Thanks to your generosity in this past year, Sound Rivers was able to continue the important work of protecting our waterways. 2016 was characterized by numerous legislative efforts to eliminate or erode water quality protections for the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico watersheds. Through hard work, good coordination with other environmental groups, and helpful public response, most of those efforts failed, and we are happy to celebrate that success.
Sound Rivers’ Riverkeepers worked harder than ever in 2016. Not only are the Riverkeepers advocating for your waterways, they are also making up for a lack of regulatory enforcement staff after several years of state funding cuts. Robin Smith, a former Department of Environment and Natural Resources Assistant Secretary, provided a summary recently of what has happened to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) staff levels over the past few years:
- Water quality and water resources regional staffing has been reduced by more than 40%
- The Neuse Rapid Response team, which responded to fish kills and other events, was eliminated
- State sedimentation staff reduced by 45%; and
- 37 sedimentation staff were made responsible for 12,000+construction sites, an impossible task
These are just some of the many impacts on the department caused by purposefully inadequate funding from the legislature (see information from Ms. Smith’s blog smithenvironment.com for more details). We are heartened by Gov. Cooper’s selection of Michael Regan as DEQ Secretary. Secretary Regan’s educational background and extensive experience at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Environmental Defense Fund demonstrate his preparation and commitment to protect the state’s natural treasures for the enjoyment of the public. Sound Rivers will do all it can to support Regan and DEQ staff in 2017 and beyond.
As we enter the new year, I am pleased to announce two organizational changes. Heather Deck, the Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper, has also been named Deputy Director of Sound Rivers in recognition of the incredible leadership she provides to the organization. Heather has been with Sound Rivers for 14 years. She is a role model for all of our staff, and is admired throughout the state for her scientific integrity as well as her commitment to clean water and healthy ecosystems. I am also excited to welcome Corinne Everett Belch as part-time Director of Development. Corinne will focus on communications and member development.
Our rivers have shaped the history of our region, and continue to be essential to the health and well-being of the people in our watersheds. As we head further into 2017, Sound Rivers will continue our dedication to the restoration and protection of water quality and related ecosystems in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins. We envision a future with creeks, rivers, and the Pamlico Sound fully restored with clean fishable, swimmable, drinkable water for all to enjoy. Thank you for your support of Sound Rivers, and your commitment to our mission.