App State’s NRLP Awarded $1M for Environmental Restoration on Middle Fork New River

This aerial photo displays the section along Payne Branch Road in Blowing Rock where the stream will be restored. The decommissioned Payne Branch hydroelectric dam, visible in the upper left corner, will be removed as part of the restoration efforts. Photo submitted

This aerial photo displays the section along Payne Branch Road in Blowing Rock where the stream will be restored. The decommissioned Payne Branch hydroelectric dam, visible in the upper left corner, will be removed as part of the restoration efforts. Photo submitted

BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State University’s New River Light and Power (NRLP) is the awardee of $1 million in grant funding from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF), which will be used to complete an environmental restoration on the Middle Fork New River. This restoration will take place at the site of the decommissioned Payne Branch hydroelectric dam, located just east of Boone at Payne Branch Park in Blowing Rock.

To complete these restoration efforts, NRLP is partnering with CWMTF and the Resource Institute Inc., with an expected project completion date of fall 2020.

NRLP Engineering Supervisor Matthew Makdad, P.E., the grant recipient, and NRLP General Manager Edmond Miller, P.E., have collaborated on the project, for which the university is also honoring a $200,000 matching funds commitment.

“With our collaborative efforts, we are eager to restore this section of the New River to its natural habitat, address erosion and wetland habitats, and create a location for use and enjoyment by the community,” Makdad said.

The Payne Branch dam was used from 1924–72 as a power source for the NRLP service area, according to Makdad.

“The watershed upstream of the site has been impacted by development, pasture grazing and highway expansion,” he explained. “This, plus the remaining dam structure, has subsequently resulted in increased stormwater, sediment loading from erosion and higher surface water temperatures that all impact the water quality in this habitat.”

As part of the upcoming project, remnants of the dam will be removed, restoring approximately 1,200 linear feet of the river and adjacent wetland areas, Makdad said.

Specific work to the site will include the following:

  • significant sediment removal;

  • reconnection to existing floodplain;

  • new channel construction;

  • creation or enhancement of floodplain wetlands or ponds;

  • riparian buffer and stream bank plantings; and

  • removal of invasive species.

Once the restoration is completed, “significant improvements to this native trout stream will be realized,” Makdad said, “as well as a more scenic environment for future extension of the Greenway Trail between Boone and Blowing Rock.”

Jessica Stump, Appalachian State Today, August 28
original article at

Experts Come to CO to Talk Watershed Restoration, Climate Change


ESTES PARK, Colo. – The Rocky Mountain Stream Restoration Conference comes to Estes Park next week, bringing watershed experts and engineers to the state. 

Russ Schumacher – associate professor and Colorado State University's climatologist – says it's an opportunity for policymakers to look at a host of challenges facing the Intermountain West, such as extreme weather events like the Big Thompson and 2013 floods in Lyons and Boulder. 

Schumacher says mitigating flash floods is especially important along the Front Range, where moisture from the Gulf of Mexico pours down through steep canyons.

"Clearly extreme precipitation and flooding has always happened, but there's also kind of growing evidence that the warming climate and more moisture in the atmosphere is leading to more extreme precipitation," says Schumacher.

He says hotter and more destructive wildfires also need to be addressed. Burn scars don't absorb water, so heavy rains can send crippling debris flows into streams, affecting fish habitat and drinking water. 

He adds while population growth and development in flood plains have put structures and people at risk, cities and counties can restore flows in ways that limit flood damage and even capture water for drier days.

Dave Rosgen, the owner of Wildland Hydrology, speaks on Tuesday about natural channel design, which he describes as a four-stage approach that emulates stable waterways to accommodate water needs during drought as well as 100-year floods. 

He says streams can be stabilized, for example, by adding willows and cottonwoods, which send their roots into wood workers sink into the riverbanks.

"Very natural and aesthetically pleasing, as opposed to hard control with high walls of concrete,” says Rosgen. “And the use of 'toe wood' is really helpful for not only reducing bank erosion, but really helps for fish habitat."

Rosgen adds natural channel design costs about ten cents on the dollar compared with hard-control designs that he says end up being temporary after the next 100-year storm. 

The conference, organized by Resource Institute, starts Tuesday, June 18, at the Stanley Hotel. Information is online at ''

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO

Remembering California’s 2nd-Deadliest Disaster

The St. Francis Dam collapse in 1928 is California's second-deadliest disaster, after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. (H.T. Strearns/U.S. Geological Survey)

The St. Francis Dam collapse in 1928 is California's second-deadliest disaster, after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. (H.T. Strearns/U.S. Geological Survey)

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. – Ninety-one years ago this spring, the St. Francis Dam collapsed, sending a 160-foot wall of water crashing 54 miles from Santa Clarita to the beach in Ventura.

It killed about 450 people – the second-deadliest disaster ever in the state. 

President Donald Trump signed a law in March establishing a national memorial there, and now, the Angeles National Forest has three years to come up with a management plan. 

Forest Supervisor Jerry Perez says the memorial will serve a dual purpose.

"So, I think the importance of it is to acknowledge the loss of human life, and the importance of sound infrastructure in Southern California,” says Perez.

Investigations done after the tragedy determined that rock on the south side of the dam was unstable, and that engineers failed to fortify the base when they raised the top of the dam an extra ten feet. Perez says the lessons learned have since informed generations of civil engineers, including those who worked on Hoover Dam.

Last weekend, volunteers removed trash near San Francisquito Creek, which runs through the dam site and supports two endangered species – the California red-legged frog, and a fish called the unarmored three-spined stickleback. 

Alan Walker is a manager with the nonprofit Resource Institute, which is working on a project to improve the creek that will then inform the management plan.

"What we're trying to do is look at ways naturally to incorporate the existing site conditions into a natural feature that will allow these organisms to move up and down stream, and being extremely respectful of the cultural resources that exist, especially at the St. Francis Dam site,” says Walker.

The project is a partnership between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Angeles National ForestResource Institute, and SWCA, an environmental consulting firm. 

The site is open to the public, northeast of Santa Clarita off Interstate 5. There is a plaque at the site of one of the power stations that was destroyed, as well as multiple places to pull off and see the giant pieces of concrete that washed down the valley almost a century ago.

Disclosure: Resource Institute contributes to our fund for reporting on Endangered Species & Wildlife, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA

RI's Chair Inducted into the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians Hall of Fame


On March 30, Resource Institute’s chair, Squeak Smith was inducted into the Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians Hall of Fame. Squeak was recognized for his contribution to conservation.

Michael R. “Squeak” Smith was born on November 1, 1948 in Alma, Michigan and grew up in Michigan around fly fishing as his grandfather was a fishing guide. Squeak caught his first fish on a flyrod at age 3 and learned to tie flies at age 8. Squeak earned his B.S. in Industrial Psychology from Michigan State University in 1970 and did masters work at Troy State University for 1974-77 in Counselling and Guidance. He is an “addicted” life-long fly fisher, averaging 150 days a year on the water chasing salmon and steelhead on Great Lakes tributaries, and trout in the local mountain streams and tailraces. He has lived in Southeast since 1985 in Glen Alpine-Morganton, North Carolina with his wife Connie. He has four children Heather, Aaron, Doug and John and four grandchildren Lilly, Dylan, Annabelle and Parker. He has been a “full time volunteer” giving programs and presentations throughout the Southeast and nationally on nonprofit fundraising, stream restoration project opportunities, fly-tying, and salmon and steelhead fishing. Squeak has held eleven nonprofit positions, accepted seven professional awards and six non-profit awards including NCWF Sportsman of the Year since retiring from the military where he served as a USAF Retired Captain Flight Commander F-4 Phantom Senior Weapons Systems Officer. He has traveled and lived all over the world while in the Air Force from 1971-83. Squeak was medically retired in 1983 due to Multiple Sclerosis. Squeak became active in environmental issues and organizations in 1986 after moving to the area for the fishing opportunities (he is proud to have 30 trout streams within 45 miles of his home). Squeak has held/holds leadership positions in numerous organizations at local, state and national levels for over 30 years. As Foothills Conservancy Chairman for 6 years, he received the Ruby Award for Conservation Leadership, protected over 50,000 acres and turned it over to state or federal agencies for public access and permanent protection status. He has served as the Resource Institute Inc. Board Chairman since 2010, implementing over 130 individual projects totaling 1,400,000+ feet of stream restoration and enhancement, over 100 miles of greenways and blue ways established, 10,000 acres protected, and wetlands restored with total funding raised for projects to date at over $130 million.

Nonprofit Outlines Plan for Topsail Projects

Dunes in North Topsail Beach were washed over and the sand was transported landward during Hurricane Florence, covering the road and driveways. Photo: U.S. Geological Survey

Dunes in North Topsail Beach were washed over and the sand was transported landward during Hurricane Florence, covering the road and driveways. Photo: U.S. Geological Survey

TOPSAIL BEACH – A Winston-Salem-based nonprofit granted $5 million in state funds aimed to complete what could turn out to be several long-term, storm-mitigation projects along Topsail Island.

Resource Institute, or RI, which received the multi-million-dollar Division of Water Resources grant last year, will spearhead a yet-to-be formed committee that will prioritize a list of proposed projects in the three towns on the island.

The list of 23 proposed projects the towns submitted to RI totals an estimated $40 million and covers everything from stormwater mitigation to beach access ramps for vehicles, pumping systems for flood waters and sea oat planting to stabilize dunes, according to institute officials who provided the information.

“Projects that addressed water quality. Projects that addressed your drainage issues,” said Michael R. “Squeak” Smith, RI’s board chairman.

Projects proposed by North Topsail Beach, Surf City and Topsail Beach range in estimated costs from $15,000 to $15 million.

Smith and Charles Anderson, RI’s consulting agent, met last week with the Topsail Island Shoreline Protection Commission, or TISPC, in Topsail Beach to explain the role of the committee.

The task force, chaired by either Smith or Anderson, will consist of representatives appointed by each town (one person per town), two sitting RI board members — Dick Barber of Washington, North Carolina, and Roy Pender of Southport — and North Carolina Coastal Federation Executive Director Todd Miller. RI has asked town officials to submit the names of prospective task force members by Feb. 15.

The committee will review and rank each project, then those projects selected by the committee will be sent to Raleigh for approval.

“We’re going to come up with a vetting format to rank the projects,” Smith said. “Everybody gets one vote. Each project will have a number and, at the end of the day, each project will be ranked.”

The concept, he said, is that the $5 million will be allocated to projects that will help the towns recover more quickly after hurricanes.

When RI initially received the grant last summer, the nonprofit was instructed to use the money to work with coastal local governments and engineering firms “to explore opportunities for the development and implementation of emerging techniques that can extend the useful life of beach nourishment projects,” according to state budget language.

“Do something that’s going to be much longer term than pumping sand down the beach,” Smith said.

After Hurricane Florence hammered the North Carolina coast in mid-September of last year and beach towns suffered the remnants of Hurricane Michael later that same month, state lawmakers decided to change the wording, honing in on Topsail Island.

Storm surge pummeled the island’s dunes, stripped the beaches of tons of sand, leveled shoreline berms and damaged a multitude of homes and businesses. Both North Topsail Beach and Surf City are currently operating out of temporary town halls.

Resource Institute has done some work on coastal projects, including at the historic Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson site, where the largest state permitted living shoreline project is underway on the banks of the Cape Fear River in Brunswick County.

A majority of the institute’s work has historically dealt in inland stream- and wetlands-restoration projects.

Questions and rumors circulated as to why this particular nonprofit – based more than 200 miles west of the coast – was granted the funding to work on coastal storm mitigation projects.

Anderson explained in an interview before the TISPC’s Jan. 24 meeting that the nonprofit recognized a need along the coast.

“It came down to the coast needs a lot more help right now,” he said. “We are a project-driven organization nonprofit. If it can’t be a tangible item that we can see we prefer not to be involved.”

RI works with other nonprofits, local governments and private entities to aid in the planning, design, and engineering of projects. It also helps find funding sources for those projects.

Smith said he believes there will be more opportunities to get additional funding for hurricane recovery, money that could be put toward the projects that make the cut.

“We’re here for the long haul to get this stuff done and I look at this initial $5 million as a starting point,” he said to the commission last week.

Miller, who is to be a voting member on the committee, had not seen the project list, but he said the grant amount would be a big investment for stormwater retrofit and living shoreline projects.

“Those would be pretty significant because those things are widespread,” he said. “I welcome the opportunity to speak with the town officials about stormwater opportunities and living shoreline opportunities. Most of those can be done fairly quickly.”

RI has sent a draft agreement to the state with plans to form the project-selection committee within the coming weeks.

Anderson said the goal is to get projects on the ground within a year of approval.

“Our objective is to speed this thing along, make it happen,” he said. “We want to spend this money within 12 months.”

Trista Talton, Coastal Review Online



SWCA’s The Wire showcases a partnership between Resource Institute, SWCA, and Southwest Aquatic and Terrestrial Biology (SWAT). The partnership was formed to implement a multi-phased project titled the San Francisquito Canyon Aquatic Barriers Restoration Program. The project is funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Read more at SWCA - The Wire, Volume 18, No.

Waterway Restoration: A New Year Priority in NC

Rock Vane Ararat.JPG

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – It's been a tough year for North Carolina's water resources. 

Like people, buildings and wildlife, bodies of water also have had to withstand the damaging effects of Hurricanes Florence and Michael, and a flurry of tornadoes. Professor Tammy Kowalczyk at Appalachian State University says a waterway's resiliency is a gift, and clean water "sustainability" is important for day-to-day water needs, as well as preparing for future weather emergencies. 

"One of the definitions is the capacity to endure,” says Kowalczyk. “And so, that notion of capacity is really about resources. So, you have capacity if you have sufficient resources, and that the resources are doing the things that they're supposed to be doing to help maintain sustainability."

She says the importance of stream restoration was underscored this year as floods threatened the majority of the state between Hurricanes Florence and Michael, and restoration work must be prioritized. Kowalczyk points to organizations working to ensure North Carolina's capacity to endure future emergencies, including Resource Institute.

Alan Walker, restoration specialist with Resource Institute, says when a stream is restored, or put back into its natural state, it's more easily able to withstand and recover from storm events. And that improves water quality for everyone who depends on the stream.

"Clean water is not only important for us as humans, but it's also vitally important for wildlife,” says Walker. “It's our responsibility to help manage and look after what was created and given to us."

He says for almost two decades, Resource Institute has worked to restore and enhance more than 1.3 million feet of stream and 2,000 acres of wetlands.

Kowalczyk, who teaches the concept of sustainability to business students, explains that resources such as waterways and forests have a three-pronged benefit. 

"What these three areas are: environmental stewardship, social justice and economic prosperity,” says Kowalczyk. “The primary emphasis here is on the fact that we have to really preserve natural resources to have sustainability in the other areas."

North Carolina's stream restoration efforts also boost the outdoor recreation industry, which is responsible for 260,000 jobs and $28 billion in consumer spending, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

Antionette Kerr, Public News Service - NC

Get more headlines like this via email Native Plants Provide Pit Stops for Bird Migration through NC

The swamp sparrow is among the birds traveling through North Carolina this month, on its way south for the winter. (Kenneth Cole Schneider)

The swamp sparrow is among the birds traveling through North Carolina this month, on its way south for the winter. (Kenneth Cole Schneider)

CLEMMONS, N.C. – Chances are more than a few North Carolinians turned on their heat this weekend and dug out winter clothes as temperatures start to drop. 

The same shifting season is also prompting birds to fly south for the winter, but increases in urban development sometimes make it difficult for them to find food. 

Jesse Anderson, president of the Audubon Society of Forsyth County, says people can support the birds’ travels by planting native plants in their yards and gardens. 

"The insects that are native to here are feeding on those plants as the birds are migrating, and the birds have a huge resource of both seeds, berries, and these native caterpillars," Anderson points out.

Forsyth County is home to Tanglewood Park. It's part of the North Carolina Birding Trail, created in 2004 as a joint project of the Audubon Society and Pilot View Resource Conservation and Development, Inc., a nonprofit group that focuses on environmental restoration. 

Anderson says native plants along waterways also reduce erosion and maintain water quality. 

Darin Young, chair of Pilot View, says by planting native vegetation, or leaving natural vegetation in place, people can support an entire ecosystem.

"Mother Nature kind of takes back over, from where it had been in poor quality beforehand, with the stream restoration and the bank restoration and all that,” she explains. “It just provides a better habitat for all wildlife, not only just the fish, but also the birds and deer, and small animals."

Anderson says communities or individuals looking to landscape should think twice before using plants just because they're readily available at the big box stores. He says give some thought to how useful the plants will be in nature.

"With increases in development, there's a large push to install plants that are low-maintenance and may look appealing for most of the year,” he points out. “However, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's a good plant for birds and wildlife."

This month, birds arriving in North Carolina include the swamp sparrow, white-throated sparrow, dark-eyed junco and white-crowned sparrow. 

Many garden stores are now identifying plants and seed mixes on their shelves, and the Audubon Society also keeps a list of native plants on its website.

Stephanie Carson - Public News Service - NC

NC Communities Benefit from Historic Conservation Legislation

Wilson Creek in Caldwell County has a growing number of outdoor enthusiasts seeking out the area because of improved trout population and waterways. (Trout Unlimited)

Wilson Creek in Caldwell County has a growing number of outdoor enthusiasts seeking out the area because of improved trout population and waterways. (Trout Unlimited)

LINVILLE FALLS, N.C. – Outdoor recreation generates $28 billion dollars annually in North Carolina, according to the Outdoor Recreation Association, and the state's thousands of miles of waterways are a large part of that. 

One example is the Wilson Creek watershed in Caldwell and Avery counties, one of five areas in the state that was created as a result of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, celebrating its 50th anniversary this month. 

Ron Beane, a former Caldwell County commissioner, was one of the community members that advocated for the funding in 1999 and says the project has had a huge impact.

"We did a good thing when we did that, and we got the people that live along that river, and also people who own land and property along that river to join in with us,” he recalls. “It improves their water quality and it also cleaned it up."

New River and Lumber River are among the other waterways in North Carolina that also received funding from the act. 

On Saturday, Nov. 3, more than two dozen community partners, including Trout Unlimited, Resource Institute, the U.S. Forest Service and Foothills Conservancy, will host a public party to celebrate the anniversary of the legislation, and announce new community projects to further enhance Wilson Creek.

One of the new projects that will be launching at the event is a Citizen Scientists Initiative, where community members will be invited to monitor and maintain trails and roads around the Wilson Creek area. 

"We're going to be utilizing citizen scientists to walk up trails and find significant sedimentation and erosion areas that the Forest Service and TU (Trout Unlimited) and other partners can then remediate," explains Andy Brown, Southern Appalachian cold water conservation manager with Trout Unlimited.

Brown adds that the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act anniversary is a good time to recognize how far efforts have gone over the years.

"Fifty years is a long time, and sometimes we all get busy on working on our conservation projects that we don't take time to just pause and just be, and remember why we're in this work in the first place, and why we even have a wild and scenic river," he states.

Other projects include new trails, roads and the replacement of stream crossings to better support aquatic life. 

Brown says the projects being launched address the needs of the trout population and also maintain clean water for outdoor recreation like hiking, paddling, angling and others.
Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC

CA Project Repairs Damage from Decades-Old Fire; Plans for Future

The joint project addresses erosion and sediment issues that still affect wildlife in the Angles National Forest. (SWCA Environmental Consultants)

The joint project addresses erosion and sediment issues that still affect wildlife in the Angles National Forest. (SWCA Environmental Consultants)

LOS ANGELES — It's been 16 years since the Copper Fire of 2002 ravaged parts of the Angles National Forest north of Santa Clarita, but damage remains. But a number of groups are working together to repair it. 

Fires affected the stream infrastructure and specific breeds of fish and frogs, but using innovative channel designs and restoring passage barrier sites should help the wildlife. It's a joint project between Resource Institute, SWCA Environmental Consultants, and funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and U.S. Forest Service. 

Nathan Sill is a forest biologist for the Forest Service. 

"We're oftentimes tasked with trying to just deal with the emergency when it's happening, and then the aftermath doesn't get nearly as much attention,” Sill said. “We forget to have the conversation about well, what is the land doing and what are the natural resources that use that land doing?"

The historic Saint Francis Dam site will also benefit from the project. The dam was built to supply water to Los Angeles. Thirty volunteers also will work on the ground to repair fire damage and collaborate with technical experts on a long-term plan to prevent the extent of damage in the event of another fire. 

Chelsey Murphy is senior natural resources project manager with the environmental consulting firm working on the project. She said the value having multiple experts involved has been priceless.

"It's been really interesting to get all these different experts into a room - and Resource Institute, who has an excellent national perspective on how to design sustainable, successful channels,” Murphy said.

Jim Bond is the Southern California Forest Programs Manager for the federal government's National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. He said some of the problems addressed by the Copper Fire project are a combination of geology, past land-management practices and post-fire effects.

"It's really dry, it's really erosive,” Bond said. “And so there's a lot of sediment impacts that occur in streams, especially after fires, and in certain cases, enhances the problems where these aquatic organism passage barriers exist."

Bond added that much of the work involves repairing damage done by past fires to create more resilient landscapes going forward.
Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - CA