WATRline News

It was a busy April 2012!

Friend event: Wild & Scenic Movie and more -4/17 Hinds Center, WCU.  Organized by the Tuckaseigee Chapter of the Alliance, WNCA, this event featured a great sequence of short, poignant films about a range of environmental problems and solutions that directly or indirectly touch us here in Western North Carolina.  Hats off to ‘Becca Berrgen and Ken Brown for organizing this event!  Our director, Roger, spoke about the clean water — fouled “I was so impressed by the plastic bottle film and the plastic bag film, too,” according to our director Roger Clapp.  He spoke at one of the breaks between films.  Tom Bolt, professor of Cherokee Studies, delivered a challenging talk describing the Cherokee vision of our land and landscape.

Green Fire —   Thurs. 4/19  7:00-8:30, free.  Smoky Mountain Community Theater, Bryson City.  Must-See conservation film. The life and legacy of Aldo Leopold – creator of the discipline of wildlife ecology and visionary.

Janice Inabinett was the lead organizeer.  Special thanks go to her, and panelists Susan Sachs (GSMNP education coordinator, Blair Allman (Leader, Swain High Env. Awareness Committee), Robert Hawk (Coop. Ext. Service agent – Swain & Jackson), and WATR’s Roger Clapp.   See blog!

The theme of  “a land ethic” resonates in our region — a compeling and challenging response to property rights.

Tuckaseegee River Cleanup
April 19, 2012 1-4 P.M.
Meeting Place: C.J. Harris Boat Launch — high water; called off.
Directions:  Click  here 

Savannah Creek Cleanup
Saturday April 21, 2012 9-11:30 A.M.
Meeting Place: Country Farms Rd, Rt 441
In support of the Annual WCU Tuckasegee Clean Up — WATR will have its own creek clean up.  Picked up bags of trash, old wire, an a small appliance unknown use.  Special thanks to Sunny Himes, Ken Brown, Rick Queen,

Greening Up The Mountains.  Sat. 4/28 from 10-5 pm.  Main Street, Sylva. WATR’s pavillion theme will be “The Creek is Alive” complete with macro invertebrate sorting.  Bring a kid who can earn a hands-on micro degree in Water Bugology!   Mandi Carringer did a superb job of showing off stream bugs caught hours earlier in Scotts Creek to kids and a few curious adults.  Over 60 folks signed in — a GUTM record for WATR.

Mountain Erosion Control – Swain Training

A record 31 contractors & excavators turned up for this training.  Goal of this training was to show WHY erosion control is so important for a healthy biological community in our creeks.  The lesson was a repeat of our “The Creek is Alive!” presentation, adapted for the front-end loader crowd.  Evaluation was our best ever with ratings of 5’s (the best) interspersed with just a few 4’s.

RTCAR’s David Cozzo explains the benefits of river cane

WATR gets $9,500 river cane grant from Cherokees
As clay is to the potter and stone is to the sculptor, river cane is the vital raw material to the Cherokee basketmaker.
But it’s in short supply.
A Cherokee artisans group has provided a grant to WATR to locate cane stands along the river to provide a local supply for basketmakers.
With a revival of basketmaking in Cherokee, artisans are having to travel farther and farther from home to find cane suitable for their use, said David Cozzo,  director of RTCAR, for Revitalization of Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resources.
It wasn’t long ago, said Cozzo, that the art of basketmaking had gone into decline to the point that there were only two Cherokee artisans making double-weave baskets. Supply of cane wasn’t a problem.
Then the Chrokee Preservation Foundation stepped in and started basketweaving classes. A revival ensued. Now, the craft is even taught in the Cherokee High School.
“With the cultural revival, the need for river cane has increased,” said Cozzo. His group is planning a trip soon to Barbourville, Ky., to harvest cane from a “really nice stand” there. And it is working with Sumter National Forest in South Carolina to find cane there for harvesting.
Cozzo is convinced that there is river cane enough in Jackson and Swain counties to provide an adequate local source –it just needs to be located and the owners persuaded to allow the harvesting.
That’s where the grant to WATR comes in. The grant is for $9,500 for the project, which will run through September, 2012.
Roger Clapp, WATR director, has issued a call for volunteers to help with the river cane hunt.
“This would be ideal for people who like to wander the mountain backroads, enjoying the scenery and plant life,” he said.
Volunteers or  owners of rivercane stands who are interested should contact  the WATR office in Bryson City at 488-8418.
Those interested in the project are invited to travel to Murphy to visit another water cane project on the Nantahala watershed. A caravan will leave from the WATR office in Bryson City at 9 a.m. Tuesday, No. 16. Bring a lunch.
Volunteers for the rivercane project will take part in a training program to learn how to recognize the plant and how to map the site using GPS coordinates. The training zsessions will also be used to set up the driving routes to prevent overlap and to make sure the area is covered. Once the stands are found, owners will be approached to see if they will allow harvesting of the cane.
Cozzo said a selective harvesting method would be employed. Cane must be of a certain size to be useful, and less mature cane will be left alone so that it can grow.
Clapp said that cane stands should be preserved and  broadened for the environmental benefits to the river. Cane provides excellent buffer for sediment runoff and improve riparian wildlife habitat.
Cozzo said his agency  likes to work with conservation groups, such as WATR, “because we’re all on the same page” – that the ecological and cultural benefits of the cane resources got hand-in-hand.
Both Clapp and Cozzo said that rivercane landowners who permit a harvest will know that they are playing a role in preserving the heritage and culture of the Cherokees and the mountains.

State of the Tuckasegee River Workshop

Watershed experts and citizens gathered to share data and their experiences concerning the health of the Tuckasegee River on Wednesday, August 24, at a one-day workshop.
WATR held this informal sharing of information as a stepping stone toward  periodic assessment of the Tuckasegee River system at the watershed scale.
According to Roger Clapp, WATR Executive Director, “This event could lead to a regular report updating the community about changes, positive and negative, in this vital resource.”
The workshop consisted of a series of short panel presentations and discussions covering water quality, sediment, biological testing, and experiences acquired by local agencies that affect the river.  Agencies included the Soil and Water Conservation Districts and county soil erosion inspection departments.
Some of the panelists included Anne Marie Traylor, of the Environmental Quality Institute and Ed Williams of the NC Division of Water Quality, Asheville, and Mike Lavoie, and Patrick Breedlove of the Cherokee Office of Environment and Natural Resources.  The Oconaluftee River which drains the Cherokee Qualla Boundary is the largest tributary to the Tuckasegee River.
David Kinner of the Geosciences Department, Western Carolina University, outlined research projects aimed at quantifying relevant water processes.  Ken Brown, chairman of the Tuckaseigee Chapter Alliance, discussed community actions, and Michelle Price of the Macon-Jackson Conservation Alliance moderated the erosion control section.  Gerald Green, head of Jackson County Planning Department, presented issues relevant to the river.
The workshop was held at the Whittier Community Center off of Rt 74, Exit 74, and across the river from the post office.

Macon board seeks to finish steep-slope work

Macon County’s commissioners want their planning board, if possible, to finish up work on a steep-slope ordinance. This after what Planning Board Chairman Lewis Penland wearily described as a long few weeks, in which members have drawn the ire and criticism of local anti-planning advocates.
Link to article

Homeowners win suit over shoddily built roads
Members of the Alarka Creek Properties Homeowners Association have won a $3 million lawsuit over roads that deteriorated in the subdivision. The court accepted the property owners’ claims that the roads were shoddily built on too-steep terrain and that the developer ignored appropriate erosion control measures.
Link to article

Gary Peeples talks to Swain student group

Swain High Students search
 for the endangered Appalachian elktoe mussel.
 Cold water and the threat of rainfall did not stop the Swain High

Tyler and George look for mussels

Environmentally Aware Club from searching for the endangered Appalachian elktoe mussel in theTuckasegeeRiver.
On Tuesday, May 17, eleven members of the club traveled upstream of Dillsboro to start their search.  Under the guidance of Gary Peeples, outreach coordinator for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, they used underwater view scopes to search the river bottom and try to locate the endangered animal.
The original plan was for the club to raft down the river and stop at various points to look for the mussel. With the bad weather, the group searched for mussels once and then rafted straight down to the take out point.
According to Roger Clapp, director of the Watershed Association of the Tuckasegee River, “Mussels belong to a group of animals called mollusks, and they look like salt-water clams.  They continuously filter stream water, and in the process they take out silts and clays and contaminants, thus improving water quality. Problems arise when there is too much silt and clay, and these sedentary animals get covered then smothered with sediments, and eventually they die.
The Appalachian elktoe mussel is found only in theTuckasegee River and about four other rivers in the region, according to Clapp. They are sensitive to pollution and habitat disruptions. “These particular mussels act like the ‘canary in the coal mine’, where declining Appalachian elktoe populations strongly suggest stream deterioration.”
Paige Tester, club president, said “I was surprised we found many more shells of the Asian clam than those of the Appalachian elktoe. The Asian clam is an invasive species that should not be here. So we have too many of the non-native kind of mussel and not enough of good mussel.”  She also commented on the bare-soil banks along the parts of the river which contribute unwanted sediment to the creek, probably being one cause of the decline of the Appalachian elktoe.
“There was also the problem of trash in the river; it was everywhere,” said Tester.
For many, the trip was a new adventure.  PJ Sweet said, “It was just fun getting into the fisherman’s waders and searching the river bottom with the view scopes.  We found many shells from the Asian Clam.” Tyler Willis found the lone example of the endangered mussel that day.
With cold weather, no one wanted to stop and do more exploring. Instead, the whole group rafted the two miles down to the waiting cars. The rafts were provided free of charge by Willdwater. Kevin Gibbs and Matt Cook, Wildwater guides, volunteered their time.
Monica Fortner said she enjoyed getting their raft stuck and then unstuck on the river rocks.  Many were amused when Clapp, the trip organizer, flipped his canoe.
Others in the group were Jonah Winchester, Morgan Green, Marley Simmons, Blair Allman, Athena Arkansas, George Helmer, and Kaitlin Roberts, and Ms. Anne Watkins, the club’s faculty advisor. Partway down the river, Dr. Karen Kandl, a Western Carolina University biology instructor joined the group.  She has extensive experience with freshwater mussels.
A chilled, but more ecologically informed group of students agreed that this hands-on search for an endangered animal was a worthwhile adventure. And they might like to extend the investigation next year.
There may be a real possibility for more involvement. WATR recently submitted a proposal to the NC Wildlife Resource Commission. Among several tasks, a start-up initiative in mussel monitoring, to be led by Dr. Kandl, is called for in the application.
If the proposal is accepted, students, as well as parents and other adults, could participate in science and help protect our aquatic resources.  Contact the WATR office at 828-488-8418 if you are interested. WATR’s involvement in the field trip was supported by a grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation.

This gaggle of girls were among the volunteers from Francis Baptist Church that helped to install the first set of stairs for the Buffer Trail at Monteith Farmstead Park last summer.

WATR receives funding
but less than amount sought

WATR recently learned that its proposed project, “Experiential Environmental Education in Dillsboro, Jackson County,” was accepted, and it

The whole group from the Francis Baptist Church of Palatka, Florida.

will be funded by Resourceful Communities, a program of The Conservation Fund headquartered in Chapel Hill.
The good news is that WATR will receive funding, the challenging news is that we asked for $15,000 and we have been awarded only $5000.
The grant has two objectives:
First, we will create an interpretive Buffer Trail at Montieth Farmstead Park in the natural area next to Scotts Creek.  Why is this so important?  Stream ecology is really protected by stream-side buffers for many reasons, and builders and landowners, by and large, do not know these reasons.
Second, WATR will complete a feasibility study for a Watershed Activity and Discovery Experience (WADE) Center – a hands-on learning center focused on our mountain watersheds.  Dr. Dan Perlmutter is leading this part of the grant.  He has already convened the first of several brain-storming workshops.
So the challenge is how to do much of what is promised with less resources.  The only way is to depend more on volunteer help.  Free construction by crews from the Oconaluftee Job Corps is central, but we may have to look for donations to cover material expenses.  Watch for a planning session at MFP in the near future.