The Watauga Riverkeeper is the key protector and watchdog of the Watauga River Basin in Western North Carolina. MountainTrue’s Watauga Riverkeeper endeavors to monitor and protect the quality of our region’s waterways through dedicated volunteers and engagement with Watauga and Avery county communities and local and state government. The riverkeeper wants all High Country residents and visitors to enjoy clean waterways free of sediment pollution and supporting a thriving mountain ecosystem.
Andy is MountainTrue’s Watauga Riverkeeper, protecting and advocating for the Watauga River Basin. Andy has a passion for clean, cold, fishable, drinkable, swimmable water. As a long time fly fisherman, educator and guide, Andy is intimately familiar with our watershed from headwaters to the tailwater and is passionate about protecting the places we love.
Watauga Riverkeeper Work
The Watauga Riverkeeper carries out the following programs and initiatives to protect the Watauga and Elk Rivers:
- VWIN Water Quality Monitoring Program where volunteers take 65 water samples monthly from 13 sites located throughout the Watauga River watershed to ensure that our waterways are clean and healthy.
- Recreation/Access: The Watauga Riverkeeper works with local individuals and groups to improve access to fishing and recreational opportunities on the Watauga River.
- Stormwater management will occur through the Muddy Water Watch program. Trainings will start this fall for Muddy Water Watch, a citizen-led initiative to reduce the amount of sediment polluting our waterways.
- SMIE Biomonitoring Program through which the Watauga Riverkeeper will be leading workshops and trainings so that citizen scientists can help determine the presence of certain aquatic insects, which are great indicators of river health.
- Patroling the watershed for polluting activities and serving as a resource and point of contact for the public on issues related to the Watauga River.
Watauga Riverkeeper News
As our mountain communities brace for the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, MountainTrue is doing our part to help reduce the spread of the virus, and mitigate the health risks to our communities and our staff. As of Monday, March 16, our four offices in Asheville, Boone, Hendersonville and Murphy are closed to the public. Our staff will still be working hard to protect the places we share, but many of us will be doing so from home or out in the field where we’ll be following recommended protocols. Following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and public health officials, we are also canceling all of our public events, hikes and training sessions for this spring, and our volunteer-based water monitoring programs, river cleanups and public lands workdays will be on hiatus until further notice.
The Watauga Water Intake Project would reclassify the Watauga River, opening it up to any number of water withdrawals and increased development. As of October 2018, Beech Mountain is still losing 150,000 gallons of water from leaky pipes per day – or 47% of Beech Mountain’s annual water use. Yet Beech Mountain has recently increased funds for the Watauga Water Intake Project to $2.15 million in this budget cycle. Take action here to tell Beech Mountain Town Council: The Town shouldn’t take on an expensive water intake when almost half of the water supply is currently leaking.
The public has the right to know about major pollution spills that impact our waterways as soon as possible, and through the technology the public uses today. Sign the petition below to tell the NC Department of Environmental Quality: Update your spill notification system for modern times to keep North Carolina’s people and waterways safe.
On January 2, MountainTrue, other community partners and our legal counsel the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) announced a historic settlement with Duke Energy and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. The agreement mandates that 80 million tons of coal ash will be excavated from six Duke Energy coal ash sites: Allen, Belews Creek, Cliffside, Marshall, Mayo, and Roxboro. Prior settlements and court orders require cleanups and excavation of coal ash at the eight other Duke Energy sites in North Carolina for the excavation of 46 million tons of coal ash. This agreement now puts in place a comprehensive cleanup plan for all coal ash lagoons at all 14 Duke Energy sites in North Carolina under which 126 million tons of ash has been or will be excavated across the state and will result in the largest coal ash cleanup in America to date.
Fred Mix has been an avid fisherman since before he could speak. In all his time fishing, he’s never been as concerned about the health of our rivers and streams as he is now.
Keep the Watauga and Elk Rivers Clean
You can help keep the Watauga River Basin healthy and clean by volunteering with one of our river cleanups or other events. If you are interested in volunteering, click the button below or email Andy Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org.