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Waterway Restoration: A New Year Priority in NC

North Carolina has more than 4,000 miles of streams. (habenettTwenty/20)
North Carolina has more than 4,000 miles of streams. (habenettTwenty/20)
December 14, 2018

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – It's been a tough year for North Carolina's water resources.

Like people, buildings and wildlife, bodies of water also have had to withstand the damaging effects of Hurricanes Florence and Michael, and a flurry of tornadoes. Professor Tammy Kowalczyk at Appalachian State University says a waterway's resiliency is a gift, and clean water "sustainability" is important for day-to-day water needs, as well as preparing for future weather emergencies.

"One of the definitions is the capacity to endure,” says Kowalczyk. “And so, that notion of capacity is really about resources. So, you have capacity if you have sufficient resources, and that the resources are doing the things that they're supposed to be doing to help maintain sustainability."

She says the importance of stream restoration was underscored this year as floods threatened the majority of the state between Hurricanes Florence and Michael, and restoration work must be prioritized. Kowalczyk points to organizations working to ensure North Carolina's capacity to endure future emergencies, including Resource Institute.

Alan Walker, restoration specialist with Resource Institute, says when a stream is restored, or put back into its natural state, it's more easily able to withstand and recover from storm events. And that improves water quality for everyone who depends on the stream.

"Clean water is not only important for us as humans, but it's also vitally important for wildlife,” says Walker. “It's our responsibility to help manage and look after what was created and given to us."

He says for almost two decades, Resource Institute has worked to restore and enhance more than 1.3 million feet of stream and 2,000 acres of wetlands.

Kowalczyk, who teaches the concept of sustainability to business students, explains that resources such as waterways and forests have a three-pronged benefit.

"What these three areas are: environmental stewardship, social justice and economic prosperity,” says Kowalczyk. “The primary emphasis here is on the fact that we have to really preserve natural resources to have sustainability in the other areas."

North Carolina's stream restoration efforts also boost the outdoor recreation industry, which is responsible for 260,000 jobs and $28 billion in consumer spending, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

Antionette Kerr, Public News Service - NC