Swim Guide Watershed Report: French Broad River

Swim Guide Watershed Report: French Broad River

Swim Guide Watershed Report: French Broad River

In the past year, the French Broad River Watershed experienced a range of highs and lows (we’re talking about bacteria counts, folks!). We’ll start with the good news, including which water testing sites had the lowest bacteria counts across the watershed. Then, we’ll give you the year’s bad news by spotlighting sites with the highest bacteria counts. We’ll conclude with achievable solutions for the future and a call to action so you can continue to help us protect the places we share.

Before we dive into our water quality summary, let’s review important terminology to help us better understand the data our Riverkeepers, volunteers, and Clean Waters teams worked so hard to collect, analyze, and report. Cfu, or colony forming unit, is a data metric scientists use to estimate the number of microbes present per 100 milliliters of a singular water sample. Microbes (also known as microorganisms) include bacteria, algae, and fungi. Like most things, some microbes are good for human health and some aren’t. We test for E. coli bacteria because it’s the best indicator for the presence of microbes that pose threats to human health.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 235 cfu/100mL is the safe standard for primary recreational waters, where people are most likely to engage in recreational activities involving underwater immersion and potential water ingestion.

Good news headline: French Broad Whitewater Sites Experience Applaudable Improvement in 2021

The French Broad in Madison County was cleaner this summer than in past Swim Guide seasons. Whitewater sections at Stackhouse, Hot Springs, and Big Laurel were some of the best testing sites. These sites routinely passed the EPA’s 235 cfu/100mL safe standard, improving from 2020-2021. Another popular whitewater section — the Pigeon River in Hartford, Tennessee — was clean all summer, with most weeks showing an E. coli count of zero.

Most of our testing sites experienced slight improvement this year compared to 2020’s testing results. This is likely due to less rainfall during the Memorial Day to Labor Day sampling season.

Bad news headline: French Broad Besieged by E. coli as Bacteria Battle Babbles on

About Our Swim Guide Program

Swim Guide is an international program used by Riverkeepers and other advocates to provide up-to-date recreational E. coli data for beaches, lakes, and rivers worldwide. E. coli is a bacteria found in the fecal waste of warm-blooded animals, including humans, and indicates contamination in our waterways. E. coli levels increase with rainfall events due to surface runoff and sewer overflow events.

Samples are collected every Wednesday from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Volunteers collect surface water samples in a 100mL sample bottle and drop samples off at the lab, to be processed by MountainTrue staff. Results from samples are measured in MPN, the most probable number of colony-forming units (cfu). The EPA’s limit for recreational water quality is 235 cfu/100mL. The EPA estimates at that concentration, 8 in 1,000 people will contract an illness.

Pass/Fail results are updated every Friday on www.swimguide.org to inform the public about local water quality. We use the data generated from our Swim Guide Program to identify sites for follow-up sampling. We sample in both urban and rural areas. Determining the location and source of E. coli in our waterways is one way we can hold polluters accountable.

The French Broad’s long and sometimes stinky history with E. coli is no secret to watershed locals. Our riverkeepers, volunteers, and Clean Waters Teams kept keen (but not pink!) eyes out for harmful strains of this belligerent bacteria while conducting water quality tests at 40 sites across the French Broad River Watershed.

We added two new testing sites along the French Broad in Transylvania County at Lyons Mountain and Island Ford this year. Unfortunately, both sites’ water quality and bacteria count ranked among the worst. Our testing site in South Asheville’s Shiloh community secured the worst spot with a season average of 3393 cfu/100mL.

Hominy Creek in West Asheville remains an E. coli haven. Through separate DNA sampling, we’ve been able to identify cow and human waste as the top sources of E. coli in Hominy and Mud Creeks. At the same time, sewer overflows also negatively impact the latter. While Mud Creek at Brookside Camp Road experienced slight improvement from 2020 to 2021, it remains one of the worst sites we sample with an average E. coli count of 1535 cfu/100mL.

The week of July 28 proved to be the summer’s worst. Just 23% of the sites passed the EPA’s safe standard with 1283 cfu/100mL as the average value per site.

Future news headline: Staving off the French Broad’s Bacteria Pollution to Save Water Quality

While we saw a slight improvement this year, there’s much work that needs to be done to reduce bacterial pollution in the French Broad River. We’re advocating for additional funding for County Soil and Water Conservation Districts to help farmers implement additional best management practices, like keeping livestock out of waterways and installing stream buffers to mitigate harmful, bacteria-laden runoff. We believe these solutions will significantly improve water quality at Hominy Creek and other agricultural areas, engendering a free-flowing domino effect that will positively impact other French Broad River Watershed sections.

Moving forward, MountainTrue will:

  • Continue to monitor sites of most concern while aiming to pinpoint and eliminate sources of E. coli pollution at our newest testing sites.
  • Leverage our connections with city, county, and state officials while further developing valued relationships with community members to combat threats posed to water quality by animal agriculture, faulty wastewater infrastructure, and septic failures.

Want to learn more about our efforts to bring about clean water for all? Check out our ILoveRivers webpage and join MountainTrue’s dedicated community of volunteers to help us protect the places we share.


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 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

October 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

October 2021 E-Vistas Newsletter

Get our regional E-Vistas Newsletter in your inbox

What Kinds of Events and Outings Do You Want?

As we plan for the fall and winter of 2021-2022, we want to know your comfort level for different types of events at this point in the pandemic. How comfortable are you with indoor events? How about walking tours or workdays that take place outside? Want to go on a guided hike with us? Help inform our future events, fill out our Fall/Winter Event Survey.

‘Energy Solutions’ Bill Sets North Carolina on Path to Carbon Neutrality by 2050

On Wednesday, October 13, Governor Roy Cooper signed a bill called “Energy Solution for North Carolina” or HB 951. We commend Governor Cooper and Senator Berger for coming up with a laudable bipartisan compromise that sets aggressive clean energy goals and maintains the authority of the Utilities Commission to regulate the energy industry. The bill isn’t perfect, but, on balance, we believe HB 951 does far more good than bad. Read our analysis of the bill.

Join Us at One of Our Annual Gatherings

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 accomplishments. Due to the COVID resurgence, we are holding four separate outdoor events — one in each region. We hope you can join us. Find your event and register to attend.

Protecting Ash Trees from the Emerald Ash Borer

MountainTrue’s public lands team is hard at work saving ash trees from emerald ash borer beetle. This summer, we assisted our partners with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in treating 280 ash trees in Macon and Haywood Counties. To date, MountainTrue has helped preserve more than 1,100 ash trees in Buncombe, Haywood, Macon, Madison, Transylvania, and Yancey counties.

MountainTrue Removes Invasive Plants from Rare Natural Communities

Photo by Armin Weise. From left to right: Bob Gale, Owen Carson, Brandon Wheeler, Josh Kelly, Armin Weise

MountainTrue has entered into an agreement with Pisgah National Forest to remove invasive plants from two rare grassland communities associated with rock outcrops. These areas contain dozens of rare species, and this work requires special care and expertise to ensure that we don’t inadvertently harm rare and native plants. Recently, we were able to treat 15 acres of invasives at two sites with the help of expert volunteers from EcoForesters, Equinox Environmental, and Western Carolina University. Want to get your hands dirty and volunteer? If you don’t mind difficult working conditions and breaking a sweat, contact josh@mountaintrue.org.

#BeMntTrue and Help Spread the Love for Nature and Our Region

Raise up your voice, show off your MountainTrue pride, and take part in our #BeMtnTrue Awareness Raiser!

This social media campaign will help MountainTrue reach new people and recruit more supporters and members. Take part in our #BeMtnTrue Awareness Raiser and help us build the movement to protect our communities and the places we share.

Here’s all you have to do:

  1. Get outside and take a selfie, photo, or video of yourself doing your part to protect our communities, cleaning up our rivers and trails, or just getting out to enjoy our beautiful Southern Blue Ridge Mountains.
  2. Then share your photos or videos on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and let the world know why you’re proud of being MountainTrue.
  3. Use the #BeMtnTrue hashtag and tag us in your post!
    Our tags:
    Facebook – @MountainTrue
    Twitter & Instagram – @mtntrue

You can start now by taking photos and videos and sharing them on social media while the weather is beautiful. Beginning on November 22, MountainTrue will share our favorites by reposting them on Facebook, featuring them on our Instagram story highlights, and retweeting them on Twitter.

Thanks for being a part of MountainTrue. Now get out and have some fun!

Prophetic Witness, Environmental Justice and the Mountain Valley Pipeline with Rev. Michael Malcom

Join the Creation Care Alliance on Thursday, October 21, for their monthly all-region Zoom meeting featuring Rev. Michael Malcom, Executive Director of The People’s Justice Council and Alabama Interfaith Power & Light. Named by Grist as one of the “top 50 people who will change the world” in recognition of his environmental work, Rev. Malcolm will discuss his experience protesting against the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) alongside frontline community members and faith leaders. Register today.

Meet Maddy Watson, Our New Communications Associate

MountainTrue is excited to welcome Maddy Watson as our new Communications Associate. Maddy is thrilled to join the team at MountainTrue and to have the chance to pursue her passion for inclusive, equitable, and impactful conservation storytelling and action. A lifelong nature lover and a resident of Western North Carolina since 2015, she is driven to protect the scenic beauty and ancient landscapes of the Southern Blue Ridge for current and future generations of people and wildlife. Maddy likes to spend her free time exploring mountain roads, woodland trails, and antique shops. With two Bachelor of Arts degrees and a Master of Public Affairs degree from Western Carolina University, she’s ready to contribute to meaningful change in the mountain region she loves so dearly.

High Country Regional News

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

Cottages of Boone Continue to Pollute the Watauga River

Our High Country Water Quality Team is vigilantly collecting E. coli samples and working with the Department of Environmental Quality to resolve ongoing water quality violations from The Cottages of Boone, an apartment complex on the outskirts of Boone. The Cottages has consistently violated their discharge permit and proven to be a direct threat to water quality in the High Country. Since May of 2021, the complex has discharged over 75,000 gallons of untreated wastewater into Laurel Fork Creek, which flows into the Watauga River.

MountainTrue has reported multiple wastewater discharge violations to the NC DEQ’s Division of Water Resources. DEQ has followed up and issued notices of violation. Want to help support us in our work? Take action and sign our petition in support of our I Love Rivers action plan.

Battle Non-Native Invasive Plants in the High Country

Join MountainTrue and the High Country Habitat Restoration Coalition for an upcoming workday and help eradicate non-native invasive plants such as Oriental Bittersweet, Multiflora Rose, and Japanese Knotweed that grow along pathways and trails. MountainTrue is a member of the High Country Habitat Restoration Coalition — a coalition of agencies and non-profit partners working to educate the public about the environmental harm caused by non-native invasive plants and perform on-the-ground habitat restoration work in the High Country.

Interested in volunteering? Register for one of these upcoming events:
Oct 21 – 1–3 pm at Green Valley Community Park – 3896 Big Hill Rd, Todd, NC 28684
Oct 28 – 4–6 pm at The Greenway – 335 Hunting Hills Lane, Boone, NC, 28607
Nov 4- 1–3 pm at Valle Crucis Community Park – 2892 Broadstone Rd, Banner Elk, NC 28604

Collect Macroinvertebrates and Help Us Document the Health of our Streams

Do aquatic science with us by participating in the Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) program this fall. Aquatic insects, or macroinvertebrates, are indicators of water quality. By collecting these water critters, we can rate the water quality of our local streams and monitor changes over time based on the families and species of insects collected. If you are interested in volunteering and learning more about aquatic organisms, please email hcwqa@mountaintrue.org.

What Have We Found in the Trash Trout this Month?

Our Trash Trout remains a valuable asset for the High Country. After a week of heavy rains, our team collected over 850 individual pieces of trash. Styrofoam is the most common type of trash found, with plastic bottles coming in second place. As part of our plastics monitoring program, we collect data and record the brands and types of trash polluting our waters. Click here to learn about all the work we are doing with our plastics campaign.

Southern Regional News

For Cleveland, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties

Celebrate at the Southern Region Annual Gathering!

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 accomplishments. We hope you can join us on Tuesday, October 26, from 4:30 to 6 pm at Guidon Brewing Company in Hendersonville to recognize and honor MountainTrue’s 2021 Southern Region Volunteer of the Year: Erica Shanks! We are excited to be gathering in person this year and hope you can connect with us. All attendees are required to be vaccinated. Sign up to register.

Welcome AmeriCorps Water Quality Administrator Mara Chamlee!

We’re excited to have Mara Chamlee joining us as our new AmeriCorps Water Quality Administrator in the Southern Region. She will be conducting water quality programming and educational efforts with volunteers, schools, and the greater community.

Mara is from Greenville, South Carolina, where she learned to love the ecology, landscapes, and people of the Southern Blue Ridge. Mara earned a B.S. in Biology from Furman University and focused her undergrad research on dragonflies as indicator species of water quality. Mara became especially interested in sustainable agriculture in watersheds during her time working with the watershed team at the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute. Since then, she has worked as a farm-to-school educator and food justice advocate in Vermont and Massachusetts.

Mara is finishing up a master’s degree in Conservation Leadership from Colorado State University, focusing on agriculture and watershed management in the Yampa Valley of Northwest Colorado. In her free time, Mara loves spending time outside, especially biking, backpacking, and gardening. Welcome to the team, Mara!

Weigh in on the Henderson County 2045 Comprehensive Plan!

Henderson County has kicked off its Comprehensive Planning effort with a Community Survey. This is an important opportunity for you to have a voice in how our county meets the challenges of climate change, a growing population, and increased pressures on our built and natural environments. We’ve prepared a guide for members of MountainTrue who want to see our community grow sustainably and responsibly. Click here for a list of suggested responses and more information about the survey and other opportunities for public input.

Learn about Sustainable Growth with Chris Joyell and Gray Jernigan

The League of Women Voters of Henderson County (LWVHC) is hosting a virtual program with guest speakers from MountainTrue sharing principles for sustainable and responsible growth in Henderson County on Wednesday, November 3 at 5 pm. Chris Joyell, Director, Healthy Communities, and Gray Jernigan, Southern Regional Director & Green Riverkeeper, will share guidance to assist public participation in the Henderson County 2045 Comprehensive Plan. The Henderson County Comprehensive Plan will serve as the vision and guide for development for the next 25 years. For more information and to register for this Zoom event, visit www.lwvhcnc.org.

Volunteer to help us monitor aquatic macroinvertebrates (that’s fancy for water bugs)!

Do aquatic science with us by participating in the Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) program this fall. Aquatic insects, or macroinvertebrates, are indicators of water quality. By collecting these water critters, we can rate the water quality of our local streams and monitor changes over time based on the families and species of insects collected. If you are experienced in monitoring aquatic macroinvertebrates, we can get you on a sampling team before Thanksgiving. If you are inexperienced but want to learn, you can observe and assist a team this season and get trained in the future. Please email our Americorps Water Quality Administrator, Mara Chamlee, at wqa@mountaintrue.org.

Western Regional News

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

Western Region Annual Member Gathering Tonight

Each year, MountainTrue hosts a gathering of our members to celebrate outstanding volunteers, vote on new board members, and reflect on a year of hard work and accomplishments. Instead of one big gathering this year, we’re having smaller outdoor regional gatherings. In our Western Region, we’re gathering tonight, Wednesday, October 20th, at 4:30 pm at the Big Bear picnic pavilion in Franklin, NC. We hope you can join us to recognize and honor MountainTrue’s 2021 Western Region Volunteer of the Year: Tod Fullerton! We are excited to be gathering in person this year and hope you can connect with us. Sign up to register.

Volunteer to Help Restore Native Plant Diversity at Island Park

Nicole Harris shows off some Chinese privet plants she pulled up at Island Park on February 10, 2021.

Through our ongoing partnership to eradicate non-native invasive plants at Island Park in Bryson City, MountainTrue and the Tuckaseegee River Alliance are hosting another set of volunteer work sessions on Saturday, October 23, from 10 am-12 pm and 1-3 pm.

We will use hand tools to cut the remaining invasive shrubs and then treat the roots. Each session is limited to 15 volunteers. No prior experience is necessary, and we will provide tools and training. Rain date: October 30. Register today to help restore native plant diversity at Bryson City’s Island Park: morning (10-12) and afternoon (1-3).

Eleventh Annual Lake Chatuge Shoreline Cleanup

Join other lake-loving volunteers on the first Saturday in November for MountainTrue’s annual Lake Chatuge shoreline cleanup. The kickoff is at 9 am at the Towns County Swim Beach Pavilion across from the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, where volunteers will get their assigned cleanup locations and receive bags, gloves, and safety information. Coffee and grab-n-go breakfast snacks will be available, along with free t-shirts for the first 50 volunteers. After two hours of shoreline cleaning at the assigned site, volunteers will meet back at the pavilion at 11:30 for prizes. Please register in advance to help organizers assign volunteers to teams.

Katie Caruso is Helping Battle Non-Native Invasive Plants This Fall

If you participate in one of our non-native invasive plant volunteer workdays this fall, you’ll likely meet Katie Caruso, MountainTrue West’s new non-native Invasive Plant Intern. Since early September, Katie has been working with Western Region Program Coordinator Tony Ward to control non-native invasive plants at places like Mayor’s Park and Hamilton Gardens in Hiawassee, Georgia, and Island Park in Bryson City. Katie graduated in 2020 from the University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.S. in Biology. She most recently completed a one-year term with AmeriCorps doing habitat restoration work (including removing non-native invasive plants!) on the Oʻahu National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Hawaii.


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.

#BeMntTrue and Help Spread the Love for Nature and Our Region

#BeMntTrue and Help Spread the Love for Nature and Our Region

#BeMntTrue and Help Spread the Love for Nature and Our Region

Raise up your voice, show off your MountainTrue pride, and take part in our #BeMtnTrue
Awareness Raiser!

This social media campaign will help MountainTrue reach new people and recruit more supporters and members. Take part in our #BeMtnTrue Awareness Raiser and help us build the movement to protect our communities and the places we share.

Here’s all you have to do:

  1. Get outside and take a selfie, photo or video of yourself doing your part to protect our communities, cleaning up our rivers and trails, or just getting out to enjoy our beautiful Southern Blue Ridge Mountains.
  2. Then share your photos or videos on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and let the world know why you’re proud of being MountainTrue.
  3. Use the #BeMtnTrue hashtag and tag us in your post!
    Our tags:
    Facebook – @MountainTrue
    Twitter & Instagram – @mtntrue

You can start now by taking photos and videos and sharing them on social media while the weather is beautiful. Beginning on November 22, MountainTrue will share our favorites by reposting them on Facebook, featuring them on our Instagram story highlights, and retweeting them on Twitter

Thanks for being a part of MountainTrue. Now get out and have some fun!


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.

‘Energy Solutions’ Bill Sets North Carolina on Path to Carbon Neutrality by 2050

‘Energy Solutions’ Bill Sets North Carolina on Path to Carbon Neutrality by 2050

‘Energy Solutions’ Bill Sets North Carolina on Path to Carbon Neutrality by 2050

On Wednesday, October 13, Governor Roy Cooper signed a bill called “Energy Solution for North Carolina” or HB 951. Standing behind a podium bearing the words Securing Our Clean Energy Future, Cooper confidently asserted “ … today I will sign a historic bill that gives us an extraordinary new tool in our fight against climate change. Today, North Carolina moves strongly into a reliable and affordable clean energy future.”

Clearly, this wasn’t the same HB 951 that had been negotiated behind closed doors by House Republicans, Duke Energy, and other industry groups and passed by the House on a 57-49 vote in July. That bill had been met with outrage from environmental groups, clean energy advocates, and ratepayers, and opposition from Senators in both parties. No, this new version had been reformed and revised through direct negotiations between the Governor and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger. The result: a bipartisan compromise that puts North Carolina on a path toward meeting the Governor’s aggressive climate goals. Just as surprising, the bill sailed through the General Assembly, receiving widespread bipartisan support in both the Senate (42 – 7) and the House (90-20).

Not everyone was thrilled with the new HB 951. Environmental and clean energy groups were split, with MountainTrue, NRDC, the Audubon Society, and the NC Sustainable Energy Association lending varying degrees of qualified support, while others asserted that the bill did not go far enough, lacked adequate protections for moderate and low-income customers, or would do little more than enrich Duke Energy’s shareholders.

While we agree with many of the concerns of the bill’s detractors, it is the position of MountainTrue that, on balance, HB 951 does far more good than bad. We commend Governor Cooper and Senator Berger for coming up with a laudable bipartisan compromise that sets aggressive clean energy goals and maintains the authority of the Utilities Commission to regulate the energy industry.

So which is it? Is the “Energy Solutions” bill a transformative climate bill or a sop to Duke Energy? To answer that question, let’s take a look at what’s in the bill, what’s not, and how it fits into the larger regulatory and legislative context.

What the Revised HB 951 Does

First, the bill supports the climate goals laid out in the Governor’s 2018 clean energy plan, Executive Order 80, by tasking state regulators with developing a plan to cut carbon emissions from energy plants by 70% from 2005 levels by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Furthermore, because it only allows 5% of these reductions to be attained through carbon offsets, it ensures the decommissioning of the state’s remaining carbon-emitting infrastructure. But to do so, the bill contains some important caveats.

One is that the Utilities Commission is required to consider the cheapest and most reliable way to reach its carbon reduction goals. Proponents say that this could help keep costs down for customers, including low-to-moderate-income households who receive few other explicit protections within the bill. Critics worry that such a requirement could lead to the Commission approving the conversion of Duke’s existing coal-powered plants to “natural gas” or methane — a powerful greenhouse gas and contributor to climate change.

Those who have fought for cleaner energy and fairer rates before the Utilities Commission know that the regulatory agency is already mandated by its charter to seek “adequate, reliable and economical utility service” through “least-cost energy planning”. In the past, this focus on cost-savings has pitted the Commission against community solar projects in the mountains in favor of larger, more economical alternatives further east.

While HB 951 doesn’t revoke the Commission’s affordability mandate, it does put it on level footing with the bill’s climate goals. This may be all that is necessary to force Duke Energy to replace its coal-powered plants with a mix of solar and wind paired with battery storage. The cost of solar panel energy generation has plummeted by 90% over the last 10 years, and the cost of energy from wind farms has dropped by 71%. Energy from wind and solar panels is now cheaper than nuclear, coal, petrol, and since 2015, yes even cheap, cheap methane (natural gas). Paired with the reliability of large-scale battery storage, the cost of renewable energy is increasingly hard to beat.

Graph source: https://www.popsci.com/story/environment/cheap-renewable-energy-vs-fossil-fuels/

A second important stipulation for the Commission is that it must develop its new clean energy plan through a stakeholder process. While the bill does not define who those stakeholders will be or how they will be selected, we expect environmental groups, representatives of the renewables industry, consumer advocates, and technical experts to be invited to the table. This stakeholder process should provide an important platform for climate justice advocates to secure the cleanest, fairest plan possible. And because the plan has to be reviewed every two years, there should be plenty of opportunities to right the ship should it veer off course.

The bill also decouples utilities’ profit motive from the quantity of energy they sell to residential customers and establishes performance-based ratemaking. According to the NC Sustainable Energy Association, this will allow the commission to create incentives and reward Duke Energy for creating programs or reaching goals that further equity or are socially beneficial in another manner. These could include enrolling more customers into their energy efficiency and demand-reduction programs or doing a better job contracting with minority-owned businesses.

HB 951 also contains an “on-bill tariff” program to help homeowners finance energy efficiency upgrades and pay back the up-front costs for equipment, materials, and installation through interest-free payments on their energy bills. This innovative program could enable more people, including lower and moderate-income households, to upgrade their boilers, heating and cooling systems, and other appliances in order to reduce their energy consumption and increase the values of their homes.

What the Bill Doesn’t Do

Just as important as what the bill does, is how this version differs from the one that emerged from the murky back rooms of Raleigh in July. That House version limited the Utility Commission’s authority to regulate Duke Energy and locked us into a fossil fuel future. It mandated that five of Duke Energy’s coal-fired units be retired but replaced not with solar or wind but with gas-fired plants, battery storage, or a mixture of the two. And it set criteria for the replacement of the remaining coal plant that could only be met by natural gas.

Under Governor Cooper and Senator Berger’s compromise bill, those decisions continue to rest in the hands of the Utility Commission, but the law incorporates a stakeholder process and removes the natural gas replacement mandate. The compromise bill also nixes a $50 billion subsidy for modular nuclear reactors and removes a cap on securitization. HB 951 now allows half of future coal retirement costs to be pooled together with other assets and repackaged into interest-bearing securities — a process that would save ratepayers money by passing the costs off to investors.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the original bill was a ban on the Executive Branch from considering other greenhouse gas rules. This meddling on the part of the House would have prevented the Environmental Management Commission from establishing limits on carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. It would have also kept North Carolina out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — a cooperative effort by 11 states from Maine to Virginia seeking to cap and reduce emissions from the power sector.

However, for all the good things accomplished in this bill and its improvements over the House version, it still comes up short for many in the environmental and climate advocacy community.

The early retirement of coal plants and the transition to clean energy will be costly. The question of who — Duke Energy’s executives and shareholders or Duke’s customers — should pay for what has been the subplot of every Utility Commission rate hike hearing for the past decade. HB 951 not only punts on that question but also fails to include protections that would ensure that low-to-moderate income customers don’t end up paying more than their fair share. The most vulnerable in our societies are most severely impacted by climate change. This bill does little to ensure that the costs associated with the transition to clean energy won’t disproportionately affect the poorest among us.

Finally, this bill will do little to challenge Duke Energy’s monopoly or curtail the energy giant from making handsome profits in North Carolina. Duke has long sought the ability to seek multi-year rate plans instead of having to go before the Utilities Commission each year. HB 951 gives them the ability to seek rate plans for up to three years, though it does cap potential rate increases to 4% for the second or third year. (For context: in May 2021, Duke Energy got permission to increase its rates for residential customers by 5.3%) And while the law opens the door to more solar and solar-plus-storage projects moving forward, it puts Duke firmly in the driver’s seat by ensuring that they maintain 55% ownership.

In Conclusion …

On balance, MountainTrue supported the compromise bill and asked our members and activists to call on the General Assembly to vote yay. It is our position that while every piece of legislation is an opportunity for action, no bill exists in a vacuum. HB 951 has its shortcomings: it’s a good climate bill but seriously lacking as a piece of climate justice legislation. Therefore, after passing HB 951, we must redouble our efforts to provide significant support for low-income energy customers — such as pressuring our legislators to pass a 2021 fiscal budget that includes the $400 million already earmarked for energy efficiency programs.

Similarly, one must consider the political context. HB 951 makes North Carolina only the second state in the Southeast to adopt enforceable climate goals. That this came forth from negotiations between a deeply divided and often Republican-controlled General Assembly and a Democratic Governor is nothing short of a miracle. Cynics might claim that corruption and collusion are behind this unlikely development. As longtime advocates on climate issues interested in movement-building, we’re hopeful that this kind of bipartisan compromise on climate is a sign of more positive things to come.

With that, we’ll leave you with some of our favorite quotes on this legislation from observers, advocates, and legislators:

Ward Lenz, Executive Director of the NC Sustainable Energy Association: “While the Senate proposed committee substitute for HB951 is not perfect, and will impact different clean energy technologies and customers in different ways, it ultimately marks an important milestone as we continue to work towards more transformational energy policies that ensure affordability and reliability for customers and deliver greater market competition.”

Andrew Hutson, Executive Director of the Audubon Society of North Carolina: “ “This bill was made better by thousands of North Carolinians who spoke up for a clean energy future. Still, the bill is by no means perfect and will require important follow-through by the Utilities Commission to deliver on its promise. There is still much work to do to address our changing climate in a way that is just and equitable. Audubon is committed to working in the coming years to make that a reality.”

NRDC in a blog post analyzing the bill: “The high-level takeaway of this legislation is that when signed into law, this legislation will make binding Governor Cooper’s Clean Energy Plan established targets of 70% reductions in power-sector carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050. It may also signal that bipartisan progress on climate policy is possible even in conservative states.”

Governor Roy Cooper: “This bipartisan agreement sets a clean energy course for North Carolina’s future that is better for the economy, better for the environment, and better for the pocketbooks of everyday North Carolinians. I am encouraged that we have been able to reach across the aisle to find a way forward that will update our energy systems while saving people money and doing our part to slow climate change.”

Senate Leader Phil Berger: “North Carolina is a growing state, attracting businesses and families from all over. That growth depends on a stable supply of reliable and affordable energy. After months of policy negotiations, we reached an agreement that will signal to businesses and families here now or considering a move here that North Carolina’s leaders are committed to pro-growth energy policies.”

House Speaker Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland: “We have a responsibility to be good stewards of our natural resources while also maintaining low costs for citizens and businesses, and this bill achieves each of those goals. It is absolutely crucial for our state and for our national security that we prioritize energy independence now.”

Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue: “I am proud of the work put forth in this energy bill. This legislation will put our clean energy aspirations into action. We need to continue working to protect our environment, and all ratepayers, as we move North Carolina to a clean energy future.”

House Democratic Leader Rep. Robert Reives: “I support this compromise that helps build a resilient North Carolina that combats climate change, creates green jobs, and helps consumers and businesses have predictable, fair prices.”

Editorial Board of the Charlotte Observer: “All that said, North Carolinians should settle for this version of House Bill 951. The latest measure, trimmed from 49 to 10 pages, is better than the original. If the governor and Democrats were to reject it, the alliance of Republicans and Duke Energy might peel off enough Democrats to pass a veto-proof bill that’s worse. So we’ll take this half-loaf, which Cooper is expected to soon sign into law. Given the reactionary nature of the General Assembly’s leadership regarding the poor and the environment and Duke Energy’s love affair with fossil fuels, it’s unlikely that further negotiation will bring further improvement.”

Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, said on the House floor that the push to reduce carbon emissions was “all I need to know to oppose” the bill. “Simply a useless endeavor to solve an imaginary problem contrived by would-be socialist totalitarians.”

 


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.

Sample Blog Post

Sample Blog Post

Sample Blog Post

[DATELINE] — Starting this Memorial Day weekend, area swimmers, paddlers, anglers and others who enjoy spending time playing in our local rivers and streams can access up-to-date water quality results for more than 65 popular recreation areas throughout western North Carolina, northeastern Tennessee, and Towns and Union counties in north Georgia. This service is due to the hard work of MountainTrue volunteers and staff who collect water samples every Wednesday and rush to process, analyze and post the results on the swimguide.org website and smartphone app in time for your weekend fun.

“E. coli is a reliable indicator of the presence of other bacteria and pathogens that are harmful to human health,” explains MountainTrue’s [RIVERKEEPER/WATER TEAM REP]. “MountainTrue and our community of dedicated donors and volunteers are proud to be able to offer this public service.”

[DATELINE] — Starting this Memorial Day weekend, area swimmers, paddlers, anglers and others who enjoy spending time playing in our local rivers and streams can access up-to-date water quality results for more than 65 popular recreation areas throughout western North Carolina, northeastern Tennessee, and Towns and Union counties in north Georgia. This service is due to the hard work of MountainTrue volunteers and staff who collect water samples every Wednesday and rush to process, analyze and post the results on the swimguide.org website and smartphone app in time for your weekend fun.

“E. coli is a reliable indicator of the presence of other bacteria and pathogens that are harmful to human health,” explains MountainTrue’s [RIVERKEEPER/WATER TEAM REP]. “MountainTrue and our community of dedicated donors and volunteers are proud to be able to offer this public service.”


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.

‘Energy Solutions’ Bill Sets North Carolina on Path to Carbon Neutrality by 2050

Take Climate Action: Support the NC Senate’s Energy Bill Compromise

Take Climate Action: Support the NC Senate’s Energy Bill Compromise

Email your North Carolina State Senator and Representative and urge them to support the bipartisan Energy Bill compromise (revised HB 951) announced by Governor Roy Cooper and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger on Friday, October 1, 2021

The Senate plans to vote tomorrow, and the House is expected to vote on a reconciliation bill next week. So we need you to take action today to help pass this critical energy bill. The bipartisan compromise put forward by Governor Cooper and Senator Berger sets aggressive clean energy goals and would establish North Carolina as a leader on climate action in the Southeast.

The revised bill sets an ambitious carbon reduction goal of 70% of 2005 levels by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050. It removes a mandate to replace coal plants with natural gas — another significant source of greenhouse gases. It maintains the authority of the North Carolina Utilities Commission to effectively regulate Duke Energy, design a multi-year rate plan, and determine future energy generation based on carbon reduction goals, reliability, and cost. And it establishes an on-bill tariff that would allow homeowners to finance energy efficiency upgrades through their monthly power bill.

The bill, however, is not perfect. It continues to come up short on protections or offsets for low to moderate-income households that could see their energy bills rise to pay for the transition toward renewable energy and the ongoing clean-up of coal ash. We encourage our legislators to fund programs aimed at making sure that these costs don’t fall disproportionately on the shoulders of families already struggling to make ends meet — such as the $400 million allocated in the current draft budget to help low-income households weatherize their homes. We also think legislators should clearly authorize the Utilities Commission to create other programs to support these families.

Take action today to support this bipartisan compromise energy bill, and let’s make North Carolina a leader on climate action.


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.

Take Action to Reduce Air Pollution and Protect Our Parks

Take Action to Reduce Air Pollution and Protect Our Parks

Take Action to Reduce Air Pollution and Protect Our Parks

Encourage the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) to improve its Regional Haze Rule State Implementation Plan.

Take Action:

  1. Use the form below to submit public comments asking DAQ to consider all haze-causing pollution including nitrogen oxides and expand its list of sources to include all of Duke Energy’s coal-fired power plants.
  2. Attend the public hearing on October 6 at 6 p.m. and voice your support for stronger air pollution controls.

Air pollution threatens the health of wildlife and our communities, drives the climate crisis, and remains one of the most serious problems facing our national parks. In fact, nearly 90 percent of our more than 400 national parks are plagued by haze pollution caused mostly by coal plants, vehicles, and other industrial sources, as well as oil and gas development and operations.

National parks and wilderness areas like Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shining Rock, Linville Gorge, Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock, and Swanquarter Wilderness Areas are labeled “Class I” areas, have the strongest clean air protections in the country, mandated by the Clean Air Act (CAA). The Regional Haze Rule is the CAA’s time-tested, effective program that requires federal and state agencies as well as stakeholders to work together and put forth implementation plans that will reduce air pollution and restore clear skies at Class I areas around the country.

This is a great opportunity to make our air cleaner and healthier. Let’s encourage the Division of Air Quality to improve its Regional Haze Implementation Plan by including all of Duke Energy’s coal-fired power plants and taking into account all haze-causing pollution such as nitrogen oxide.

Take action today and attend the public hearing on October 6 in support of clean air and a better Regional Haze Implementation Plan.

TALKING POINTS:

  • While most haze pollution does not originate in national parks, it can travel hundreds of miles from its source, thereby affecting parks and nearby communities. In fact, nearly 90% of national parks are plagued by haze pollution, and on average, park visitors miss out on 50 miles of scenery because of haze — a distance equal to the length of Rhode Island.
  • The Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze Rule (RHR) is a time-tested, effective program that has resulted in real, measurable, and noticeable improvements in national park visibility and air quality. The RHR is intended to protect Class I national parks and wilderness areas both inside and outside North  Carolina including Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shining Rock, Linville Gorge, Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock and Swanquarter Wilderness Areas from air pollution. North Carolina’s plan is required to address visibility impairing pollution that has the potential to affect Class I areas in order to make reasonable progress towards clear skies in the second round of planning.
  • A recent study found that air pollution in some of our most iconic national parks is comparable with densely populated cities like Los Angeles and Houston.
    • The study’s key findings show that between 1990 and 2014, average ozone levels in the parks were indistinguishable from levels in the United States’ 20 largest metro areas.
    • The study also found that park visitation drops by at least eight percent when ozone pollution is high — a clear indicator that air quality is an important issue for the public and directly impacts their use and enjoyment of our national parks.
  • The same sources of pollution harming our communities are also fueling the climate crisis, and the consequences are alarming. Climate change has increased the frequency and intensity of wildfires over natural levels across the western U.S., including at Yosemite and other parks, raised sea level at the Statue of Liberty and other coastal parks, and is melting glaciers at Glacier Bay and  Glacier National Park.
  • The same sources of pollution causing haze in our national parks are also disproportionately affecting communities near those sources; communities that are most often living below the poverty line and/or are communities of color. State agencies and the EPA have the opportunity to take into account the benefit that controls on haze-causing pollutants have for disproportionately affected communities and ensure that those benefits are considered and prioritized in developing state or federal implementation plans.
  • Poor air quality in our national parks also threatens our economies. Our national parks provide nearly $42 billion in economic benefit and support hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country each year. Without strong safeguards protecting the air we breathe, we can’t keep these places and local economies strong, let alone keep people healthy. Every visitor to a national park deserves to experience clean air and clear views.

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.

Stand Up for these Principles at a Comprehensive Planning Meeting

Stand Up for these Principles at a Comprehensive Planning Meeting

Stand Up for these Principles at a Comprehensive Planning Meeting

MountainTrue is encouraging our members and supporters to take an active role in several comprehensive planning efforts throughout our region — specifically in Henderson County, Buncombe County and Bryson City. These comprehensive plans are an important opportunity for you to have a voice in how our local governments grow and develop to meet the challenges of climate change, a growing population and increased pressures on our built environment.

The comprehensive planning process in Henderson County is already underway. The county’s planning consultant has fielded a community survey to gauge local priorities. If you are a resident of Henderson County, we urge you to check out our guide and complete the survey.

Henderson County has also scheduled a series of public input meetings throughout the county from September through December:

  • 9/14/21 from 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm – Dana Community Park
  • 9/21/21 from 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm – Tuxedo Park
  • 10/6/21 from 4 pm to 6 pm – Thomas Auditorium at Blue Ridge Community College
  • 10/12/21 from 4 pm to 6 pm – Hendersonville Main Library
  • 10/18/21 from 4 pm to 6 pm – Edneyville Community Center
  • 10/26/21 from 4 pm to 6 pm – Community Center at Crab Creek
  • 11/3/21 from 4 pm to 6 pm – TBA
  • 11/9/21 from 4 pm to 6 pm – Etowah Library
  • 11/16/21 from 4 pm to 6 pm – Fletcher Library

Please attend one or more of these public input meetings. All meetings are open to anyone who lives in or does business in Henderson County. For your convenience, here are MountainTrue’s list of planning principles — the issues that all comprehensive plans should address:

Public Participation
Overall, we believe that communities should play a central role in planning for their future growth and development. We advocate for a design process that invites diverse voices, including those that have traditionally been excluded or ignored. The process should be equitable and inclusive of all communities and people regardless of class or clout.

Smart Growth
MountainTrue supports economic vitality and growth in Western North Carolina without compromising our mountain habitat. We champion our cities and small towns, which function as our communities’ economic, cultural, and residential centers. We encourage public and private development in these places where we’ve already made investments in infrastructure. At the same time, we discourage any expansion of infrastructure that induces sprawl into natural areas or the rural landscape. We advocate for a wide variety of housing choices and multiple modes of transportation.

Land Preservation
We support planning for development in a way that protects valued natural resources. We encourage communities to create a local source of dedicated funds to preserve open space and agricultural and forested lands. Planning can identify environmental features like wetlands, agricultural lands, forests and steep slopes and suggest strategies for preserving those resources from destruction or degradation by development.

Public Lands
MountainTrue advocates for the protection of our national and state forests in addition to our national, state, county and city parks and trails. We believe the management of public lands should maintain and restore their ecological integrity and promote recreational opportunities.

Clean Water
We work to preserve and restore waterways as healthy ecosystems as well as recreational and aesthetic resources. MountainTrue supports the development and enforcement of standards and regulations to protect surface and groundwater from pollution, litter, and development.

Clean Energy
MountainTrue supports the development of clean, sustainable, locally-produced energy. We are dedicated to helping communities transition to renewable energy. We work with local community members, policymakers and utilities to bring our region sustainable solutions for our energy demands and to promote energy efficiency.


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.

E-Vistas Newsletter – September 2021

E-Vistas Newsletter – September 2021

Creation Care Alliance: Sustainable and Just Food Systems

Join the Creation Care Alliance from 6-7 p.m. on Thursday, September 16, for a time of centering, community and learning about sustainable and just food systems. We will hear from Jarred White and Michelle Osborne of Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA regarding how faith communities can care for people and places through food ministry. We’ll have break-out room conversations following their discussion to brainstorm the ways we can deepen our current creation care and ecological justice initiatives by investing more in healthy land and food. We can’t wait to spend time with you! Learn more and register.

Central Regional News

For Buncombe, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell and Yancey counties

Share Your feedback on ‘AVL Shares Space’ Outdoor Expansion Initiatives

The City of Asheville is seeking public feedback on temporary initiatives launched in the spring of 2020 to support safe business operations and customer access during COVID-19. With assistance from MountainTrue’s Asheville Design Center, these initiatives have enabled over 100 businesses and organizations in Asheville to expand into adjacent outdoor public spaces and parking lots.

Take the survey here. The survey will remain open through September 20. (Participating businesses are being surveyed separately.)

The AVL Shares Space initiatives include the following:

  • “Shared Streets” (pedestrian priority environment and use of on-street parking spaces along a corridor)
  • Temporary Parklets (use of on-street parking spaces)
  • Expansion on private lots (i.e. parking lots)
  • Expansion on public sidewalks
  • 10-minute curbside pick-up zones

Take the Close the GAP Survey

The City of Asheville is updating the City’s Greenway (G), Accessibility (A), and Pedestrian (P) Plans. The combined plan, which is referred to as “Close the GAP,” will look to update and expand the network of accessible sidewalks and greenways for our community.

The City has issued a Close the Gap Survey that asks a series of questions about you and your walking and wheeling needs on Asheville’s streets and greenways. In addition, they have produced a video that provides an overview of the Close the GAP Planning Process.

High Country Regional News

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

Meet Our New AmeriCorps, Kylie Barnes

Please welcome our new AmeriCorps member, Kylie Barnes! She will serve a one-year term as our High Country Water Quality Administrator, managing our water quality programs and providing educational outreach. Kylie is a recent graduate from Appalachian State University, where she earned degrees in Economics and Sustainable Development. We are thrilled to have her on our team and look forward to the skills and perspective she brings to the High Country.

Winkler’s Creek Trash Trout Repaired, Back in Service

The Winkler’s Creek Trash Trout sustained some damage from Hurricane Fred. Our team was able to make the needed repairs and get the Trash Trout up and running again. In the most recent haul, we recovered 800 individual pieces of trash, mainly consisting of styrofoam, plastic bottles, plastic bags and cigarette butts.

Help Clean Up Watauga Lake

Join the Watauga Riverkeeper and the Watauga Watershed Alliance for a trash and litter cleanup on September 18. On-site registration and equipment pickup is from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the following locations: Fishsprings Marina, Pioneer Landing Marina, Roan Creek Bridge on Highway 167. If you have any questions, please contact wataugawatershedalliance@gmail.com or Andy Hill at andy@mountaintrue.org.

Learn about Creation Care at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

Join the Creation Care Alliance (CCA) on Saturday, October 2, for a picnic and community-building event at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Meet CCA’s new director Sarah Ogletree, spend time with others in your region dedicated to the work of creation care, and think about the callings to ecological justice pressing on the hearts of the High Country. Our lunch gathering will happen from 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Learn more.

Southern Regional News

For Cleveland, Henderson, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania counties

Weigh in on the Henderson County 2045 Comprehensive Plan!

Henderson Country has kicked off its Comprehensive Planning effort with a Community Survey. This is an important opportunity for you to have a voice in how our county meets the challenges of climate change, a growing population and increased pressures on our built and natural environments. We’ve prepared a guide for members of MountainTrue who want to see our community grow sustainably and responsibly. Click here for a list of suggested responses and more information about the survey and other opportunities for public input.

Second Annual Broad River Fishing Tournament is a Great Success!

On Saturday, August 28, MountainTrue’s Broad Riverkeeper and NC Wildlife Resources Commission kicked off the Second Annual Broad River Fishing Tournament at the Broad River Greenway in Cleveland County! The tournament is a fun competition and a great way for MountainTrue to engage with the diverse communities that enjoy swimming and fishing in the Broad River. Tanya Poole with NC Wildlife Resources Commission provided fishing poles, tackle and bait to share with kids and offered fishing instruction to all who were interested. David Caldwell, our Broad Riverkeeper, ran some short fishing trips with his canoe, and we served up some homemade peach ice cream! Participants caught a lot of fish on opening day and throughout the week, but the title of Broad’s Best Angler 2021 went to Fitz McMurry, with three fish for a combined length of 59 inches!

Join Us for a Moonlight Float on the Broad River!

Paddle with us by the light of the moon on September 18! We will put in at Lake Houser in NC and float to the Broad River Greenway in Boiling Springs, NC. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MountainTrue is limiting our guided trips to a maximum of 10 participants. Sign up.

Litter Cleanups on the Green and Broad Rivers on Saturday, September 25

September 25 will be our Sixth Annual Sarah Sweep. We’ll be cleaning up from Double Shoals to Zion Church Road on the First Broad River. All are welcome to join us on this lovely section of the river that Sarah Spencer held dear to her heart. While paddling the shallow and shaded waters that flow between rock cliffs and rhododendron, Sarah would always stop to pick up any litter along the way. Sarah and several friends died tragically in 2016, and this event is in honor of these friends and their love for the river. Sign up here: https://mountaintrue.org/event/sixth-annual-sarah-sweep-on-the-broad-river/

On the same day, you can join our Green Riverkeeper will be hosting a cleanup of the Lower Green in Polk County, from Big Rock Access to the Lake Adger Public Marina. We’ll be giving the river a thorough cleaning after a busy recreation season in the gorge. Sign up.

Western Regional News

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

Fifth Annual Fall Native Tree and Shrub Sale

We are now accepting orders for our Fall Native Tree Sale Fundraiser. Choose from 34 native species, ranging from large shade trees to smaller ornamental shrubs. All plants are quality nursery stock and are available in one to three-gallon pots. Native plants are a great way to support pollinators and wildlife species. We are accepting orders until November 14. You can pick up your purchases from MountainTrue West office parking lot in Murphy, NC, on Saturday, November 20, 9:00-1:00. Finally, learn why it’s great to plant trees in the dormant season and start planting. Place your order today!

Planning For the Future of Bryson City

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

MountainTrue’s Healthy Communities director, Chris Joyell, led an interesting walking tour through downtown Bryson City in August. He reviewed recommendations from the Bryson City Community Assessment Report completed by Handmade in America in March 2011. The town has made many improvements over the past 10 years, including attractive directional signage and a covered river-side pavilion near the historic courthouse museum. The Town of Bryson City is currently updating its Land Use Plan to guide future changes that will affect residents and visitors over the next 25 years. If you live, work or play in Bryson City, please complete the Opportunities and Challenges Survey before September 17!

Hiwassee Lake Big Sweep: September 25th

NC Big Sweep is a statewide litter cleanup program that brings citizens and community organizations together to clear trash from their waterways. The annual Hiwassee Lake Big Sweep event hosted by Mainspring Conservation Trust is set for Saturday, September 25. All residents are encouraged to participate, especially anyone who can bring their own boats. To promote social distancing, Mainspring has created a list of “Litter Zones” in need of attention. All litter must be dropped off at the Hanging Dog Boat Ramp before Sunday morning. Details can be found on Facebook.

Volunteer This Fall on the Murphy River Walk

Starting September 27, MountainTrue will host a series of community volunteer workdays on the River Walk in Murphy, NC. Each Monday afternoon this fall (weather permitting) and probably on a Saturday or two, volunteers will work to control nonnative invasive plants along sections of the trail using hand tools. No prior experience is necessary to participate, and we will provide tools and training. Please email Tony Ward if you’re interested in helping with this project. Join us to learn, give back to the community and gain experience you can use to eradicate invasive plants on your own property!

Events & Volunteer Opportunities

Sep 18 – Asheville Urban Bike Tour

Sep 18 – Moonlight Float

Sep 18 – Big Sweep on Watauga Lake

Sep 22 – Building Our City: Sustainable Tourism

Sep 25 – Sixth Annual Sarah Sweep

Sep 25 – Green River Big Sweep

Oct 7 – High Country Annual Member Gathering
4:30 – 6 p.m. at Valle Crucis Community Park – Details to come.

Oct 9 – Fall Scenic Hike

Oct 16 – Broad River Fall Float

Oct 20 – Western Region Annual Member Gathering
Details to come.

Oct 26 – Southern Region Annual Member Gathering
Details to come.

Nov 5 – Tanawha Trail Hike

Nov 7 – Buncombe Solar Trolley Tour


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.

Our Recommendation for the Henderson County Community Survey

Our Recommendation for the Henderson County Community Survey

Our Recommendation for the Henderson County Community Survey

Henderson Country has kicked off its Comprehensive Planning effort with a Community Survey. This is an important opportunity for you to have a voice in how our county grows and develops to meet the challenges of climate change, a growing population, and increased pressures on our built and natural environments.

This is a guide for members of MountainTrue who want to see our community grow sustainably and responsibly. The survey has 13 questions. Questions 2-7 are the most relevant to the work and issues of concern to MountainTrue, our members and supporters. Below we provide you with a list of suggestions, and a brief explanation for each of these questions.

TAKE THE SURVEY NOW
Check out the schedule of open houses. Save the date to participate in person.

9/14/21 from 2:30pm to 4:30pm – Dana Community Park
9/21/21 from 2:30pm to 4:30pm – Tuxedo Park
10/6/21 from 4pm to 6pm – Thomas Auditorium at Blue Ridge Community College
10/12/21 from 4pm to 6pm – Hendersonville Main Library
10/18/21 from 4pm to 6pm – Edneyville Community Center
10/26/21 from 4pm to 6pm – Community Center at Crab Creek
11/3/21 from 4pm to 6pm – TBA
11/2/21 from 4pm to 6pm – Fletcher Library
11/9/21 from 4pm to 6pm – Etowah Library
For up-to-date meeting details, visit: https://www.hendersoncountync.gov/planning/page/county-comprehensive-plan

Question 2. Henderson County’s population has grown 38% between 2000 and 2020. If this growth trend continues, what potential impacts of growth are you most concerned about? (Select up to three)

As this question relates to MountainTrue’s principles, we recommend choosing answers that promote healthy communities, those that have increased sidewalks, bike lanes, greenway connections, and public transportation – methods of transportation that are equitable and serve all communities. We encourage long-range plans and land-use controls for more housing choice, and climate resilience — especially those that protect ecologically sensitive areas. With this in mind, we have reordered the options in accordance with trends that provide the greatest positive impact, and we recommend choosing three from the top of the list:

  • Loss of farmland, and/or impacts to natural resources
  • Housing availability/affordability
  • Other (please specify) Climate resiliency
  • Neighborhood density
  • Utility and infrastructure capacity
  • Outdoor recreation opportunities development

Question 3. The future of Henderson County is dependent upon a variety of factors. Which of the following factors should this 25-year comprehensive plan prioritize? (Select up to five)

The recommendations we made for answering question #2 above also relate to question #3, and we would add: Resilient forests are an asset to healthy communities as is good water quality, with strong stormwater rules and enforcement to support them. Our energy future, free from fossil fuels, is also a priority. While the survey lists many factors that deserve our attention, we encourage you to focus on the factors that deliver the greatest impact on our community. With this in mind, we recommend you choose your five from the top of the list, which we have arranged:

  • Protect open spaces/forests
  • Conservation of unique natural areas
  • Increase energy efficiency and reduce waste
  • Maintaining/improving water quality
  • Increase sidewalks/bike lanes/pedestrian connectivity
  • Farmland preservation
  • Reduce vulnerabilities to wildfire, flooding, and landslides
  • Increase public transportation options
  • Greenway connections
  • Coordinate with towns & cities on development
  • River access for boating & fishing

Question 4. What is one priority you would like the County to address in the next 2-5 years? Blank space provided.

“Minimize the County’s sewer and waterline obligations, reduce urban sprawl, and preserve the County’s rural character by reinvesting in the areas we’ve already developed. Increase housing choice, invite mixed use development, and center it around town centers and main thoroughfares.”

Question 5. Which of the following development types do you feel are missing from the County? (Select up to three)

We recommend choosing the development types that support density close to towns and cities in order to take pressure off of rural undeveloped areas. It is also the fiscally responsible choice to invest in the areas we have already developed, rather than extending new infrastructure to undeveloped lands. Choose your three from the top of the list, which we have arranged:

  • Other (please specify) Suggestion: Mixed-use infill development, expanding housing choices to include duplexes, triplexes and small multi-family courtyard units
  • Parks and recreation
  • Agriculture and agri-tourism

Question 6. Which is the single most important role for Henderson County government in the land use and zoning process, if any? (Would not apply to incorporated towns, cities, or villages)

We recommend choosing: Enhance regulations of property land use MountainTrue supports stronger regulations that limit construction on steep slopes and in flood plains, and ensure that new developments don’t negatively impact communities and our natural environment.

Question 7. When making decisions related to land use, should the County Board of Commissioners weigh the impact to the property owners closest to the proposed project more so than the overall benefit to the County as a whole?

We recommend you choose “Somewhat disagree.” While it is important that nearby property owners have a say in the process and that projects generally adhere to existing zoning regulations, the priority should be on making our community sustainable and livable for everyone. As such, we favor a balanced approach that weighs the interests of property owners with the needs of the greater community.


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.