Neuse and Cape Fear listed as endangered rivers

NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) – The Cape Fear and Neuse Rivers are two of the top 10 most endangered rivers in America according to a report from the river advocacy group American Rivers.

“This is one of many times the Neuse specifically has been listed,” said Travis Graves, the lower Neuse Riverkeeper for the group Sound Rivers. “The Cape Fear is also added. They added them as a combined basin because they both are suffering from the same threats.”

Graves has seen it before. A hurricane brings tremendous flooding and tremendous problems to the East. Following Hurricane Matthew, 15 waste lagoons on hog and poultry farms were overwhelmed by floodwater.

“When they flood, we still see millions of gallons of hog waste and tons of poultry litter that end up washed into our river,” said Graves.

All of that waste can cause a host of problems, including algae blooms that can kill billions of fish in a season. It’s not a new problem, but one that a state program has been successful in alleviating in the past.

Graves is hoping that the state legislature will again fund a swine buyout program, similar to what they did after Hurricane Floyd in 1999. That program would help to pull hog farms out of the 100-year floodplain.

“It’s an entirely voluntary program,” noted Graves. “Of course we’re not going to force anybody to sell their property but we’re really hoping that we can institute it again and see the kind of success that we saw after Irene and Floyd. That was a very successful program moving some of these animal feeding operations out of the 100-year floodplain, but we’ve got a few dozen left.”

Funding for the program would likely come from the state’s Hurricane Matthew relief fund.

But the North Carolina Pork Council isn’t buying the report. In a statement, they said this:

Statement from N.C. Pork Council

“The American Rivers advocacy report is not an honest look of the most impaired waters in North Carolina. It is part of a coordinated campaign aimed at unfairly attacking North Carolina’s pork industry.

A true assessment at impaired waters in North Carolina will show that the greatest threats come from large municipalities, not farms. The state’s map is here: https://ncdenr.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=87870e4480c54b8abf6bd7ee97ebc26b

Look at the impact from Hurricane Matthew. NC hog farmers survived the storm with minimal flooding. There was no impact on more than 99.5% of our lagoons, resulting in  little impact to our state’s waterways. By contrast, the NC Division of Water Resources reported that municipalities spilled more than 100 million gallons of untreated waste, with 62.8 million gallons reaching surface waters.

The North Carolina Pork Council will continue to engage in productive conversations about a possible voluntary buyout program. We have supported such programs in the past.”

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