Join us for the 16th Annual Green Bash!

Join us for the 16th Annual Green Bash!

Join us for the 16th Annual Green Bash!

Get ready for an exciting day full of kayaking trips, waterfall rappelling, treks, cold beer, and good music when the Spring Green Bash — Saluda’s favorite river and block party — returns on May 7!

The whole Green River community is invited to the Spring Green Bash block party at Green River Adventures in downtown Saluda, NC. We’ll enjoy great beer from Oskar Blues Brewing and music by Aaron Burdett. We’ll also announce the winner of the charity raffle for a Liquidlogic Coupe XP kayak, a whitewater kayak valued at $1,000! Proceeds from the raffle benefit MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper –  the protector and defender of the Green River Watershed.

Join us at the Spring Green Bash at Green River Adventures on May 7, 2022, to see if you’re the lucky winner of a Liquidlogic Coupe XP kayak (you do not need to be present to win)! Ticket sales end on May 7, 2022, and tickets may also be purchased at the event. 

Where: Green River Adventures, 111 E. Main Street, Saluda, NC

When: Saturday, May 7, 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Henderson County Volunteer Spotlight: Fred Thompson

Henderson County Volunteer Spotlight: Fred Thompson

Henderson County Volunteer Spotlight: Fred Thompson

“MountainTrue’s Volunteer Water Information Network (VWIN) has some pretty terrific volunteers” says Lucy Butler, co-leader of the VWIN volunteer base in MountainTrue’s Southern Region. This month, we’re spotlighting the creative and much-appreciated work of Fred Thompson, a MountainTrue VWIN volunteer in Henderson County.

Over the years, Fred’s craftsmanship skills and dedicated volunteerism have made MountainTrue’s participation in the VWIN program much more efficient! 

About VWIN

The Volunteer Water Information Network (VWIN) program is a volunteer-based network that has been conducting chemical surface water monitoring in WNC streams on a monthly basis since 1990. VWIN is a major program of the Environmental Quality Institute (EQI), a longtime partner of MountainTrue. Learn more about/get involved with EQI’s VWIN work here, and click here to learn more about MountainTrue’s 30-year partnership with EQI.

Water samples taken by VWIN volunteers help us to better understand water chemistry trends in Western North Carolina and identify and quantify sources of pollution in our region’s watersheds. VWIN water samples are stored in individual bottles and many samples can be collected along riverbanks at various sampling sites. However, a few of our VWIN sites are easier to sample from atop a bridge. This “bridgetop” sampling involves the securing of sample bottles to a box which is then submerged, filled with water, and hauled back up to the top of the bridge.

Several years ago, Fred built steel boxes that allow VWIN volunteers to easily load and unload sample bottles, minimizing the possibility of samples escaping and floating downstream. When we asked him to build more boxes, he found that the price of steel had skyrocketed and his usual sources were not discarding their steel scraps… So he started experimenting with six inch PVC pipe, eventually constructing multiple efficient bridge testing boxes through many hours of trial and error. Fred and his friend, cabinetmaker Thomas Kline, fabricated a series of wooden tooling (molds) to form softened PVC plastic into Fred’s desired box shape. Fred and his wife, Andrea, then used their home oven to soften the plastic. Finally, Fred used concrete over reinforcement wire to reach the requisite five pounds (the bridge boxes must be weighted so they can properly submerge and collect water samples).

Fred’s innovative new bridge testing boxes work perfectly! 

In addition to the bridge boxes (pictured right), Fred and Thomas have developed prototypes for improved VWIN sample transport boxes. Each month, VWIN volunteer coordinators for Henderson County transport 37 boxes — each full of water samples from Henderson, Transylvania, and Polk Counties — to EQI’s lab in Black Mountain and return them to the volunteer pickup location. The weight and bulk of the current transport boxes makes this an arduous task, so plans are in place to replace the boxes with lighter, smaller, and more easily handled boxes.

About Fred

Fred moved to Henderson County in 1993 and retired in 2019. He worked as a maintenance supervisor at NC State and has an Associate’s Degree in Ceramic Engineering. He and Andrea volunteer at the Park at Flat Rock where they maintain the park’s 22 bluebird houses. 

Pictured: Andrea and Fred Thompson

Many thanks to Fred, Andrea, and Thomas for improving the VWIN program and supporting efficient, reliable citizen science in Western North Carolina!

Take Action Against Single-Use Plastic Pollution in Asheville and Buncombe County

Take Action Against Single-Use Plastic Pollution in Asheville and Buncombe County

Take Action Against Single-Use Plastic Pollution in Asheville and Buncombe County

Plastic pollution: we’ve all seen it littered on the side of the road, blowing in the wind, floating down rivers and streams.

 

Plastic pollution is a global problem, but we all have to be part of the solution. Together, we can stop plastic pollution at its source. Let’s enact common-sense laws at the state and local levels to limit the use of single-use plastics before they end up as litter in our rivers, lakes, and streams.

Our water quality testing concludes that microplastic pollution is widespread throughout the French Broad River Basin and other Western North Carolina waterways. Together, we can stop plastic pollution at its source. That’s why we’re working with nonprofit partners to implement a single-use plastic ban in Buncombe County. We can and should enact common-sense legislation at the local level to limit the use of single-use plastics before they end up as litter and microplastic pollution in Buncombe County’s rivers, lakes, and streams. Visit the Plastic-Free WNC website to learn more about our plastics-focused work in Western North Carolina and Buncombe County

MountainTrue Watershed Outreach Coordinator Anna Alsobrook clearly remembers the day she and French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson were confronted with the dismal reality of the plastic pollution crisis: “It was the final straw — figuratively and literally. A few years ago, Hartwell and I were paddling the Swannanoa River. Plastic was everywhere — thousands of plastic shopping bags littered the trees around us, and plastic bottles floated in the river like rafts of ducks. These weren’t new sights for us by any means, but they were the ultimate kick in the gut to start making more permanent changes to protect our rivers and streams.”

 

Want to join us in taking a stand against plastic pollution in Buncombe County? Add your voice below:

Take Action Against Single-Use Plastic Pollution in Boone

Take Action Against Single-Use Plastic Pollution in Boone

Take Action Against Single-Use Plastic Pollution in Boone

Plastic pollution: we’ve all seen it littered on the side of the road, blowing in the wind, floating down rivers and streams.

 

Plastic pollution is a global problem, but we all have to be part of the solution. Together, we can stop plastic pollution at its source. Let’s enact common-sense laws at the state and local levels to limit the use of single-use plastics before they end up as litter in our rivers, lakes, and streams.

Our water quality testing concludes that microplastic pollution is widespread throughout the Watauga River Basin and other Western North Carolina waterways. Together, we can stop plastic pollution at its source. That’s why we’re working to implement a single-use plastic ban in the Town of Boone. We can and should enact common-sense legislation at the local level to limit the use of single-use plastics before they end up as litter and microplastic pollution in Boone’s rivers, lakes, and streams. Visit the Plastic-Free WNC website to learn more about our plastics-focused work in Western North Carolina and Boone

Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill on plastic pollution: “We’ve spent years conducting river cleanups, engaging hundreds of volunteers and partner organizations. We spend a lot of time on the Watauga, New, and Elk Rivers collecting water samples, planting trees, and tracking pollution. I thought we had a good handle on the plastic problem. A watershed change and paradigm shift for how I considered the issue came about when we partnered with the Town of Boone and Asheville Greenworks to install a passive litter collection device known as a Trash Trout. The data we began collecting on the type and amount of single-use plastics — including styrofoam and other littered items — truly blew us away.” 

 

Want to join us in taking a stand against plastic pollution in Boone? Email Boone Town Council using the form below:

Asheville’s Merrimon Avenue Reconfiguration

Asheville’s Merrimon Avenue Reconfiguration

Asheville’s Merrimon Avenue Reconfiguration

Merrimon Avenue is dangerous – not only for pedestrians and cyclists but also for drivers. Has anyone else sat in your car waiting to turn left off Merrimon and watched your rearview mirror in horror as another driver comes flying up behind you and then swerves into the right-hand lane just barely missing your bumper? Or have you been the unfortunate victim of a situation where that driver didn’t quite swerve in time and crashed into you? We don’t want this to happen anymore. People should be able to walk safely along the sidewalks or bike into town without risking their lives.

Luckily, right now we have the opportunity to influence the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to improve the design and make the road safer for all users! NCDOT is considering streamlining the road to add both bike lanes and a center turning lane, which would create a calmer and safer experience for everyone. You can provide your input by taking NCDOT’s Merrimon Avenue Survey by March 22, 2022. 

If you’d like a guide that can help explain parts of this survey and give tips on how to respond to some of the open-ended questions, we encourage you to review this excellent resource created by our organizational partner, Asheville on Bikes. For more information on the project from a local perspective, check out this Asheville Citizen Times op-ed written by MountainTrue’s Community Engagement Director and North Asheville resident, Susan Bean.

The City of Asheville is seeking resident input on the Merrimon Avenue Reconfiguration Project. The City’s comment period — open until March 22, 2022 — aims to gather public feedback about a proposed 4-3 conversion (road diet) for Merrimon Avenue. This conversion would take place as part of an upcoming NCDOT repaving project, a project which had been delayed, until now, by the pandemic and by discussions between NCDOT and the City about the future of Merrimon Avenue. Repaving projects include re-striping between the curbs, and that re-striping can be designed to create a different traffic configuration, as is proposed for Merrimon.

This repaving and subsequent 4-3 conversion is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to make Merrimon Avenue better fit the needs of the community. Like our friends at Asheville on Bikes, we recommend that Asheville residents follow this project and discuss it with their neighbors. 

Asheville — the tenth largest city in North Carolina — continues to rank #1 in pedestrian and bicyclist death and injury. As the Citizen Times reported earlier in March, between 2010-18, Asheville ranked first in the state per capita in both total pedestrian crashes per year and in pedestrian crashes that result in injury or death. 

MountainTrue supports a 4-3 conversion for Merrimon Avenue north of downtown for many reasons — and one of the best reasons is that it will make the road safer for all users.

Here’s what we know about Merrimon Avenue as it stands right now:

  • Merrimon Avenue is dangerous and doesn’t work well for any road user, including motorists.
  • Four-lane undivided highways are dangerous by design — resulting in conflicts between high-speed through traffic, left-turning vehicles, and other road users.
  • Merrimon Avenue averages a crash almost every other day.
    • 20% of those crashes result in injury.
    • Between 2010-18, Asheville ranked first in the state per capita in both total pedestrian crashes per year and in pedestrian crashes that result in injury or death.
  • Merrimon Avenue is dangerous. More dangerous than other comparable streets across the state. Accidents happen almost daily, frequently causing injury and sometimes even death. A safer design is possible and would create a calmer AND safer experience for all road users – drivers, pedestrians, emergency vehicles, cyclists – everyone.

Based on what we know about 4-lane roads that are reconfigured into 3-lanes with a center turn-lane:

  • An improved Merrimon Ave will be safer for all users and all abilities: pedestrians, drivers, and bicyclists alike
  • An improved Merrimon Ave will slow down traffic without making trips significantly longer, and make for a more pleasant experience for local users of the corridor
  • Businesses will benefit as it will be easier and safer for customers traveling both directions to turn left into them
  • New bike lanes would create a buffer of space between pedestrians on the sidewalks and vehicular traffic
  • 15 years of transportation planning by various agencies have all supported this conversion

Let’s support a safer multi-modal Merrimon Avenue. Take action today and let the NC Department of Transportation know that you support a better, safer Merrimon Ave

MountainTrue FAQ: SMIE Volunteering

MountainTrue FAQ: SMIE Volunteering

MountainTrue FAQ: SMIE Volunteering

Let’s chat bugs! Last December on the MountainTrue blog, we considered What’s Bugging Our Rivers. Today, we’ll take a deeper dive into our participation in the Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SMIE) program and our partnership with the Environmental Quality Institute (EQI), based in Black Mountain, NC. We’ll split this blog post into two main sections: we’ll start with a summary of the SMIE program and our partnership with EQI and conclude with a brief SMIE volunteer FAQ.  

About SMIE

SMIE is a collaborative, volunteer-based biological water quality monitoring program that analyzes aquatic macroinvertebrate population data from across Western North Carolina (WNC). The SMIE program was developed in 2004 by Clean Water for North Carolina (CWFNC) (as creative lead), EQIHaywood Waterways AssociationRiverlink, and two of MountainTrue’s predecessor organizations: the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO) and the WNC Alliance. 

 Benthic macroinvertebrates — including aquatic stream bottom-dwelling insects like stoneflies, caddisflies, hellgrammites, and more — are excellent indicators of the comprehensive water quality of a stream because they have limited mobility, specific habitat requirements, and distinct pollution tolerance levels. You could say that aquatic macroinvertebrates are artists — they paint a revealing picture of the overall health of aquatic ecosystems. As the metaphorical art historians of the SMIE world, experts at EQI and their partner organizations analyze the physical cues left by these tiny yet essential aquatic insect artists. The expert analyses of SMIE data across multiple watersheds help us better understand our region’s vibrant water quality history and present reality. 

 About EQI and MountainTrue’s partnership

 Our partnership began in 1992 when EQI partnered with ECO — one of MountainTrue’s three predecessor organizations — to conduct surface water monitoring in Henderson County as part of EQI’s *Volunteer Water Information Network (VWIN) program. Thirty years (and a whole lot of water quality testing) later, MountainTrue continues to collect and deliver monthly water quality samples to EQI, and we now provide EQI with our SMIE data for analysis. 

One of EQI’s primary goals is to increase public awareness about regional water quality and environmental issues across WNC. Involving the public in the SMIE data collection process allows EQI and MountainTrue to significantly expand our sampling capacity and add credibility to citizen science programs.

EQI currently coordinates SMIE sampling at 49 sites in five WNC counties (Buncombe, Madison, Haywood, Mitchell, and Yancy). EQI also provides technical support for its partner organizations using the SMIE protocol throughout WNC and Eastern TN. As an EQI partner, MountainTrue coordinates SMIE volunteer training and sampling in Henderson, Polk, and Cleveland counties. SMIE sampling efforts occur each spring and fall, typically in April and October.

Check out EQI’s Water Quality Map to see sampling locations and review data from the past 30 years of water quality monitoring!

*One of EQI’s major programs, VWIN is a volunteer-based network that has been conducting chemical surface water monitoring in WNC streams on a monthly basis since 1990. Learn more about and get involved with EQI’s VWIN work here

 Why our partnership matters

The North Carolina Division of Water Resources (NC DWR) monitors water quality throughout the state, prioritizing testing sites with existing and pressing issues. The agency’s minimal number of testing sites and low sampling frequency have both continued to decrease over time due to lack of capacity — this means that water quality in many WNC streams is not regularly monitored… That’s where we come in! 

The SMIE program monitors the water quality of urban, rural, and forested streams in priority WNC watersheds and tributaries without existing watershed plans or projects. By consistently monitoring WNC streams, EQI and MountainTrue can assess long-term water quality trends that highlight the interrelated relationship between the health of local waterways and resident aquatic insect populations. 

This comprehensive knowledge provides valuable insights into the effects of *pollution in our local waterways. Essentially, WNC streams with higher pollution levels have fewer aquatic insects and are less hospitable to other aquatic and riparian species, like native fish, salamanders, and streamside plants. Alternatively, the presence of pollution-sensitive aquatic insect species indicates cleaner, healthier streams with greater biodiversity. 

*The most common types of pollution include:

  • Stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces like parking lots, roads, buildings, and other structures. Littered trash is frequently swept up in the flow of running stormwater, quickly making its way into local waterways.   
  • Bacteria and chemical pollution, often caused by sewer and septic system overflows, agriculture runoff, and industrial effluent. 
  • Sediment pollution, often caused by erosion of stream banks, some animal agriculture practices, and runoff from construction sites and plowed fields. 
  • Wastewater human and animal waste, industrial effluent, and trash. 

SMIE Volunteer FAQ 

Q: Why should folks want to volunteer for SMIE?

It’s a super fun way to connect with the environment and your community through citizen science and shared experience. SMIE volunteers get hands-on experience with a unique and essential facet of environmentalism (aquatic insects!) and make meaningful contributions to environmental protection!

Q: What does a typical SMIE volunteer day look like?

MountainTrue or EQI’s SMIE experts meet volunteers at our sampling sites and provide all the supplies needed for a day of aquatic insect sampling: nets, buckets, filters, ice cube trays, forceps, datasheets, and waterproof waders. A group leader accompanies each volunteer group, completing all aquatic insect identification and ensuring proper SMIE protocol is followed. The data collected by SMIE volunteers is recorded and sent back to the EQI or MountainTrue labs, where it’s entered into our long-term database. 

In total, sampling an SMIE site takes between one and a half to three hours. Volunteers are expected to sample at least two SMIE sites each spring and fall season. We collect our samples using the three collection methods detailed in the SMIE protocol: 

Kick Net Collection

One volunteer holds the large net while another kicks just upstream. The kicking disturbs the stream bed, dislodging aquatic insects from the sediment and off of rocks before they’re picked up in the stream’s flow and caught in the net. SMIE protocol calls for two volunteers to collect macroinvertebrates from the net for 20 minutes.

Leaf Pack Collection

Fallen leaves are an important source of nutrients and shelter for many aquatic insects. As the leaves move downstream, they collect on rocks, fallen sticks and logs, and along stream banks — as they decompose, insects move in. Volunteers fill a bucket with decomposing leaves and sort through the leaf pack to find insects. Volunteers can also collect insects with a strainer used to filter water from the soggy leaves. Volunteers typically spend five minutes collecting insects from the leaf pack. 

Visual Collection

A volunteer wades through the stream and examines various microhabitats for aquatic insects. Insects are typically found under rocks, along river banks where tree roots interact with the stream, and in leaf packs. They can also be found by filtering stream water through a strainer.

Q: Do I have to be trained to volunteer? Where can I sign up for a training/when is the next one? 

In order to ensure our data is reliable, the SMIE program requires all volunteers to be trained. EQI and MountainTrue host SMIE training workshops twice per year in the fall and spring. Training workshops are broken into morning and afternoon sessions. Morning sessions are education-focused — volunteers learn about the basics of stream ecology, aquatic insect identification, SMIE protocol, and the history and importance of the SMIE program and water quality monitoring in general. Afternoon streamside sessions offer volunteers the chance to put their newfound knowledge to the test — volunteers are trained in all collection methods and get hands-on practice with aquatic insect identification. 

Additionally, EQI offers group leader training to especially passionate SMIE volunteers. Group leaders receive additional training in SMIE protocol and insect identification. 

Both EQI and MountainTrue are hosting SMIE training workshops this spring! MountainTrue will be training volunteers for Henderson and Polk counties on March 5. EQI will be training volunteers for Buncombe, Madison, Haywood, Mitchell, and Yancy counties on April 2. Stay tuned for updates on upcoming training workshops in MountainTrue’s High Country Region! 

 

Have other SMIE questions? Feel free to reach out to our SMIE experts and SMIE Volunteer FAQ co-authors: