A bend in the Neuse River at Old Waynesboro Park in Goldsboro, where the Neuse River of the Year event was held.
On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the Neuse River was named American Rivers’ River of the Year — a celebration of the work that has been done to improve the health of the river and the work yet to come.
Sound Rivers Executive Director Heather Deck joined a “who’s who” of environmentalism for the announcement made at Monday’s event on the banks of the Neuse River. Along with Heather, speakers included American Rivers President Tom Kiernan, N.C. Rep. John Bell, New Bern activist and director of Peletah Ministries Dr. Dawn Baldwin Gibson, Congressman G.K. Butterfield, Congresswoman Deborah Ross, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Elizabeth Biser and EPA Administrator Michael Regan, who returned to his hometown of the Goldsboro for the event at Old Waynesboro Park.
“We’ve come a long way since the early days of dumping toxins directly into the Neuse, but many still bear the burdens of pollution, outdated infrastructure and flooding,” Heather told the assembled crowd. “Working together to address these issues in our watershed, that work begins with our most vulnerable communities. What we need is greater investment in our communities.”
She asked that legislators — state and federal — to prioritize investing in: safeguarding communities from flooding and helping the Neuse watershed become resilient to climate change; updating sewage infrastructure, starting in our most vulnerable communities on the Neuse; investing $20 million in the state’s Swine Buyout Program to remove toxic pollution such as swine waste from flood-prone areas of the Neuse and its tributaries; and restoring funding to our regulatory agencies so they are fully staffed and equipped to strongly enforce protections for the Neuse watershed.