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Watershed Restoration Effort Changes Name with Community Feedback

The French Broad River flows through the city of Asheville, N.C. (Adobe Stock)
The French Broad River flows through the city of Asheville, N.C. (Adobe Stock)
July 1, 2020

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- A group working to improve water quality in streams draining into the French Broad River says it's changing the name of one Asheville project to better fit the area.

RiverLink said it learned of concerns about what was known as the "River Arts District Watershed Plan" from residents of the historically Black neighborhoods in the area, who expressed worry it might further displace longtime residents of that part of the city.

Renee Fortner, watershed resources managerof RiverLink, said community meetings have been held to explain water quality issues in the region, adding that the project's new name more accurately reflects its goal.

"To move our watershed restoration plan forward, to include all of the community members that live within this watershed, and to be sensitive to their concerns and their frustrations, we decided to change the name to the Central Asheville Watershed," she said.

The field assessments and water-quality data from the yearlong study will be available publicly later this summer. Fortner said the findings are likely to apply to other cities and small urban waterways across the state.

She said scientists have identified a host of factors contributing to water quality in the area and are working on solutions to address them.

"There's three streams that flow through this watershed," she said. "It's a very urban area with a lot of pavement; stormwater runoff from parking lots and rooftops is a big issue. It carries pollutants into the streams."

In addition to supplying drinking water and habitat for wildlife, according to estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency, more than $460 billion nationwide in food, manufactured goods and tourism depend on clean and healthy watersheds.

The RiverLink statement is online at riverlink.org.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC