More than $236K in grants boost water quality in North Carolina
Grants are helping almost a dozen local water quality projects — from keeping litter out of the French Broad River to preventing flooding at Erskine Apartments.
The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina’s Pigeon River Fund announced more than $236,000 in water quality grants for environmental nonprofits in Buncombe, Haywood and Madison counties, aimed at improving surface water quality, enhancing fish and wildlife habitats, expanding public use and access and increasing awareness.
Two of those are $28,000 to Asheville GreenWorks’ Trash Trout Program, which installs litter-capturing devices in local waterways, according to CFWNC’s announcement. Funds will also go to recruiting, training, managing and outfitting volunteers of the group’s StreamKeepers Program.
At RiverLink, a $30,000 grant will help complete the Southside Community Storm water Project, which hopes to rehabilitate a concrete ditch and create an amenity for Erskine Apartments while improving water quality at Town Branch, also referred to as Nasty Branch.
Since 1996, the Pigeon River Fund has distributed more than $8.2 million in grants, according to CFWNC.
Trash Trouts and StreamKeepers
For Asheville GreenWorks, the award marks almost eight years of consistent support from the Pigeon River Fund, and this year, the funds will help keep litter out of local waterways through the French Broad River Litter Prevention Program, said Executive Director Dawn Chavez.
“When we first started applying for our French Broad River Litter Prevention Program in 2016 or so, we were looking for support for our volunteer cleanups but also to try out and pilot a technique for collecting trash floating in the river,” she said.
What was initially containment booms on the mouths of tributaries to the French Broad became “Trash Trouts,” modified pontoon boats attached to booms in the creek or stream that trap litter and allow someone to clean out that collected trash through a hole in the deck of the pontoon, Chavez explained.
That program, which includes full-size Trash Trouts on Mud Creek in Hendersonville and Hominy Creek in West Asheville and eight “Trash Trout Jr.s,” catches thousands of pounds of floating trash that’s missed by volunteers on cleanups, she said.
Since June 2017, the Mud Creek one has caught 6,000 pounds of trash, Chavez said, all weighed dry and mostly small things like cigarette butts, plastic water bottles, sports balls and Styrofoam.
Now Asheville Greenworks is working to export the idea, creating a business model to sell the Trash Trouts to other municipalities and provide tech support and consulting services. Next January, they’ll be installing 15 new Trash Trout Jr.s across the state.
They’ve also sold them to different municipalities in North Carolina and even one to St. Louis, Missouri.
“This grant will help us continue growing our program in North Carolina,” Chavez said, as well as helping to fund the new StreamKeepers program to train up volunteers who want to take on a larger role in protecting local waterways.
“Out of the pandemic, we’ve had to pull back a lot on our volunteer group cleanups, which we do on the river and on the roadside,” she said.
The group has created new self-serve cleanup supply stations so people can get what they need for stream cleanups, Chavez said, and has come up with the StreamKeeper program to train individuals interested in a greater role in stewardship so they can lead small groups of their own and take on the main role of cleaning up a particular stream.
So far, they’ve trained about 60 StreamKeepers and hope to use the grant funds to train and outfit even more.
The $28,000 will go pretty far, she said, noting the entire French Broad River Litter Prevention Program budget of $120,000 that includes cleanups, Trash Trouts themselves, staff salaries and everything else.
A significant portion will build new Trash Trout…