Public Input Session on Cliffside Coal Ash Closure Options

On January 22, the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) will host an information session and receive public input about coal ash pond closure options for Duke’s Cliffside plant. The input they receive at this meeting and through public comments will help decide whether NCDEQ enforces a full cleanup of Duke Energy’s coal ash or allows them to leave it “capped in place” at the site.

What’s Happening With Coal Ash at Cliffside?

Duke Energy’s coal ash pits at its James E. Rogers Energy Complex  more commonly known as the Cliffside Steam Station  store millions of tons of coal ash waste in a pit that extends approximately 80 feet deep into the groundwater table in violation of federal rules. Located in Cliffside, N.C. on the border of Cleveland and Rutherford counties, this waste is seeping into the Broad River, and polluting the groundwater with toxic heavy metals like arsenic, mercury and lead.

In December 2018, Duke acknowledged another violation of federal rules intended to protect people from coal ash contamination  surpassing the federal groundwater standards for arsenic and cobalt. This is one of many legal violations at Cliffside related to coal ash storage, and Duke’s noncompliance means seepages around the impoundment are getting into wetlands and streams, and ultimately the Broad River.

What’s “Cap In Place”?

Duke Energy wants to leave its coal ash right where it is – in massive unlined pits seeping into the groundwater and the Broad River, and polluting the groundwater with toxic heavy metals. “Cap in place” simply means that the coal ash would be covered up but would remain in the groundwater table, causing permanent pollution of groundwater and migration of pollutants to surface water and the Broad River. To comply with the law and protect water quality, Duke must excavate the coal ash now.

Duke Energy is already required to remove its coal ash at eight other sites in North Carolina and all of its sites in South Carolina –Cliffside’s families and community deserve the same protections. NCDEQ needs to hear us loud and clear: We need cleanup, not cover-up!

What Can I Do?

1. Come to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s public information session on Jan. 22 in Forest City to call for cleanup, not cover-up, of Cliffside’s coal ash. Find the details for the event here.

2. Take action here to tell NCDEQ that Duke’s coal ash should be moved out of the groundwater, away from the Broad River, and into the lined landfill on their property.


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.

Call For Volunteers For Our Live Staking Days This Winter

Call For Volunteers For Our Live Staking Days This Winter

Over the next few months, our Riverkeepers are teaming up with volunteers to plant “live stakes” along rivers in our region. We’re calling for potential volunteers like you to join us for a live staking day to help make this project a success.

What exactly is a live stake?

A live stake is a cutting from a tree species like silky dogwood, black willow, or elderberry that can be planted along riverbanks. The live stake then grows into a tree that reduces sediment erosion. Some of our supporters are surprised to learn that sediment is one of the worst polluters of our rivers, but it’s true sediment clogs aquatic habitats, increases water temperatures (which is bad news for trout and many other species) and transports toxic substances. Live staking also increases the density of the riparian buffer, which is the vegetated area surrounding a waterway that helps provide shade and filter out substances that normally enter the river from runoff. And since we’ve been planting trees along the rivers for the past few years, we can now take cuttings from those same trees that were live stakes only a few years ago. It’s a cost-effective, natural way to improve water quality and aquatic habitats.  

We have our live staking days, which we also call Paddle-n-Plant days, from January to March because live stakes can only be planted while the plants are still dormant. When the spring comes, the stakes’ nodes that were planted underground will sprout roots, helping to hold the riverbank in place.

Help Grow Our Impact

MountainTrue volunteers and our Riverkeepers have planted thousands of trees through our live staking days, and this year our Riverkeepers have set their sights on ways to increase their impact. Watershed Outreach Coordinator Anna Alsobrook’s goal this year is to more accurately determine the survival rate of the live stakes on the French Broad River. By spray-painting the tips of the stakes, she’ll be able to see them more easily from the river during follow up. In the High Country, Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill hopes to plant 3,000 stakes by March.

We need your help to make our live staking days a success. It will make a huge difference for the rivers if you sign up for a live staking day here, or donate to MountainTrue to make these efforts possible 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.

Press Release: Whitewater Kayakers Receive Grant to Save Hemlock Trees in Green River Gorge

Press Release: Whitewater Kayakers Receive Grant to Save Hemlock Trees in Green River Gorge

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Whitewater Kayakers Receive $8,000 Grant from the Community Foundation of Henderson County to Save Hemlock Trees in Green River Gorge

Media Contact:       
Gray Jernigan
Green Riverkeeper and Southern Regional Director, MountainTrue
E: gray@mountaintrue.org  P: (828) 692-0385 x 1004

Nov. 9, 2018

Hendersonville, NC – The Paddlers Hemlock Health Action Taskforce (PHHAT), a group of whitewater kayakers, nonprofit and government partners working to save hemlock trees in the Green River Gorge, has received an $8,000 grant from the Perry N. Rudnick Endowment Fund of the Community Foundation of Henderson County. PHHAT’s mission is to save hemlock trees from the hemlock woolly adelgid, a non-native invasive insect from East Asia that is decimating hemlock tree populations in the Southeast.

The grant from the Community Foundation of Henderson County will fund this work for the next year and purchase equipment for PHHAT volunteers teams. “The health of the Green is so closely tied with the health of the hemlocks,” said Gray Jernigan, Green Riverkeeper and Southern Regional Director of MountainTrue. “We are so grateful for this funding to allow us to continue this project for another year and save more trees that are vitally important to the forest and river ecosystem.”

Many of the largest hemlocks along the Green River are found in the Green River Gorge, whose steep terrain make the trees inaccessible by foot. Since 2017, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the Hemlock Restoration Initiative, American Whitewater and MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper have come together to train local paddlers in hemlock treatment techniques and safety protocols. The paddlers then navigate the Green River’s tricky waters to bury pellets of a hydrophobic pesticide around the roots of hemlock trees. Currently the only reliable remedy, this treatment protects the trees for up to 5 years.

As a foundation species, hemlock trees play a vital role in structuring ecosystems. Active when deciduous trees are not, hemlock trees stabilize riverbanks, regulate river flows, and balance river temperatures, among other important functions.

The hemlock woolly adelgid feeds off the trees’ sap and starch, disrupting their nutrient processes and eventually killing off the trees. First reported in Virginia in 1951, the hemlock woolly adelgid has spread to 20 states from Georgia to Maine and one Canadian province.

“As land managers, we often rely on the help of volunteers and partners to expand the capacity of work needed to conserve our Game Lands,” said Ryan Jacobs, Wildlife Forest Manager for NC Wildlife Resources Commission. “The work these paddlers are taking on here at Green River would never have happened without their passion for this special place.”

“Our hope is to see our program mirrored in other waterways across the region and even around the nation,” said Kevin Colburn, National Stewardship Director for American Whitewater. “As kayakers, it’s great to be able to give back to some of the places that have given us so much as a community.”

For additional information on the project, please visit paddlersforhemlocks.com.

MountainTrue champions resilient forests, clean waters and healthy communities in Western North Carolina. To this end, MountainTrue fosters and empowers advocates throughout the region to be engaged in policy and project advocacy, outreach and education, and on-the-ground projects.

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is the state government agency tasked with conserving and sustaining the state’s fish and wildlife resources through research, scientific management, wise use and public input. The Commission is also the regulatory agency responsible for enforcing the state’s fishing, hunting, trapping and boating laws.  

The Hemlock Restoration Initiative, a program of WNC Communities, works with the NCDA&CS, the USDA-FS and others to ensure that eastern and Carolina hemlocks can withstand the deadly hemlock woolly adelgid and survive to maturity on North Carolina’s public and private lands.

American Whitewater advocates for the preservation and protection of whitewater rivers throughout the United States, and connects the interests of human-powered recreational river users with ecological and science-based data to achieve the goals within its mission.

The Community Foundation of Henderson County supports charitable programs in the greater Henderson County area. Founded in 1982, the Community Foundation administers over 500 funds with assets of over $100 million.

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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.

Green Riverkeeper Documents Massive Sediment Pollution from World Equestrian Games

Green Riverkeeper Documents Massive Sediment Pollution from World Equestrian Games

As the World Equestrian Games kicked off, our Green Riverkeeper, Gray Jernigan, travelled to White Oak Creek to sample water for turbidity and sediment levels and found evidence of massive water quality violations at the Tryon International Equestrian Center.

Upstream from the Wold Equestrian Center, Gray’s turbidity meter read a relatively clean 13.3 NTU or Nephelometric Turbidity Units – the measure of the concentration of suspended sediment in liquid. The North Carolina sediment standard for water quality is 50 NTU.

Downstream from the Center, Gray’s turbidity meter maxed out at 999 NTU!

This is irresponsible development and illegal pollution. Sediment runoff from construction or other land-disturbing activities is required to be controlled onsite, and if it isn’t it destroys habitat, kills aquatic life and carries along bacteria such as E. coli and other pollutants. We have reported the violations to state officials. We’ll keep you updated as we find out more. To follow the Green Riverkeeper, follow him on Instagram or Facebook.


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.

Florence is Coming. Here Are Some Resources to Help Keep You Safe

Hurricane path shifts south. Heavy rains forecast for WNC.

With the path of Hurricane Florence shifting south, parts of Western North Carolina could see high winds and significant rain this weekend.

For the latest storm tracking reports and forecasts, check out:
https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/ graphics_at1.shtml?cone# contents
Or https://google.org/crisismap/ 2018-florence

Water Safety

Our French Broad, Green and Watauga Riverkeepers and the Broad River Alliance urge paddlers to use common sense and stay out of rushing rivers and high winds until they return to safe levels. Do not try to paddle during a hurricane.

You can check the French Broad River Gauge page to see if it is safe to paddle:
https://frenchbroadpaddle.com/gauges

For other WNC rivers, you can check the USGS websitehttps://waterdata.usgs.gov/nc/nwis/current/?type=flow

Park Closures

The Blue Ridge Parkway has issued an emergency evacuation order for its campsites. For more Parkway updates:
https://www.nps.gov/blri/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

Pisgah-Nantahala National Forests have issued a closure for all campgrounds and recreation sites, day use or overnight, and asked that people not use public trails until the storm passes: https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/nfsnc/alerts-notices/?aid=49130

Great Smoky Mountain National Park has yet to issue any hurricane-related advisories or closures. For more updates, visit: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/index.htm

Landslides and Flooding

Because it’s been a wet summer, Florence’s prolonged rain storms have the potential to cause flooding and landslides.

Check out the NC Department of Public Safety’s preparedness resources for steps you can take before, during and after a flood or landslide to lower your risks. This includes not walking or driving through moving water. Six inches of moving water can sweep you off your feet and 11 inches can move a vehicle.

Floods: https://readync.org/EN/Informed_NatHaz_Flood.html
Landslides: https://readync.org/EN/Informed_NatHaz_Landslide.html

Other Resources

Created by the United Way of North Carolina, the North Carolina 2-1-1 site offers community health and human services resources and services, and real-time support and communications during emergencies and disasters: https://www.nc211.org/

Duke Energy has a special online resource for Hurricane Florence with links to view current outages and report new ones: https://www.dukeenergyupdates.com/florence/north-carolina

The Department of Public Safety also has a special resource page for Hurricane Florence with updates on evacuations, road conditions and shelter locations: https://www.ncdps.gov/florence

The storm’s path could shift over the next few days and forecasts could change dramatically. Stay informed, be safe and get prepared in the days to come.


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.

Hendersonville Green Drinks: Why Bees?

Hendersonville Green Drinks: Why Bees?

On Thursday, September 13, Hendersonville Green Drinks welcomes Jim Poe with the Henderson County Beekeepers Association. He will talk about why bees are getting so much attention these days – what’s the big deal! The immense value of bees to the production of food is difficult to calculate, but suffice it to say, it’s not just honey that benefits humans. Photographer turned beekeeper, Poe manages 34 of his own hives, plus helps others with theirs. 

Who: Jim Poe, Henderson County Beekeepers Association
What: September’s Green Drinks Topic: Why Bees?
When: September 13, 2018 – 5:30 networking, 6:00 presentation
Where: Black Bear Coffee, 318 N. Main St. Hendersonville, NC

Having lived in Hendersonville as a youngster, Jim Poe moved back to continue his 30-year career as a photographer by opening a studio on Haywood Road, James Poe Photography. Then, after a 6-year stint in Southwest Colorado, he moved back to western NC again. He says, “Although photography has been great to me, it’s honeybees that now have my heart!” In 2014 he attended a Bee School put on by the Henderson County Beekeepers Association and was hooked! Poe now serves on their board as Director of External Communications; and considers bees almost a full-time job.

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


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