Texas Communities Plant Seeds of Protection from Next Big Storm

Hurricane Harvey brought more than 50 inches of rain to the Houston area in a four-day period last August. (urban.houstonian/flickr)

Hurricane Harvey brought more than 50 inches of rain to the Houston area in a four-day period last August. (urban.houstonian/flickr)

SAN ANTONIO - Hurricane Harvey left its mark on the Houston area, tying with Hurricane Katrina for the most costly storm at $125 billion in damage. For the San Antonio River Authority (SARA), the storm is a cautionary tale of the dangers of not preparing for the next big storm, and SARA assistant manager Steve Graham said they've realized their answers come from solutions Mother Nature has provided for thousands of years.

"We've learned from hurricanes and from major events that green infrastructure, your natural riparian areas, your wetlands, your shorelines, are important buffers against flooding, against water quality issues, against tidal surge," he said.

Graham said San Antonio also is preparing for a population surge of more than 1 million people between now and 2040, prompting a need to pay attention to how the city grows. The city's strategy is so successful that it's the subject of a conference in San Antonio next week: the Southwest Stream and Wetland Restoration Conference, organized by the nonprofit Resource Institute. The Institute is dedicated to improving water quality and water resources in Texas and across the country. There is still time to register for the conference, and it is open to anyone. The theme of the conference, "Restoration to Build Resilient Ecosystems," is bringing together some surprising partners to collaborate on solutions to storm preparation and water management, Graham said.

"At this conference, they've invited people who you wouldn't necessarily call stream and wetlands experts, but what we are experts in is creating resilient communities," he said. "We're embracing something called the triple bottom line, which is: Don't just look at the dollars in present value."

Pay attention to the social, environmental and financial impact of projects, Graham said.

Neighboring Louisiana understands the importance of early preparation for storms after surviving Katrina. Pat Forbes, executive director of the Louisiana Office of Community Development, said they're constantly preparing for similar storms.

"It's quite clear to us now that these are not isolated events and that we're going to have to be more resilient in the future," he said, "and so consequently that means building back in ways and doing things and considering options that we might not have considered before."

Experts say the current climate model of periods of drought followed by periods of extreme rainfall is consistent with the impact of climate change the region is seeing. 

Information on the conference is online at southweststream.squarespace.com.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TX

Article at https://www.publicnewsservice.org/2018-05-23/water/texas-communities-plant-seeds-of-protection-from-next-big-storm/a62606-1

NC Communities Make Outdoors Accessible for All

People enjoy access at Tumbling Rock Reservoir in Mount Airy, where they are able to fish and enjoy other activities, regardless of their level of mobility. (City of Mt. Airy)

People enjoy access at Tumbling Rock Reservoir in Mount Airy, where they are able to fish and enjoy other activities, regardless of their level of mobility. (City of Mt. Airy)

MOUNT AIRY, N. C. – Taking a hike on a trail or casting a line into a creek is something many people take for granted, but it's a luxury for thousands in the state who live with a disability. Thanks to state and federal funding, that's changing in many parts of North Carolina, as the state works with communities to create accessible areas for people who have mobility challenges. 

Kin Hodges, District 7 fisheries biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, says the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant areas provide a meaningful experience for people who lacked access for years. 

"It gives us all the ability to step away from our daily troubles and stresses, and kind of recharge our batteries,” says Hodges. “But certainly, I'm sure that feeling is even more magnified for folks that have much more limited opportunities, and they probably appreciate it even more."

The state works with the nonprofit Resource Institute to identify government funding, and Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Grants, to pay for many of the ADA projects. More than 50 areas in the state now offer recreational access for people with disabilities – including features like paved pathways, accessible parking, and ramps to and from parking lots and docks. 

The City of Mount Airy just completed more than six miles of ADA-compliant trails – with Resource Institute assistance to locate funding. Darren Lewis, assistant director with the city's Parks and Recreation Department, says the project receives accolades from residents and visitors alike.

"A family member, or sometimes it's a caregiver, have just praised the City of Mount Airy in general on the offerings that they provide, and being able to have this facility or service out there that everyone can use," says Lewis.

Other recent projects include work at Tumbling Rock Reservoir and Hanging Rock State Park, where accessible piers were built for people to fish and enjoy the water. Hodges says the benefits extend to parents, who are able to bring children in strollers, and older people with mobility issues.

"There was a fellow down there with his 92-year-old father, and just seeing him out there really just put a smile on our faces,” says Hodges. “These accesses do get used."

Hodges says creating ADA-compliant trails and lake access is somewhat easier than building more direct access to streams and rivers, where the landscape can be difficult to shape into wheelchair-friendly terrain.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC

Art Exhibition at Husson University Focuses on Water and Climate Change

from the Bangor Daily News, Author Eric B. Gordon

Cyanotype by Kimberly Anderson Ritchie

Cyanotype by Kimberly Anderson Ritchie

BANGOR — Husson announced today that noted academic and artist Kimberly Anderson Ritchie will be working with students in the university’s fine arts classes on Monday, March 19 and Tuesday, March 20, 2018. The university will also be hosting an artist talk and reception on Tuesday, March 20 from 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. in the Robert E. White Gallery in Peabody Hall on its Bangor, Maine campus.

Six works by Ritchie are currently on display in the gallery. The exhibit will conclude on Friday, March 30, 2018.

Gallery visitors will see a series of cyanotype prints that reflect Ritchie’s concerns about climate change and its impact on the natural environment. Cyanotypes are a photographic medium that use light sensitive paper exposed to direct sunlight. Whatever is on top of the paper blocks the emulsion and leaves the paper white, while other areas turn a beautiful cyano-blue. Ritchie’s process uses sunlight, the outdoors and natural elements to capture representations of the natural environment in her art.

“On a recent visit to Monhegan Island, Maine, I spent several days exploring the island’s plant and sea life. I was especially intrigued by the algae that washed up along the shore,” said Richie.

“My current work revolves around an in-depth study of environmental issues, from air pollution affecting lichen to global climate change affecting sea level rise. The art in this exhibition is my response to the research,” she said. “Some works simply use the issue as a starting point while other work clearly displays the concern. I want to bring the beauty, mystery, and conservation of the world back into our daily focus through the image-making process. My art is my way of internalizing the natural world and expressing my concern.”

Ritchie is an assistant professor and the coordinator of printmaking at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire. She received her Masters of Fine Art in printmaking from Colorado State University and her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Appalachian State University in North Carolina. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally, attended artist residencies, participated in numerous printmaking portfolio exchanges, and presented at conferences.

During the past decade, she has been featured in solo exhibitions located in Bjarmanes, Skagaströnd, Iceland; Plymouth, New Hampshire; Aurora, Colorado; Blacksburg, Virginia; and Boone, North Carolina. She has also been featured in group/juried exhibitions across the United States.

To learn more about Kimberly Anderson Ritchie and her work, visit KimberlyAndersonRitchie.com.

About the Robert E. White Gallery at Husson University

Artists with connections to Maine who work in every possible medium including watercolors, oil paintings, pastels, sculptures, acrylics, photographs and etchings, are featured at the Robert E. White Gallery.

With a new show approximately every eight weeks, the gallery provides students with a glimpse into how New England artists express themselves, giving them added insight into the place where they’ve chosen to go to school. The gallery was established in 1992 and named for, and endowed by, Husson alumni and former Board of Trustees Chair Robert E. White ’65.

The Robert E. White Gallery is free and open to the public, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. It is located in Peabody Hall on the campus of Husson University at 1 College Circle, Bangor, ME. For additional information call 207-941-7004.

For more than 100 years, Husson University has prepared future leaders to handle the challenges of tomorrow through innovative undergraduate and graduate degrees. With a commitment to delivering affordable classroom, online and experiential learning opportunities, Husson University has come to represent superior value in higher education. Our Bangor campus and off-campus satellite education centers in Southern Maine, Wells and Northern Maine provide advanced knowledge in business; health and education; pharmacy studies; science and humanities; as well as communication. In addition, Husson University has a robust adult learning program. For more information about educational opportunities that can lead to personal and professional success, visit Husson.edu.

Story at https://bangordailynews.com/bdn-maine/community/art-exhibition-at-husson-university-focuses-on-water-and-climate-change/

Dam Good Solution: NC City Flourishes with Growth of Water Sports

Rockingham now has a 14-mile blue trail through the city that draws outdoor enthusiasts from around the state and country. (City of Rockingham)

Rockingham now has a 14-mile blue trail through the city that draws outdoor enthusiasts from around the state and country. (City of Rockingham)

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. — North Carolina has a dam problem after centuries of water-power use by textile mills - many of which are now retired. 

At least one city - Rockingham - is removing dams from its waterways and reaping the rewards. Leaders are set to take out another dam just north of the city, eight years after the removal of a dam on Hitchcock Creek ignited the growth of a recreation industry. 

The city is working with Resource Institute, a nonpartisan nonprofit that connects water-quality needs with available public funds. Peter Raabe, North Carolina conservation director with American Rivers, said through funding and project guidance, the creek is now the source of recreation and a burgeoning economy.

"What we were really wanting to accomplish with that project was [to] begin the restoration of that ecosystem,” Raabe said. “The Hitchcock Creek has been a really impacted stream that powered a lot of industrial work in the city of Rockingham, but all those industries no longer needed that power."

The removal of the dam in 2010 allowed Rockingham to work with American Rivers to create a 14-mile blue trail from Ledbetter Lake to the Pee Dee River. Blue trails are like hiking trails on the water, and now the city says they have witnessed a growth of outdoor recreation and related businesses.

Rockingham City Manager Monty Crump said the change in the city is noticeable, even if you're not on the water.

"We've had to get used to seeing folks pulling trailers and canoes and kayaks on the back of their trucks and on trailers and on top of their cars,” Crump said. “That's really become commonplace, when that was not the case prior to the removal of the dam."

Raabe said aside from the impact on fish and recreation, the unused dams across the state also present a danger to communities during periods of heavy rain.

"You have the liability impact for the owner of the dam but also the community around the dam,” Raabe said. “If the dam is not well maintained and there's huge rains like what we've had over the past couple of years, if you have a poorly maintained dam and you get that type of water, you have the potential for breaching."

He added there are also incidences where people swimming near the dams are hurt or even die because of the unpredictable water flow and hazards involved.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC

Haywood Waterways Recognizes Water Champions

In the press.....

Haywood Waterways Recognizes Water Champions

Haywood Waterways Association honored five “Water Champions” for their work to protect and improve Haywood County’s rivers, streams, and reservoirs in 2017. The awards were given at the organization’s annual Christmas holiday dinner.

Eric Romaniszyn, Haywood Waterways’ Executive Director, said, “It’s a challenge to determine who to recognize each year. There are many worthy individuals and organizations. This year we recognized four individuals and one project.”

The Pigeon River Award is given to the individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to protecting Haywood County’s land and water resources. However, this year HWA broke tradition and gave the award to a project - the Dotson Branch Stream Corridor Restoration and Water Quality Improvement Project, a multi-partner, large-scale effort that is having tremendous impact on the county’s waterways. The project is locally managed by the US Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service and Haywood County Soil & Water Conservation District.

From the mouth of the stream at the Pigeon River to the top of the watershed, Dotson Branch flows through primarily agricultural land. Water quality was extremely degraded by sediment and nutrient loading from livestock, and there was very little stream side vegetation to help filter pollutants. The solutions included restoring 10,000 linear feet of stream channel to proper hydraulic function, stabilizing 18,600 linear feet of eroding stream bank, planting 10.7 acres of stream side trees and shrubs, and fencing 3.5 miles of stream bank to exclude livestock access.

John Ottinger, Supervisory Soil Conservationist with NRCS, said, “Thanks to the farmers who were willing to participate and improve water quality. To date, over $1 million has been secured and is being used for solutions that are improving water quality and protecting valuable farmland.” Other partners include the Southwestern NC Resources Conservation and Development, Resource Institute, and NC Division of Water Resources.

The Big Creek Award for Partner of the Year was presented to Lynn Sprague from the Southwestern NC Resource Conservation & Development Council. Lynn was recognized as one of Haywood Waterways primary partners, helping to develop projects and manage grants. Most recently these projects include working to remove a dam and creating a Watershed Action Plan for Beaverdam Creek; starting the Fines Creek Watershed Restoration Project to remove it from the state list of impaired waterways; implementing stormwater collection and treatment practices in Maggie Valley to help protect Jonathans Creek; and starting stream restoration projects at East Street Park and Chestnut Park in Waynesville.

He’s also a partner on the Regional Erosion and Sediment Control Initiative working to implement mountain-specific, cost-effective and on-going sediment and erosion control training for dirt movers called Mountain H20Pro, and serves on the Haywood Greenways Advisory Council helping to promote greenway development. Lynn is currently working with Haywood Waterways to develop a program to help homeowner’s associations control stormwater and stabilize roads to reduce erosion.

Volunteers are an essential part of the Haywood Waterways community. They help promote the organizations work, collect water quality information, and help protect waterways through such activities as planting trees, picking up trash and stenciling storm drains. The Volunteer of the Year Award was renamed this year in memory of the late Richard T. Alexander, long-time member of Haywood Waterways and active volunteer throughout Haywood County.

The Richard T. Alexander Award for Volunteer of the Year was given to three individuals, Bob Kimzey and the husband and wife team of Les and Julie Taylor.

Bob was recognized for his service collecting water samples as part the Volunteer Water Information Network. He was responsible for the Plott and Allens creeks sites and faithfully sampled them once a month between 2008 and 2017 before retiring this year. The VWIN Program collects water chemistry information from 24 sites throughout Haywood County. Haywood Waterways uses the information to justify projects and leverage financial assistance.

The second Volunteer of the Year winner was the husband and wife team of Julie and Les Taylor. They are new members of Haywood Waterways and are already having a big impact. They collect water samples for the VWIN program and have participated in multiple stream clean-ups. They also frequently help with other opportunities and even recruit new members to join the organization.

Haywood Waterways also recognized Andrew Bowen for his service on the Board of Director from 2016 to 2017. Andrew was the Planning Director for Maggie Valley during that time. A $50 donation in his honor was given to the Pink Francis Scholarship Fund at Haywood Community College.

Financial support for the membership dinner and awards was provided by Derric and Donna Brown, Pigeon River Fund of the Community Foundation of Western NC, Town of Clyde, and Town of Waynesville.

from Haywood Waters Association Facebook Page

Conservation Groups Find Ways to Work with Trump Administration

Resource Institute is one nonprofit that is managing to push forward with conservation work under the Trump administration. The organization emphasizes job creation as a means to garner support. (Resource Institute)

Resource Institute is one nonprofit that is managing to push forward with conservation work under the Trump administration. The organization emphasizes job creation as a means to garner support. (Resource Institute)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – With funding cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and auctions of public lands, the situation seems dire for some of those invested in protecting the country's natural resources. 

But some organizations are finding ways to work in the current political climate. 

Resource Institute is a nonprofit organization that pairs available federal funds with water conservation projects around the country, with several projects here in North Carolina. 

Board chair Squeak Smith says the institute’s work is continuing with current projects in western North Carolina.

"I don't think it's the end of the world,” he states. “We still have avenues to be able to work with existing programs. 

“Funding that we have received goes on for the next several years, so it's not like, 'Oh, boom, we're stopping everything.' "

Past projects by Resource Institute include parts of Dotson Branch, Stone Mountain State Park, Fisher River and Ring Creek. 

The organization also helps public and private entities with the design of projects and permit applications. 

Resource Institute recently completed the Granite Greenway project in Mount Airy, the fifth phase of this project.

Richard Mode is on the board of Resource Institute and says not all funding streams have dried up.

"There are still funding streams out there at both the federal and state level,” he points out. “Resource Institute uses those to leverage projects with other partners' funding."

Smith says sometimes finding success is about speaking the language of what's important to the administration and agencies.

"Here's what I found with the existing administration: If you can show that you're creating jobs, you're doing good for the environment, those are issues that – I don't care what party you belong to – you can support," he states.

Even with the progress made by some groups, changes to how the country approaches conservation continue. 

The U.S. Department of Interior has proposed the largest ever oil and gas lease auction of federal waters. 

The EPA is considering a proposal to scrap the Clean Power Plan and the Trump administration scrapped a study of health risks to residents who live near mountaintop removal coal sites in the Appalachian Mountains.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC

Lemonade Out of Lemons: NC Town Turns Problem Into Economic Boom


MOUNT AIRY, N.C. – As development expands in even the smallest of North Carolina towns, erosion is a growing problem for existing waterways. 

That was the case for Mount Airy before city planners partnered with water conservation experts to find a solution that's paying back in big dividends. 

To prevent further erosion and clean up the Ararat River that passes through the town, more than six miles of greenway were built. 

Darren Lewis, Mount Airy’s assistant parks and recreation director, says in addition to fixing a problem, the Granite Greenway planted an economic seed.

"We're really excited about what it has done for the private businesses that really see the value of the greenway,” he states. “It has created several businesses that have opened along the greenway."

Several restaurants and outdoor recreation businesses have plans to open up along the river, and some have already opened their doors. 

In addition, the greenway has inspired at least 15 different races or charity walks that are helping local nonprofit groups and drawing tourists to the area.

City Manager Barbara Jones says the benefits created from better managing the waterway will be experienced for generations.

"It has turned into a great opportunity,” she states. “It has turned into a great economic driver for us. It has been definitely a positive boost for Mount Airy."

Like many cities, Mount Airy felt the impact of the Great Recession and several large factories shut down. 

Community development organizer Martin Collins says because of the renewed interest in the downtown coming from the Granite Greenway, the city has been able to redevelop the large buildings into spaces for businesses and residents. 

"We're finding reuse of vacant buildings by business, and other adaptive reuses that will provide more customers for downtown businesses and restaurants," he explains.

The Mount Airy greenway project came about as a result of a partnership with Resource Institute, a nonprofit organization that manages public funds and partners with local groups to better manage water resources.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC
From Public News Service -  http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2017-11-27/water/lemonade-out-of-lemons-nc-town-turns-problem-into-economic-boom/a60310-1

Helping Mother Nature: NC Land Management Shifts to New Approach

Banks on the stream in Stone Mountain State Park were excavated and cleared after a rock quarry damaged the health of the waterway. (Greg Jennings)

Banks on the stream in Stone Mountain State Park were excavated and cleared after a rock quarry damaged the health of the waterway. (Greg Jennings)

ROARING GAP, N.C. -- North Carolina is changing the way it manages its state lands and waterways. After decades of a hands-off approach, a new method is being used in hundreds of projects across the state. 

Called active management, the practice describes a process where problems in stream health and restoration are evaluated, and man-made solutions are implemented to maintain water quality. Marshall Ellis, the mountain region biologist for North Carolina State Parks, explained the shift.

"Previously in state parks, we've never really done a very good job of actually managing our resources,” Ellis said. "We felt like, 'Oh, they're protected. We don't need to do anything.' And then began to realize Mother Nature occasionally needs a little help."

Ellis added that North Carolina is leading the way in this type of management. Recently more than 100 supervisors from other southeastern states visited Stone Mountain State Park, where the state worked with the nonprofit project management group Resource Institute. The project repaired damage to a park waterway caused by a rock quarry company.

Greg Jennings of Jennings Environmental helped with the Stone Mountain Project, and his firm is now in the process of planting native shrubbery to serve as a natural erosion barrier.

"We are returning the stream to its natural condition after it had been disturbed by a human land activity,” Jennings said.

Ellis said in addition to the new approach of active management, the state also is learning the benefits of public-private partnerships in working with the Resource Institute to manage projects and utilize federal dollars.

"One of the things we struggled with is how to manage these projects. What we needed was somebody who could fill that role,” Ellis said. "So we worked with the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and we've come up with the system that allows Resource Institute to take on the nuts and bolts of managing those projects."

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC
From Public News Service - NC -  http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2017-11-15/water/helping-mother-nature-nc-land-management-shifts-to-new-approach/a60272-1

NC a "Pitstop" for Pollinators in the Fall

October 6, 2017

Ruby Red-throated hummingbirds are among the pollinators traveling through North Carolina during the fall in need of pollinating plants to help them survive their journey south. (Evangelio Gonzalez/Flickr)

Ruby Red-throated hummingbirds are among the pollinators traveling through North Carolina during the fall in need of pollinating plants to help them survive their journey south. (Evangelio Gonzalez/Flickr)

October 6, 2017

NEBO, N.C. – Cooler temperatures and changing leaves in North Carolina can make it easy to forget that there's still some wildlife depending on the plants in yards and gardens. You might say some pollinators - like hummingbirds and Monarch butterflies - are getting by on "a wing and a prayer" as they use North Carolina as a pitstop on their migration south to warmer temperatures for the winter. 

Park ranger Jamie Cameron, at Lake James State Park, says he looks for plants that bloom in the fall to ensure there's pollen available.

"This time of year, I believe that your pollinator gardens serve as a critical pitstop for certain critters, and I specifically try to select for sources of pollen that will come late in the season," he says. 

He recommends Culver's root and asters as good, late-season pollinators to plant. He also trims some pollinating plants back earlier in the season, to delay their maturity and make their pollen available in early fall. Cameron adds that making sure streams and waterways have healthy vegetation serves a dual purpose - maintaining water quality, and providing pollen sources for birds and insects.

Resource Institute is a nonprofit agency that pairs public dollars with local water-management needs. Alan Walker works for RI as a field consultant and says creating robust habitats for pollinators is also good for many other wildlife species. 

"It's important that they have critical habitat to feed on to make those things happen, and what Resource Institute does is incorporate those plantings and seed mixtures into the stream bank and shoreline stabilization projects, to create additional habitat for pollinators," he explains. 

Cameron says while creating pollinator gardens is important, it's equally important to remember why they're needed now, more than ever.

"Pollinator gardens are great, but you know, we're just trying to recreate what is naturally available," Cameron adds. "The reason that we need pollinator gardens is because so much habitat has been lost, either through development or agriculture, or the use of herbicides in modern culture."

In addition to planting gardens, he advises people to curb the use of herbicides and to use native plants in their gardens to support insects and birds that may be struggling to find food.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC

From Public News Service - NC: http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2017-10-06/environment/nc-a-pitstop-for-pollinators-in-the-fall/a59705-1