live Staking Event
Reduce the amount of sediment that flows into our rivers by planting live-stakes along eroding riverbanks with Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill.

November 9, 3-4PM: MountainTrue University: Fish Tissue Sampling Project
For years, students from Appalachian State University and our Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell have taken fish tissue samples in the Broad River to assess the presence of heavy metals in the water. In our latest installment of MountainTrue University, tune in for a discussion between our High Country Water Quality Administrator Hannah Woodburn and our Broad Riverkeeper David about their ongoing studies and efforts to raise awareness for communities affected by heavy metal pollution.

November 10, 12PM-1PM: Building Our City Speaker Series: How Accessory Dwelling Units Can Meet Housing Needs
What is an accessory dwelling? Although many people have never heard the term, the greater Asheville area is speckled with examples of these creative ways to foster aging in place. In partnership with AARP NC, Building Our City is excited to present this virtual tour of accessory dwelling units in our community and teach more about this concept.

November 12, 6-7PM: Virtual Green Drinks with French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson
Virtual Hendersonville Green Drinks welcomes MountainTrue’s very own French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson to discuss the many issues plaguing the French Broad River and what’s being done to combat them. We can and need to do more to make sure we finally meet the goals of the Clean Water Act to provide fishable and swimmable river access to all.


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.

2020 MountainTrue Award Winners

2020 MountainTrue Award Winners

2020 MountainTrue Award Winners

MountainTrue is proud to announce and recognize our 2020 Award Winners! Please join us at our Virtual Annual Gathering on October 21 to honor and celebrate these deserving individuals.

2020 Esther Cunningham Award: Representative Chuck McGrady

MountainTrue presents this award annually in the name of Esther Cunningham, a Macon County resident whose concern for our region’s environment prompted her to found the Western North Carolina Alliance (one of the organizations that merged to become MountainTrue). The award is presented to a MountainTrue member who has demonstrated outstanding community service in conserving our natural resources, and we are beyond honored to recognize a lifetime of service to environmental conservation and protection to this year’s awardee Representative Chuck McGrady.

  • 2010-2020: Served in the NC House of Representatives for the 117th District
  • 2004-2010: Served on the Henderson County Board of Commissioners
  • Served as the national president of the Sierra Club
  • First Executive Director of ECO, the Environmental & Conservation Organization of Henderson County
  • Longtime member and supporter of ECO and then MountainTrue
  • Spearheaded passage of the nationally groundbreaking 2014 coal ash bill that has since resulted in the excavation of every coal ash basin in North Carolina
  • Consistently the strongest Republican voice for funding the state’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund, Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, and Parks and Recreation Trust Fund
  • Led efforts to create DuPont State Recreational Forest and advance state trail legislation
  • Secured renewed funding for the landslide hazard mapping program for Western North Carolina and new funding for hemlock restoration and environmental education

 

Central Region Volunteer of the Year: Maureen Linneman

  • Longtime Steering Team Member for the Creation Care Alliance
  • Leader and Co-Founder of Creation Care Eco-Grief Circles
  • Leads hikes and other experiences for CCA supporters
  • Has raised CCA’s voice at climate protests and rallies
  • Lifelong climate activist

 

 

Southern Region Volunteer of the Year: Suzanne Hale

  • Founder of Creation Care Alliance Leadership Team in Hendersonville
  • Serves on both the Friends of the Oklawaha Greenway and the Hendersonville Green Drinks Steering Committee
  • Supports various MountainTrue and Creation Care Alliance events through promotions, event planning, on site volunteering, and fundraising

 

 

 

High Country Region Volunteer of the Year: Craig Weaver

  • Volunteers supporting clean water through both our VWIN and SwimGuide programs in the High Country
  • Has been actively engaged through advocacy on the Beech Mountain Water Grab Campaign

 

 

Western Region Volunteer of the Year: Joan Parks

  • Connected MountainTrue with the Tuckasegee River Alliance for a meaningful partnership on developing the riverside park in Bryson City
  • Longtime supporter of all MountainTrue’s various programs
  • High engagement point earner for submitting many action alerts, attending multiple events and volunteering

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.

Protect Solar Panels at Asheville City Schools. Call For The School Board To Say Yes To Solar Now.

Protect Solar Panels at Asheville City Schools. Call For The School Board To Say Yes To Solar Now.

 

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.

September 2020 E-Newsletter

September 2020 E-Newsletter

September 2020 E-Newsletter

To get this in your inbox, sign up for our email newsletter here.


September 17, 2020

 

Make Sure Your Vote Counts This Fall


The fate of North Carolina’s environment will be heavily impacted by the General Election, and the pandemic and possible delays in the postal system create unique challenges for voting this year. To make sure your vote is counted, we’re asking you to make sure your voter registration is up to date and to cast your vote as soon as possible.

In North Carolina, October 9 is the deadline to update your registration online or by mail. Make sure you and your friends and family are registered by then. Online voter registration is available and free through the DMV website here, or you can fill out a registration form here to submit by mail or drop off directly at your local Board of Elections office.

Not sure if your registration is current? Check your voter registration status by entering your name in the NC voter lookup tool. You can also register for the first time or update your registration and vote all at once during the Early Voting period from October 15-31.

 

RSVP for MountainTrue’s Virtual Annual Gathering!

For this year’s Annual Member Gathering, we’ll be gathering virtually on Zoom to celebrate recent accomplishments and honor recipients of this year’s MountainTrue awards – such as it is in 2020! While we wish we could all be in person to celebrate, we sincerely hope you will join us for this hour-long program. Following the program, there will be optional small group discussions with fellow members and MountainTrue staff on issues like the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Management Plan, stormwater infrastructure and solar energy. RSVP today to come together!

 

MountainTrue Launches New Web Resource on Racial Equity

Flint residents protest outside of the Michigan State Capital in January 2016. Photo by Shannon Nobles

Like many organizations, MountainTrue is taking a hard look at the role we should play in the national dialogue on race and equity. We’re evaluating our current suite of programs to see where we can create more intersections on issues of environmental justice and where we can better partner with communities of color. And in order to help dismantle the existing framework of systemic racism, we’re exploring how we can address discrimination outside of the narrow confines of traditional environmental advocacy. We’ll be documenting this work, discussing environmentalism in the context of race, and hosting virtual, small group discussions on a new section of our website. We invite you to check it out at mountaintrue.org/equity

 

MountainTrue Calls For Duke’s 15-Year Energy Plan To Address Climate Change, Protect Low-Income Ratepayers

This month, Duke Energy released its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which presents six scenarios for how Duke Energy may source energy over the next fifteen years. Most of the scenarios lock in decades of coal or gas production, and we believe the plan’s consideration of renewable energy sources creates a false dichotomy between transitioning to renewable energy and protecting ratepayers from rising costs. MountainTrue is part of a statewide coalition calling for the NC Utilities Commission to approve an IRP with these 10 principles for the sake of our climate and communities.

“The wildfires and bright orange skies on the West Coast are a sobering reminder that devastating impacts of climate change are already happening,” says MountainTrue’s Energy Organizer Eliza Stokes. “It is urgent that Duke Energy gets serious about using their power to reach 100% renewable energy in North Carolina in the time frame that climate science requires.” Read more on the Blue Ridge Public Radio website here.

 

Take Action: Call On Congress to Include Stormwater Infrastructure Funding in Stimulus Package

As Congress deliberates on additional economic relief efforts, we are calling on our region’s elected officials to support funding for expanded stormwater infrastructure. In the process, Congress can create new green jobs, protect our rivers and help preserve recreation-based economies all at once.

Our nation’s stormwater and sewer infrastructure is in desperate need of modernization, especially in the face of heavier rain events due to climate change. Join MountainTrue in calling for Congress to triple its annual appropriations for the Clean Water State Revolving Funds and explore additional investments in our nation’s drinking water and sewer infrastructure systems.

Public Comments Win A Stormwater Task Force For Asheville

French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson takes water samples at Nasty Branch in Asheville’s Southside Neighborhood. Photo by Karim Olaechea.

The French Broad River is dirty and only getting dirtier. Due in large part to failing sewer and septic systems that overflow during storms, the French Broad has consistently seen high levels of E. coli – a type of bacteria found in human and animal waste. More than half the sites we tested in the French Broad Watershed last year failed to meet the safe standard for E. coli held by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and this year none of Asheville’s sites met the safety standard on average. The worst results were at Nasty Branch, which receives over half of downtown Asheville’s stormwater and flows through the historically African-American Southside neighborhood before discharging into the French Broad.

To address these problems, we launched a campaign calling on the City of Asheville to join local clean water advocates in setting up a Stormwater Task Force. We called for the task force to analyze where and how the City’s sewer and septic systems were failing and to create an action plan to respond. After over 800 people submitted public comments, the City finally agreed.

“We’ve been moving in the wrong direction on water quality for the French Broad River, and things will only get worse as climate change causes heavier and more frequent storms,” says French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson. “We hope this task force means the City is ready to take this issue seriously.” MountainTrue will work to ensure that the task force comes up with effective recommendations and that the City follows through on them. To learn more about our next steps for clean water advocacy, visit iloverivers.org.

 

One Step Closer to Fending Off the Asphalt Plant Proposed for East Flat Rock!

 

The Henderson County Planning Board met on August 20 to consider SE Asphalt’s rezoning application to build an industrial asphalt plant at the intersection of Spartanburg Highway (US-176) and US-25, across the street from a low-income mobile home park and surrounded by hundreds of single family homes, small farms, and the Green River Game Lands. MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper and hundreds of local residents organized as Friends of East Flat Rock oppose this rezoning and the construction of the new asphalt plant, and in a small victory, the board voted to recommend denial of the rezoning request! The application will be heard next by the Henderson County Commissioners on October 1 at 6:00 PM. Keep speaking out!

 

Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell Identifies Harmful Algal Blooms in Moss Lake

Moss Lake during normal water conditions (left) compared to the algal bloom (right).

While taking water samples this summer, Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell noticed that Moss Lake was very green and cloudy. He conducted additional tests that showed high dissolved oxygen and pH readings, both of which are indicators of an algal bloom.

The following Monday, David received a call from a Moss Lake resident who had noticed many dead fish in the water. David notified the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and they sent a staff member out to take water samples in and above the lake. DEQ sent reports back confirming that it was a harmful algal bloom. In follow-up conversations after these reports came out, David learned that the same resident who reported the dead fish had noticed similar conditions at the lake at least twice since then, and once with a very foul odor.

As algal blooms become more and more common due to rising temperatures and an increase of nutrients in our waters, Riverkeepers across the state believe that more study and analysis of them must be done. We would also like for the residents at Moss Lake to take more of a lead in identifying and reporting possible algal blooms. Residents should contact DEQ immediately if the water turns really green, because the life cycle of these blooms can be really quick – as short as a couple of days. Read more about algal blooms and the incident at Moss Lake here.

 

First Annual Broad River Fishing Tournament Results

Matthew Frazier, the Broad’s Best Angler of 2020!

Thanks for making our first ever Broad River Fishing Tournament such a great success! We’re excited to announce our first-ever Broad River Fishing Tournament! After 10 days of phenomenal fishing and careful deliberation, the results are in:

Broad’s Best Angler 2020: Matthew Frazier wins with a three fish total of 52 inches combined: 19.5″, 16.5″, and 16″, all smallmouth bass!
2nd Place: Fitz McMurry with 50.5 inches combined with three nice smallmouth bass: 17.5″, 16.5″, and 16.5″!
Biggest Bass: Matthew Frazier: 19.5″ smallmouth bass.
Biggest Panfish and Biggest Catfish: David Caldwell with a 7″ Spotted Sunfish and 11″ Bull Catfish. Can’t beat the Riverkeeper!
Most Unusual Fish: Ladonna Dedmond with a very nice 16″ largemouth bass with a distinctive black stripe.

Well done and congratulations to this year’s expert anglers! Let’s do it again next year!

 

Update on Pollution from Tryon International Equestrian Center

You might recall that this summer, MountainTrue reported severe and illegal sediment pollution flowing from the Tryon International Equestrian Center into White Oak Creek, a tributary of the Green River. On September 2, we followed up by meeting with the President of the equestrian center to discuss their past and ongoing impacts on water quality and measures that need to be implemented to protect clean water. We will also be following up with a site visit at the facility to inspect and assess the existing stormwater management system, discuss necessary improvements and remediation needs and solidify commitments to protect water quality moving forward.

We will continue to hold this polluter and all polluters accountable, and we thank all of our supporters and community members that report pollution issues to us.

 

Sediment Pollution from Poultry Operation in Broad River Watershed Results in Enforcement Action

A concerned resident shows the depth of sediment accumulation from poultry farm construction.

This summer, a concerned resident noticed heavy sediment pollution flowing into a small stream that usually runs clear downstream of the construction site for a new poultry facility in the Broad River Watershed. The resident contacted our Broad Riverkeeper David, who reported the issue to the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ). NCDEQ visited the site and issued a Notice of Violation, requiring the company to:

  • Immediately stabilize the site and install proper erosion control measures
  • Explain why adequate sediment and erosion controls were not installed to protect surface waters
  • Explain why culvert installation and stream bank stabilization impacts occurred without prior authorization with 401 WQC and 404 permit
  • Remove all fill material and restore the stream to pre-existing conditions

This is what happens when polluters are held accountable, and why it’s so important for the public to notice and report pollution. If you see something, say something!

 

Welcome Back Grace Fuchs as AmeriCorps Water Quality Administrator!


We are so pleased to welcome back Grace Fuchs for a second term as AmeriCorps Water Quality Administrator in our Southern Regional Office! Grace did a great job organizing volunteers for our water quality monitoring programs and educating youth about water quality issues, and her perspective has been a huge asset to our team as we’ve adapted our programs over the course of the year. We’re so excited to see what Grace will bring to her second year of service!

 

Fourth Annual Native Tree and Shrub Sale

MountainTrue’s western regional office is holding our 4th Annual Native Tree and Shrub Sale! Choose from 36 species of native trees and shrubs ranging from large shade trees to native ornamental shrubs. Descriptions for the various plants indicate that there are good pollinator and wildlife species on the list. All plants are quality nursery stock ranging in size from one to three gallon potted trees.

Orders are being accepted now through November 4. You must pay for the order at the time you submit it to secure your species and size of choice. Then make plans to pick up your plants from the MountainTrue office parking lot in Murphy, NC on Saturday, November 14 between 9AM and 1PM. Why so late? The dormant season is the best time to plant woody trees and shrubs so that they can develop a strong root system before putting energy into flowers, leaves and fruit in the spring.

Place your plant order today!

 

Conservation of Chestnut Mountain Leads to Plans for a New Park in Haywood County


The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) recently acquired 448 acres of land at Chestnut Mountain in Haywood County that will eventually be turned over to the Town of Canton to manage as a nature park. MountainTrue has served on an advisory committee of community members to help guide this process, including public input. The property, located just a mile east of Canton’s border, features sources of clean water and forested habitat in an important wildlife corridor. One day, this land may also offer an important recreation destination along the proposed Hellbender Regional Trail. Equinox environmental design firm is leading a public input process to help identify the best uses and highest outdoor recreational needs for the area.

 

New Partnership for the Return of Native Plants to Bryson City’s Island Park

The interior of Island Park is covered with a wide variety of nonnative invasive plants, including kudzu.

MountainTrue has recently formed a partnership with the Tuckasegee River Alliance to implement a river park along the Tuckasegee River in Bryson City. Our role is to guide the removal of non-native invasive plants that are covering Island Park and dominating the riparian area along the river downtown, and to return native plant species to these same areas. Our Western Region Program Coordinator Tony Ward is currently developing a phased implementation plan for this work. Then, later this fall and winter, the Alliance and MountainTrue will jointly host volunteer workdays to start tackling the plant removal and planting. Stay tuned for upcoming dates for work days.

Note: Island Park is currently closed to the public until flood damage repairs and debris removal can be completed.

 


Events Calendar

September 14-20: 33rd Annual Big Sweep
The 33rd annual Big Sweep cleanup has gone virtual and is running until September 20 at 8PM. To participate, pick up trash along your local waterway or neighborhood, and post photos of the trash you collect with the hashtag #WNCBigSweep2020.

September 17, 6 PM: Creation Care Alliance Gathering
All congregations, individuals and clergy are invited to join this virtual gathering to connect with one another, discuss Creation Care concepts  in regionally-based small groups and learn from Asheville Design Center Director Chris Joyell of the Asheville Design Center about urban development, economics and racism.

September 20, 12-6PM: Sarah Sweep
All are welcome to join us to clean up this lovely section of the First Broad River that Sarah Spencer held dear to her heart. Due to COVID-19, you must provide your own shuttle this year.

September 23, 12-1PM: MountainTrue University: Faith, Ecology & Race
Join us for a conversation between Reverend Tami Forte Logan, Missioner of Faith 4 Justice Asheville, and Reverend Scott Hardin-Nieri, Director of the Creation Care Alliance. They will explore how each of their programs addresses faith, ecology and race, as well as how their efforts promote justice in our community.

September 26, 9AM-12PM: E-bike Tour of Downtown Asheville
Ride along on our electric bike tour of Asheville led by Chris Joyell, Director of MountainTrue’s Asheville Design Center. As we pass through downtown, the Southside and the River Arts District, Chris will share his extensive knowledge about Asheville’s urban core, including stories of how redlining has shaped our city and the highlights (and lowlights) of Asheville’s bike infrastructure.

September 27, 8-11:30PM: Moonlight Paddle on the Broad River
Join our Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell for a moonlight paddle on a flat water section of the Broad River. As we go, David will talk about the history of the Broad River and his work to protect it. We will start from and return to the same point to avoid the need for shuttling vehicles as a precaution against COVID-19.

Sundays October 4-25, 6:30-8PM: “This Changes Everything” Documentary Study
Land of the Sky United Church of Christ and the Creation Care Alliance are hosting a four-week movie discussion group. We will create community, watch portions of the film and explore connections across economics, climate change, racism and our spiritual lives.

October 8, 6-7PM: Virtual Green Drinks with Danny Bernstein
Virtual Hendersonville Green Drinks welcomes author Danny Bernstein to discuss her newest book DuPont Forest, A History. DuPont Forest protects thousands of acres of trees, five lakes and more than 100 miles of multi-use trails. Danny will discuss how it took the generosity of a multinational company, Southern Appalachian grit and local activism to make these benefits available to all.

October 17, 9AM-4PM: Fall Scenic Hike
Join MountainTrue’s Ecologist and Public Lands Director, Bob Gale, for a gorgeous and educational hike on the Pilot Cove Loop Trail through Pisgah National Forest. This hike offers breathtaking views of the fall foliage, and if we’re lucky, we’ll catch glimpses of the monarch butterfly migration.

October 21, 6-7PM: Virtual Annual Member Gathering
For this year’s Annual Member Gathering, we’ll be gathering virtually on Zoom to celebrate recent accomplishments and honor recipients of this year’s MountainTrue awards – such as it is in 2020!

November 1, 10AM-4PM: Whiterock Mountain Hike
Join us for a hike on the Bartram Trail, one of North Carolina’s premier long distance trails. We’ll tackle a 4.6-mile lightly-trafficked section near Highlands that provides spectacular views into the Tessentee Valley of Macon County. On this stretch we’ll summit Jones Knob and Whiterock Mountain.

November 7, 9-11:30AM: Lake Chatuge Shoreline Cleanup
MountainTrue will host the 11th Annual Lake Chatuge Shoreline Cleanup in conjunction with Georgia Rivers Alive! The event will kick off at the Towns County Swim Beach Pavilion with breakfast and coffee, and volunteer coordinators will lead teams of 5-10 to clean up designated trash sites along the shores of Lake Chatuge. We’ll meet back at the swim beach pavilion at 11:30 for prizes.

November 7, 10AM-November 8, 5PM: Overnight Paddle on the Broad River
Join us for an overnight paddle exploring the Broad River as it winds through the foothills of the Blue Ridge. We’ll spend two days on the river and camp for one night on the Broad River Greenway.


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.

You’re Invited to MountainTrue’s Annual Gathering on October 21!

You’re Invited to MountainTrue’s Annual Gathering on October 21!

You’re Invited to MountainTrue’s Annual Gathering on October 21!

Join us online – we still want to see you, even if it’s only your head, neck and shoulders!

Each year, MountainTrue hosts a gathering of our members to recognize and honor outstanding volunteers, vote on new board members, and reflect on a year of hard work and – hopefully – some big wins! This October 21st, while we cannot gather in person, we hope you’ll join us online to celebrate another year of protecting the places we share.

With Each Other Even If We Can’t Hug Each Other:
MountainTrue’s 2020 Virtual Annual Gathering
October 21, 6-7 pm 
RSVP through the form below to get the link to join.

If you are having any trouble accessing the meeting, please contact Adam Bowers at 828-680-0738 or at adam@mountaintrue.org

Check here to confirm that your membership is current, and if you are not a member you can join or renew when you RSVP using the form below! 


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.

MT Raleigh Report: General Assembly Convenes For Two-Day Session & Preparing To Vote

MT Raleigh Report: General Assembly Convenes For Two-Day Session & Preparing To Vote

MT Raleigh Report: General Assembly Convenes For Two-Day Session & Preparing To Vote

Sep. 1, 2020

Members of the General Assembly return to Raleigh tomorrow for yet another short – very short – two-day session. While Governor Cooper released an ambitious package of budget priorities including pandemic response proposals and bond measures last week, lawmakers are not expected to take up much of those plans. Instead, look for the legislature to focus on a more limited expenditure of some portion of the state’s still-unspent federal COVID-19 relief funds, including a bump in unemployment benefits and new investments in rural broadband to support the rise of online schooling.

For our part, MountainTrue has joined a coalition of environmental and economic justice organizations in calling for lawmakers and Governor Cooper to support substantial new assistance for North Carolinians facing utility shutoffs as a result of the pandemic. The Governor recently announced $175 million in funding “to support rental and utility payments and prevent evictions for those with a demonstrated need.” Unfortunately, more than one million North Carolina residential utility accounts now owe ​at least $226 million in unpaid utility bills as of July 31st – far exceeding the portion of the $175 million that is likely to be allocated specifically for utility bill assistance. Without additional assistance, thousands of North Carolinians will lose access to clean water and electricity as the weather grows colder.

With the election just around the corner, the General Assembly will likely complete its work this week and adjourn, officially ending its 2019-2020 term. But that doesn’t mean lawmakers are necessarily done for the year. There is already speculation that if Congress approves additional pandemic-related legislation this fall, Governor Cooper will call the General Assembly back into session before the new year. If Congress does not act, a return to Raleigh may also be required to appropriate the remainder of the state’s federal aid. Under current rules, North Carolina must spend all federal COVID-19 relief funding by the end of December or return it to the federal government.

Vote For The Environment & Voter Registration Information

The fate of environmental issues in North Carolina will be heavily impacted by the upcoming election. As such, we highly encourage all of our supporters to register to vote, create a voting plan and research the environmental positions of the candidates on your sample ballot as soon as possible.

The deadline to update your voter registration online or by mail is October 9. Online voter registration is now available and free through the NC Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) here. You can also download a registration form for yourself or a near relative here to fill out and mail to your local Board of Elections, or pick up a form directly from your local Board of Elections office. Or, you can register to vote and vote at the same time if you vote in person during Early Voting, which will occur between October 15 and October 31.

If you’re registered or unsure if your registration is current, you can check your voter registration status, find your polling place and see your sample ballot using the NC voter lookup tool here.

As always, thank you for your support of our work in Raleigh to stand up for Western North Carolina’s environment. Stay tuned for more updates from us on activities in the legislature in the coming months.


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.

Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell Identifies Harmful Algal Bloom in Moss Lake

Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell Identifies Harmful Algal Bloom in Moss Lake

Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell Identifies Harmful Algal Bloom in Moss Lake

We don’t know if the algal blooms are recurring, but there was a confirmed harmful algal bloom in Moss Lake earlier this summer.


Your Broad Riverkeeper, David Caldwell, goes out each week to test recreational waters in the Broad River Watershed for bacterial pollution. While sampling at Moss Lake on June 3, David noticed that the water was very green and cloudy, so he also tested the water with a YSI meter that measures temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, pH and turbidity (a measure of cloudiness).  “I got really high dissolved oxygen and pH readings, so I did some research and found that this could be an indicator of an algal bloom.”

Pictured: Moss Lake during the algal bloom (left) compared to normal water conditions (right).


Algal blooms, which form due to an excess of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, can release toxins that are linked to human illnesses and have even been shown to cause death in livestock and dogs.

The following Monday, David received a call from a Moss Lake resident who had noticed many dead fish in the water. David notified the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and they sent a staff member out on June 10 to take water samples in and above the lake. The report came back confirming an algal bloom, and it was named a Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) because of the presence of cyanobacteria that “may produce cyanotoxins.” A second report confirmed the presence of a cyanotoxin called microcystins, which can cause illness in humans and animals that come into contact with water affected by a bloom. The concentration of the toxin was only 0.4 micrograms per Liter (ug/L) – well under the EPA’s recommended safe level for microcystins of 8 ug/L. Keep in mind, however, that the samples were taken by DEQ seven days after the algae were first noticed, so much of the algae had died off by then. In talking to that same resident after these reports came out, David also learned that he had noticed similar conditions at least twice since then, and once with a very foul odor.  

As algal blooms become more and more common due to rising temperatures and an increase of nutrients in our waters, Riverkeepers across the state believe more study and analysis of algal blooms in Moss Lake and elsewhere must be done. We would like for the residents at Moss Lake to take more of a lead in identifying and reporting possible algal blooms. If the water turns really green, they should contact DEQ immediately. The “life cycle” of algal blooms can be really quick –as short as a couple of days – so quick reporting is important.

Some of the residents around the lake do not want the bad publicity that would come with raising awareness to this potentially dangerous problem. However, if we don’t first acknowledge that there may be a problem, then there will be little effort towards determining the root causes of the issue and improving the water quality in Moss Lake and other water bodies. “I would ask the Moss Lake area residents this,” David says. “What do you want your lake to look like in 10 to 20 years?  What will you do to help realize that vision?”

 

To learn more about algal blooms, visit the NCDEQ page here or the FAQ page from the NC Division of Water Resources here.


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.

August E-Newsletter

August E-Newsletter

August E-Newsletter

To get this in your inbox, sign up for our email newsletter here.

 

August 12, 2020

Call For MountainTrue Award Nominations!

MountainTrue staff and board members with our 2018 Volunteer of the Year winner Mike Hopping (center).

Our 2020 Annual Gathering will be held virtually this year on Wednesday, October 21st. Although we can’t gather in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we still look forward to honoring MountainTrue members who are dedicated to protecting the places we share. We encourage you to nominate worthy individuals for one of our annual awards. Complete this form to submit a nomination by August 25.

 

Creation Care Alliance Conducts Eco-Grief Circle Pilot Project

This summer MountainTrue’s Creation Care Alliance (CCA) program held its first Eco-Grief Circle, a pilot project resulting from a growing awareness that many members of the CCA community struggle with significant anxiety and other challenges due to the climate crisis. After hearing story after story of these (and other) kinds of grief, people within the Creation Care Alliance network – two counselors, two pastors and a chaplain – developed this six-week experience to support community members and allow a space to honestly discuss grief and suffering amidst the ecological and social challenges of our time. To learn more about the pilot program, read this blog post by CCA’s Director Scott Hardin-Nieri here.

CCA is launching two more Eco-Grief Circles in mid-September, and is currently finalizing the curriculum and receiving inquiries from a variety of interested people and faith communities. We will have limited space available in these initial classes, but let us know if you are interested in participating in the future by emailing scott@creationcarealliance.org.

 

Equity Reading: People of Color and Low-Income Communities More Likely to Live in Less Nature-Rich Areas

In this article, Alejandra Borunda explores the new data revealing that people of color and low-income people are disproportionately likely to live in neighborhoods with less access to natural spaces, resulting in physical and mental health disparities. She also looks at historical factors that have led to this inequity and talks with Luis Villa, the Executive Director of Latinos Outdoors.

“Nature: It’s not just a nice-to-have amenity,” [Villa] says. “It’s a vital aspect of creating a healthy community. If we want to deal with, to reckon with systemic racism and the health disparities that come from that, well, nature, broadly defined, has to be a part of that.” Read more.

 

ICYMI – Raleigh Report Live: End of Session Edition

Get the skinny on how our legislators are protecting our environment (or not), featuring MountainTrue Lobbyist Rob Lamme, Co-Director Julie Mayfield and Southern Regional Director Gray Jernigan. Watch the video here.

 

Green Riverkeeper Co-Authors Op-Ed In Support Of NC E. coli Standard

North Carolina is one of only seven states to still use fecal coliform to measure bacteria pollution. In this column, MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper Gray Jernigan and the Waterkeeper Alliance’s Will Hendrick make the case that it’s time for North Carolina to get in line with the best available science and EPA guidelines by adopting E. coli as our new state standard. Read more.

 

MountainTrue Helps Lead Effort To Protect Electric Co-op Customers From Utility Shutoffs

The Governor’s moratorium on utility shutoffs for North Carolina customers came to an end on July 30, meaning that shutoffs for customers who can’t afford to pay their utility debts can begin as soon as September. Also on July 30, the North Carolina Utilities Commission ordered an extension of the shutoff moratorium and a requirement for a 12-month payback plan for customers with utility debt, but this only applies to the customers of regulated utilities like Duke Energy. Electric co-op customers, who disproportionately live in rural counties with high poverty rates in WNC, are left out of these protections.

MountainTrue is an advocate for equitable and affordable access to energy. For communities to be healthy, all people must have access to electricity and water – especially in the heat of summer, and when the pandemic requires frequent handwashing to keep us all safe. That’s why we are working to make sure electric co-op customers have access to the same debt payment options as customers of regulated utilities like Duke. We have already stepped in to report a co-op with an illegal utility shutoff policy, which had originally planned to begin shutoffs on August 4. Our outreach has successfully changed this policy and put it in line with the Governor’s order.

If you are a member of an electric co-op and facing the threat of your utilities being turned off, please feel free to reach out to us for the latest on this advocacy by contacting MountainTrue’s Energy Organizer Eliza Stokes at eliza@mountaintrue.org.

 

Make Your Voice Heard on Long-Term Transportation Planning in Our Region

This month there are two major opportunities to make your voice heard on the future of transportation in our region: The Hellbender Regional Trail and French Broad River MTP 2045 Plan.

Do you want to see widespread, interconnected trails in Western North Carolina? That’s what’s on deck with the Hellbender Regional Trail, a collaborative plan to connect the various local bike, pedestrian and greenway plans of different counties to create an expansive trail network spanning Haywood, Henderson, Madison, Buncombe and Transylvania Counties. The draft map of the Hellbender Regional Trail is now available here, and public comments on it will be accepted until August 21. Email mpo@landofsky.org to make your public comment.

The MTP 2045 Plan is open for public comments on community priorities to determine what types of transportation projects will be funded in our region over the next 25 years. Funding for different transportation projects will be justified based on the community priorities with the most comments, so it’s important to make your comment on what you want the future of getting around our region to look like. Speak up for sustainable, equitable transportation options like public transit, electric vehicle infrastructure, bike and pedestrian access and more here by August 31. The draft version of the plan is available here, and there will be a virtual presentation and Q&A about it on August 18. You can also mail mpo@landofsky.org with any additional comments.

 


Central Regional News

For Buncombe, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell and Yancey counties

Action Alert: Call On Asheville City Council To Do Their Part To Clean Up The French Broad River

None of our bacteria monitoring sites in the City of Asheville have passed the EPA’s safe limit for E. Coli on average this summer.

The French Broad River is dirty and only getting worse. In 2019, more than half of the sites that we tested (53%) failed to meet the EPA’s E. coli standard for safe recreation. This year the results are even worse, with 69% of sites failing. Of the sites within Asheville, none pass the EPA’s safe limit on average. Our testing site with the worst average results is Nasty Branch, which receives over half of downtown Asheville’s stormwater and flows through the historically African-American Southside neighborhood before discharging into the French Broad River in the River Arts District. Tell Asheville City Council that it’s time to do their part to clean up the French Broad River. Take Action.

 

Buncombe County Approves 47 New Solar Projects

This past month had great news for solar energy in Buncombe County, with 47 new public solar projects approved! On July 21, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved 40 new solar panel installations at county government-owned buildings, Asheville City and Buncombe County Public Schools and A-B Tech Community College. Then on July 28, City Council approved seven new solar sites for city properties. These efforts amount to the single largest public sector solar effort in all of North Carolina.

The panels will be installed by MB Haynes, an employee-owned company based in Buncombe County, and will create about 7 MW of new solar energy – the equivalent of powering approximately 800 homes entirely with solar energy each year. They are also set to save County and City governments a significant amount of money each year by reducing energy costs.

These proposals were approved due to overwhelming public input support before the final votes, as well as when the projects were announced last fall. Thank you to all of our supporters who made their voices heard to help achieve this outcome! We’re excited to build on this momentum to create even more public solar projects in our community. Read more about this victory for solar and the related cost savings here.

 


High Country Regional News

For Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Watauga and Wilkes counties

Water Quality Administrator Hannah Woodburn Identifies Major Source of Pollution into the Watauga River

Thanks to the diligent investigation of our Water Quality Administrator Hannah Woodburn, we were finally able to track the source of pollution for a long failing Swim Guide site. The source was an out-of-compliance Wastewater Treatment plant illegally discharging 20 times the EPA limit. The Health Department and NCDEQ have been notified, and we are awaiting enforcement.

 


Southern Regional News

For Cleveland, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties

 

MountainTrue Pollution Tip Leads to Enforcement Action Against Tryon International Equestrian Center

Our Green Riverkeeper recently responded to a resident complaint of more muddy runoff of sediment from the Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC). The illegal discharge was flowing into White Oak Creek, a tributary of the Green River in Polk County, and was reported to NC Department of Environmental Quality for investigation. We are now working to get a meeting with the President of the Equestrian Center to discuss their past and ongoing impacts on water quality, and measures that need to be implemented to protect clean water. We will continue to hold this egregious polluter accountable, and thank all of our supporters that report pollution issues to us. We couldn’t do it without you! Read more.

 

Lake Adger Public Access Dredging Project Moving Forward

After years of advocacy around this effort, NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) has submitted a permit application to the US Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the public access channel at Lake Adger. This project is necessary because the public access channel has become nearly impassible to boat traffic due to the accumulating sediment delta. NCWRC proposes to use the dredge spoils to construct engineered wetlands on the existing sediment delta – a delta that has been forming since 1925, when the Green River was dammed to create Lake Adger.

MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper has advocated for and supports this important project to protect public access to Lake Adger. Thanks to all of our supporters who submitted public comments to make this project as successful as possible and ensure that water quality is protected during and after the project.

 

Stand Up Against the Asphalt Plant Proposed for East Flat Rock!

SE Asphalt wants to build an industrial asphalt plant at the intersection of Spartanburg Highway (US-176) and US-25, across the street from a low-income mobile home park and surrounded by hundreds of single family homes, small farms and the Green River Game Lands. The site drains directly to Laurel Creek, which flows into the Green River. The developer has applied for conditional rezoning for 6.5 acres to a conditional district to construct the new asphalt plant.

MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper and hundreds of local residents have organized as Friends of East Flat Rock oppose this rezoning and the construction of the new asphalt plant. The application will be heard by the Henderson County Planning Board on August 20 before going to the County Commissioners. Take action!

 

Take Part In Our First Broad River Fishing Tournament

We’re excited to announce our first-ever Broad River Fishing Tournament! While we had planned earlier this year to host a single-day and in-person event, due to the pandemic we are shifting the structure to a 10-day opportunity to participate in a safe and socially distanced way. Go out on your own (or with your very small and safe group) to your favorite location on the Broad River. You can fish one day or all week long! Register for free.

 


Western Regional News

For Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties in NC, and Towns and Union counties in GA

 

MountainTrue Monitors Butternut Creek, Lake Nottely During Landfill Leachate Treatment

The former Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition – now part of MountainTrue – has been monitoring water quality conditions in Butternut Creek and the Lake Nottely Watershed on a monthly basis since 2001. Staff and volunteers take samples of basic water chemistry parameters to alert us to potential pollution problems that need more detailed follow-up. We also sample E. coli, an indicator of pathogens that present a risk to human health. In the summer, when recreation is at its peak, we increase our testing frequency to weekly for select sites.

Since Butternut Creek flows through a public park and into Lake Nottely, we have several monitoring locations, including above and below the City of Blairsville’s wastewater treatment plant. So far, no negative water quality impacts have been detected related to Blairsville’s controversial decision to start accepting landfill leachate for treatment at the plant.

 

Forest Service’s “Haystack Project” Underway In Nantahala River Headwaters

Last month I joined MountainTrue’s Public Lands Field Biologist, Josh Kelly, in the headwaters of the Nantahala River to look at some timber harvest sites that are part of the US Forest Service’s ongoing “Haystack Project.” We saw no water quality violations at the sites we observed. We are still investigating reports of muddy waters in the Nantahala River above the lake, but have been unable to locate the source. If you have any information about a potential pollution source in this area of Macon County, please email me at callie@mountaintrue.org.

 

Streams Draining Cullowhee Muddying The Whole Tuckasegee River


If you live in Jackson County, we’re not telling you anything you don’t already know, and if you’re a member of the Watershed Association of the Tuckasegee River (WATR), you probably know even more about which streams are the muddiest! MountainTrue is assisting WATR’s Executive Director Ken Brown in trying to get the mud flows stopped! More on this partnership in future newsletters.

 

Save The Date For The Lake Chatuge Shoreline Cleanup On November 7

While we’re still not sure of the actual logistics of this year’s Lake Chatuge Shoreline Cleanup, we plan to hold it in some form or fashion on the first Saturday in November! Georgia Rivers Alive has published guidelines for safely holding cleanups during COVID-19 and will be providing volunteers with neck buffs, which are made of a lightweight material that can also be worn as a face-covering. (We also have quite a few t-shirts leftover from last year’s very cold cleanup event for those who may want to take one home.)

We’ll make some decisions about how to hold this event safely in late September, but for now, please save the date!

 


Events Calendar

August 13, 6-7PM: Virtual Green Drinks with Tony Dunn
Tomorrow’s Green Drinks will feature Tony Dunn, a former US Forest Service Fire Behavior Analyst and a survivor of Camp Fire. Tony will outline how climate change contributed to the Camp Fire and how climate-driven disasters disproportionately impact vulnerable communities and their ability to recover.

August 22, 10AM-12PM: Snorkeling on the Watauga
Take the plunge to explore the unique ecosystems of the Watauga River by snorkeling with us! River snorkeling allows you an unparalleled viewpoint to explore all the nooks and crannies of the Watauga. If we’re lucky, we might even catch a glimpse of a Hellbender.

August 22: Virtual Beer Series Cleanup With Wicked Weed Brewing
Join MountainTrue, the French Broad Riverkeeper, Wicked Weed Brewing and 98.1 The River for another Riverkeeper Beer Series cleanup. Clean up the French Broad River and your local creek, roadway, or neighborhood.

August 28, 8PM-11:30PM: Moonlight Paddle on the Broad River
Join a trip led by our Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell to do some flat water paddling by the light of the moon. As we go, David will share some of the history of the Broad River and his work to protect it.

August 29 – September 7: Broad River Fishing Tournament
We’re excited to announce the first-ever Broad River Fishing Tournament! This is a for-fun and “bragging rights” only tournament, with awards for “Broad’s Best Angler”, biggest catfish, most unusual fish and more. Registration is free and donations support the Broad Riverkeeper program.

September 26, 9AM-12PM: E-bike Tour of Downtown Asheville
Ride along on our electric bike tour of Asheville led by Chris Joyell, Director of the Asheville Design Center.  As we pass through downtown, the Southside and the River Arts District, Chris will share his extensive knowledge about Asheville’s urban core, including stories of how redlining has shaped our city and the highlights (and lowlights) of Asheville’s bike infrastructure.


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.

Press Release: Buncombe County Commissioners Approve 40 Solar Projects for Public Buildings and Schools

Press Release: Buncombe County Commissioners Approve 40 Solar Projects for Public Buildings and Schools

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact:

Eliza Stokes, MountainTrue
E: eliza@mountaintrue.org P: 410-493-7284

July 21, 2020

Asheville, NC At their July 21 meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to greenlight a proposal for 40 new solar panel installations at county-owned buildings, Asheville City and Buncombe County public schools and A-B Tech Community College. Together, the 40 new solar sites will create approximately 6.7 MW of new solar energy each year the equivalent of powering 767 homes entirely with solar energy.

The vote was celebrated by local residents, many of whom submitted public comments to voice their support for the solar projects and had advocated for Buncombe County to pass a resolution for 100% renewable energy in 2017. After that resolution passed, many community members had been frustrated with the lack of concrete progress on this commitment.

“I was thrilled and frankly relieved when I heard that it passed,” said Josh Draper, a rising senior at TC Roberson High School. “Until today our longstanding county resolution, like so many others, was just a vague, distant goal with no practical solution in sight. Now, instead of waiting idly by for the most urgently needed change, we can be productive and set an example for neighboring communities to follow.” 

Buncombe County and the City of Asheville released a joint request for proposals, or rfp, for solar panels at feasible sites on their properties in the fall of 2019. The County and City invited other entities to join the bidding process with the hope of increasing the impact of the rfp on carbon emissions and reducing the overall cost. High school students spoke out in favor of this concept at Buncombe County and Asheville City school board meetings last October, leading both school boards to vote to join the solar exploration. 

“This is the right thing to do for our children’s health and future,” said Beatrice Nathan, Co-Chair of the local chapter of Mom’s Out Front. “I hope the County Commission sees the value in taking steps toward a world with better air quality and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.”

While the City of Asheville was part of the joint solar rfp, it will fund its solar projects separately. As for the County and schools, the 40 projects will be funded by a $10.3 million bond taken out by the County and paid over the course of 15 years. Between the solar rebate from Duke Energy, utility savings and positive cash flow from selling excess solar energy, the solar projects are expected to be revenue positive every single year often by millions of dollars. 

“This shows that solar energy isn’t a luxury item or another headache to add on to a financial downturn,” says Eliza Stokes, renewable energy organizer at MountainTrue. “Instead, solar can be a buoy that helps keep our local economy afloat and creates resilience for the times ahead.” 

The company selected to install the solar panels is MB Haynes, an employee-owned company based in Asheville. Before the vote, several Commissioners spoke to hiring a local company as a key aspect of their support. 

“The idea of doing something bigger, trying to do it together, none of us really knew how it would turn out,” said Chairman Brownie Newman at the Commission meeting. “I really appreciate the schools being willing to go through this process with us, and I think it’s gonna achieve a lot more good for our community…The one challenge I would leave with us is that as exciting as this is, when we look at the need to move to renewable energy we’re still not moving fast enough. This is just the first of many such efforts we’re gonna need to take on to be a leader.” 

Projected Financial Benefits Of 40 Solar Projects (Source: Buncombe County)

Year  Solar Financial Benefit Debt Payments  Cash flow positive? 
1 $   2,623,000 $ 684,000 $   1,939,000
2 $      638,000 $ 951,000 $   1,626,000
3 $      654,000 $ 933,000 $   1,347,000
4 $      670,000 $ 916,000 $   1,101,000
5 $      687,000 $ 898,000 890,000
6 $      704,000 $ 880,000 714,000
7 $      721,000 $ 863,000 572,000
8 $      739,000 $ 845,000 466,000
9 $      757,000 $ 827,000 396,000
10 $      795,000 $ 810,000 381,000
11 $      815,000 $ 792,000 404,000
12 $      835,000 $ 770,000 469,000
13 $      855,000 $ 752,000 572,000
14 $      876,000 $ 735,000 713,000
15 $      898,000 $ 717,000 894,000
16 $      920,450 $           –   $   1,814,450
17 $      943,461 $           –   $   2,757,911
18 $      967,048 $           –   $   3,724,959
19 $      991,224 $           –   $   4,716,183
20 $   1,016,005 $           –   $   5,732,188
21 $   1,041,405 $           –   $   6,773,592
22 $   1,067,440 $           –   $   7,841,032
23 $   1,094,126 $           –   $   8,935,158
24 $   1,121,479 $           –   $ 10,056,637
25 $   1,149,516 $           –   $ 11,206,153
26 $   1,178,254 $           –   $ 12,384,407
27 $   1,207,710 $           –   $ 13,592,117
28 $   1,237,903 $           –   $ 14,830,020
29 $   1,268,850 $           –   $ 16,098,870
30 $   1,300,572 $           –   $ 17,399,442

 

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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.