MT Raleigh: The General Assembly’s Back In Action

The North Carolina General Assembly is back in action for its 2021 session – and MountainTrue is ready with a list of suggestions for legislators to protect Western North Carolina’s natural resources.

In recent weeks, our staff have met with legislators from across the region to educate them about our 2021 legislative priorities and to hear about their To-Do lists for the session. Thanks to Senators Deanna Ballard, Chuck Edwards and Kevin Corbin, as well as Representatives Jake Johnson, Tim Moffitt, Mark Pless, Karl E. Gillespie and Ray Pickett for taking the time to meet with us. We’ll also meet with other members of the WNC delegation through the early weeks of the session.

Some of MountainTrue’s priorities for 2021 include:

Water Quality Solutions

  • Increase funding to help farmers improve water quality. Agricultural waste is a significant source of E. coli and other bacterial pollution in WNC’s waters. Allocating more money to help local Soil and Water Conservation Districts help farmers with fencing and other pollution control efforts will keep agricultural waste out of rivers and streams.
  • Address failing septic systems. Failing septic systems are another major source of bacteria. Reinstating the Wastewater Discharge Elimination (WaDE) program will help reduce this pollution. Before it was cut several years ago, WaDE visited 13,379 WNC homes and identified 2,016 sources of water pollution in WNC – mostly from leaking and failing septic systems.
  • Help property owners reduce stormwater pollution. Stormwater is the third largest source of bacteria in NC’s waters. The Community Conservation Assistance Program (CCAP) allows WNC’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts to help property owners reduce stormwater pollution.  Like the cost-share program for farmers, existing CCAP funds are insufficient to meet the demand for assistance.

Improving Access and Quality of Outdoor Recreation

Outdoor recreation is a $28 billion business in North Carolina, and WNC’s outdoor industry accounts for thousands of jobs in our region. Improving access to our region’s wild places builds support for their protection and helps our economy. That’s why we support the following investments: 

  • Expanded public access and improvements to the Watauga River and French Broad River Paddle Trails 
  • Improvements to public access and trails for a popular recreational area on the Green River Game Lands in Henderson and Polk counties
  • Dam removal and improved fishing access on the Watauga River
  • Trail improvement and other investments to improve outdoor recreation on the Tuckasegee River in Swain County
  • New public access for float boats on the Valley River in Cherokee County
  • Expanded funding for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund as well as the North Carolina Land and Water Fund (formerly known as Clean Water Management Trust Fund) to help preserve the health of critical watersheds. 

The General Assembly will now be in session every week through mid-summer. Stay tuned for updates from us on how our region’s waters, recreation spots and communities fare at the legislature in the coming months.

Speaking up for WNC’s environment in Raleigh is central to MountainTrue’s mission – that’s why we are the only WNC environmental organization with a year-round advocate in the capitol. Your support of MountainTrue is key to our success, so thank you for making our state policy work possible!