After two weeks of the news being dominated by severe winter weather and an historic coal ash spill, most of North Carolina is getting back to normal. The snow is gone– but the coal ash is not. For the Dan River, with heavy metals and toxics deposited along 70 miles of river bottom, it may be years before things return to the way they were. In fact, they may never.
More than any event in recent years, the coal ash spill on the Dan River highlights the cost of coal. And that cost is compounded when the Governor and the legislature don’t do their jobs. It is our job to hold them accountable.
We have an update for you below on the Dan River spill. But along with cleaning up the river, the question is how we can speed up the movement away from the dirty energy that produces toxic coal ash, dirty air, and poisons in our water.
For the rest of this year, we will be focused on actions we can take to put our state back on track for a future that values clean water, adequate safeguards and full enforcement of the Clean Water Act.
Your staff at the North Carolina Sierra Club
The Dan River Spill
As you know by now, somewhere between 30,000 and 82,000 tons of toxic coal ash spilled into the Dan River in Eden, NC on February 2. Please send a message to Duke Energy demanding that they remove coal ash from all their lagoons in North Carolina, so that this never happens again! Click here to send your message to Duke Energy!
With so much happening around the third largest coal ash spill in the nation’s history, we thought a brief overview might be helpful:
- The spill occurred when a drainage pipe under a coal ash pond collapsed. Currently, a second drainage pipe that runs under the pond is leaking, with high levels reported of arsenic. So, it appears that coal ash and toxic chemicals are still running into the Dan River.
- Health officials warn that humans should avoid direct contact with the water and scientists have expressed concerns about the long term impact on aquatic life. Questions are being raised about dead turtles that are being found on the banks of the Dan River after the spill.
- While speaking in Greensboro, Governor McCrory said that Duke Energy must respond to the accident by “moving the ash ponds.” Later the governor walked back his comment and said that moving the ponds was just one option. Click here to tell Duke Energy that removing coal ash from existing ponds and storing it in lined landfills away from the state‘s waters is the only option to protect North Carolina’s waterways and citizens.
The Dan River tragedy is the third largest coal ash spill in our nation’s history. The only way we can make sure that this never happens again is to make Duke Energy move its toxic coal ash ponds away from the banks of our state’s waterways and into lined landfills away from rivers and lakes.
Moving On: Clean Energy Around the Corner
The consequences of dirty energy to public health, our air and water, and our climate are clear. The dirty legacy of burning coal was known before the Dan River ran gray with toxic chemicals. But we do not have to be shackled to this dirty system.
The shift to clean energy in North Carolina is underway, but it will take the efforts of citizens across the state to achieve a clean energy future.
An effort by coastal North Carolina residents aims to educate the public about the potential benefits that wind power could bring to the eastern part of the state. Wind power can mean jobs, investment, and tourism – things that the Carolina coastal region needs and deserves.
Take a moment to learn about the local effort to bring on-shore wind to the Carolina coast by visiting http://www.coastalwind.org
Our Wild North Carolina
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the North Carolina Wilderness Act, each month we will highlight a wilderness area or a piece of history about how these areas became protected. This month, we celebrate the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness Area.
The Uwharrie Mountains formed over 500 million years ago and are among the oldest mountain ranges in the world. At the northernmost tip of the Uwharries, 5,160 acres was set aside as the Birkhead Mountains Wilderness by the North Carolina Wilderness Act of 1984.
The wilderness got its name from the Birkhead family which settled on the land in the 1800s, but long before they arrived, the area was inhabited by Native Americans. Relics found here date back 12,000 years. During the early 1800s prospectors came in search of gold. Mines can still be found along with the remains of homesteads and farms throughout these hills. The highest peak in the wilderness is Cedar Rock Mountain at 950 feet.
Like most of North Carolina’s designated wilderness, the area is managed by the US Forest Service. But for the work of Sierrans in the 1970’s and 1980’s, this area would not be protected. If you are looking for a way to enjoy this wilderness area, Henry Fansler is leading a hike through Birkhead. Doesn’t that seem like a good idea?
- Foothills Group Outings Chair, Henry Fansler, will lead the first wilderness area hike of the year on the Birkhead Mountain Trail on Saturday, February 22. The hike will cover around five miles and is rated easy to moderate. If you’d like to go, contact Henry at email@example.com or 336-473-0283. Visits to all NC designated wilderness areas are limited to 10 participants. Reserve your spot today!
Our Wild North Carolina Wilderness Areas Challenge
To celebrate the anniversaries of the Wilderness Act of 1964 and the NC Wilderness Act of 1984, the Wilderness Committee of the NC Sierra Club has issued a challenge that will recognize anyone who visits all 12 of our state’s wilderness areas and documents it.
The program will provide certification and an award to all participants who register and visit all of our wilderness areas within the year. Additional details and registration information will be available shortly. For now, be sure to snap and save a photo of yourself with the official Wilderness Area sign.
Check out the list of wilderness areas below and start planning your trips today!
Outings & Events
February 19 – 7:00 p.m. – Capital Group Meeting & Film Screening – Raleigh, NC
The Capital group will screen the new documentary film, “A Fierce Green Fire” which spans 50 years of grassroots and global activism. The Sundance documentary brings to light vital stories of the environmental movement where people fought – and succeeded – against enormous odds. From the Academy Award-nominated director of “Berkeley in the Sixties,” the film features Lois Gibbs, Paul Watson, Bill McKibben, Paul Hawken, Carl Pope, John Adams, Bob Bullard, Amory Lovins, Barbara Bramble, Jennifer Morgan and more. Screening followed by Q&A with the Director Mark Kitchell.
Doors open 6:30 p.m., meeting starts at 7:00 p.m.. Location: Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh, 3313 Wade Avenue, Raleigh, NC (map)
February 22 – 10:30 a.m. – Hike at Rattlesnake Lodge – Asheville, NC
This hike is approximately 5.2 miles round-trip. The group will start at Ox Creek Rd and stay mostly on Mountains-to-Sea trail, then on to the Main Reservoir trail. Plan to learn about the interesting remains from the old Rattlesnake Lodge, which burned down in 1926. It’s a nice place to stop for lunch, too. Wear good footwear and bundle up. Please email or write hike leader if you’d like to bring your well-behaved dog – who must be on leash at all times. Meet at 10:30 a.m. in Asheville, back around 4:30 p.m. Contact hike leader to sign up. Lisa McWherter at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 828-713-4994.
February 23 – 1:00 p.m. – NC Botanical Gardens, Piedmont Nature Trails Discovery Hike – Chapel Hill, NC
Join Sierrans for an easy 1 ½ mile educational hike at the NC Botanical Gardens located on Mason Farm Road just off the 15-501 bypass near the UNC campus. Behind the Education Center is an 88-acre area known as the Piedmont Nature Trails. Opened to the public in 1966, the trails provide over two miles of hiking through a typical central North Carolina forest. The group will see a variety of flora and learn about the impact of nearby development on natural areas. Trails are well-groomed with no steep elevation changes. Afterwards, we will visit the Educational Center and adjacent Exposition Gardens, both open until 5 p.m. (free admission).
Group size is limited to 12 participants ages 16 and up. Minors must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Sorry, no pets. Click here for more information.
March 1 – Behind The Scenes Tour Carolina Raptors Center – Huntersville, NC
Join the Sierra Club Foothills Group as we learn about birds of prey. We will travel to the Carolina Raptor Center in Huntersville, NC (near Charlotte) where we will observe 25 different raptor species. We will walk the Raptor Trail, watch the Live Bird demonstration, witness the Vulture Feeding, eat a picnic lunch, and learn about the Center’s efforts rehabilitating and releasing over 800 raptors each year in our special Behind-The-Scenes Tour. This Sierra Club outing is family-friendly.
Please pack your own lunch; food is not available on site. An admission ticket at the entrance is required, plus an additional $5 for the Behind-The-Scenes Tour. Admission fees are as follows: $10 adults; $8 Seniors 65 and over, military, and educators with valid ID; $6 students, including college students with a valid ID; kids 4 and under free. Contact Vance Parker, email@example.com or at (336) 768-0481 before 10:00 p.m. to register. 15 person limit, reservation deadline is February 22, 2014.
March 3 – 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. – Orange Chatham Group Meeting & Program on the NC Solar Revolution – Chapel Hill, NC
Even though solar power generation in North Carolina is expanding very fast, not everyone is happy about this new world of distributed energy generation. The biggest power company in the nation, Duke Energy, is putting its considerable lobbying efforts into changing the “net metering” law which allows homeowners who generate more electricity than they use to sell it back to the utility at a guaranteed price. Guests Michael Youth from the NC Sustainable Energy Association and Dustin Chicurel-Bayard from the NC Sierra Club will discuss solar policies in North Carolina. Location: Chapel Hill Public Library, 100 Library Dr, Chapel Hill, NC 27514 (map)
Saturday, March 8 - 10:00 a.m. – Neusiok Trail in Croatan National Forest – Craven County
The Neusiok trail, one of the most scenic trails in eastern North Carolina and part of the developing Mountain-to-Sea trail, meanders over 20 miles in the eastern portion of the Croatan National Forest from Pine Cliff Recreation Area on the shore of the Neuse River to Oyster Point in the salt marshes of the Newport River. The group will hike about six miles of the northernmost section of the trail, which winds through pine/hardwood upland forest, cypress/palmetto swamp and ends along the sandy shoreline of the Neuse River. The trail is moderate in difficulty. Bring a lunch and drinking water. There are often muddy sections, so wear water resistant shoes and other appropriate clothing for weather conditions. Arrive in the Parking Lot of Pine Cliffs Recreation Area no later than 10:00 a.m..
The hike will begin at the trailhead on Minnesott Ferry Road and end along the beach at the Pinecliff Recreation Area. For more information or to register for the trip, contact Robert Scull at 636-5506 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 16 – 1:00 p.m. – Salem Creek in History and Today – Winston-Salem, NC
The outing is an activity of Forsyth County Creek Week co-presented by Gateway Environmental Initiative GEI and Old Salem Museum & Gardens. We’ll tour areas where the Moravians used Salem Creek to sustain their lives, and then see how the stream is faring today. Meet at the parking lot next to the tennis courts near the Salem Avenue roundabout. Learn more about Forsyth Creek at www.forsythcreekweek.com.
March 22 – 9:00 a.m. – Cook’s Wall Loop, Hanging Rock State Park – Danbury, NC
The group will begin on the Hanging Rock trail but leave it to ascend the ridge line to Wolf Rock, on to House Rock and Cook’s Wall, return via Magnolia Springs trail and the lake. Major views will be enhanced along the way by the bare trees. Hike length is about 6.5 miles with a 500 feet elevation gain. Bring water, lunch, rain gear and wear hiking footwear. For more information contact Tom Mann, email@example.com or 760-0265 (between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.).
March 22 – 10:00 a.m. – Green River Gamelands – Pullium Creek Trail – Asheville, NC
This hike’s difficulty level is rated moderate to easy. The trip length is approximately 6.5 miles round-trip with an elevation gain of 900 ft. The group will meet in Asheville at 10:00 am and return about 5:45 p.m. It’s a beautiful trail that ends up at the Green River just below the narrows, with rapids moving through large boulders. On the way, there’s a tedious creek crossing with wiggly step-stones, so wear good footwear and consider a hiking pole. Plan to learn about the beautiful early-blooming wildflowers there as well. NOTE: Sorry, no doggies this trip due to Pullium Creek crossing. Contact hike leader Lisa McWherter at firstname.lastname@example.org or (828) 713-4994 to reserve your spot.
March 22 – 10:00 a.m. – Backpacking Conditioning in Umstead – Raleigh, NC
Join our outings leaders for a backpacking conditioning hike to test your trail legs! We will cover about 6 miles in 3 hours using a combination of trails and old fire roads. Along the way we’ll talk about the gear in your backpack and best practices for minimizing the load.
Meet in the Reedy Creek parking lot in back right corner by 9:45 a.m. Look for the orange Honda Element with LOTS of stickers on the back. The entrance is located off I-40 at exit 287. Map to parking lot: http://goo.gl/maps/VcigC. Group size is limited to 15 to minimize impact on the ecosystem. And don’t miss the Beginner Backpacking in Uwharrie on April 26-27.
Please contact trip leaders, Debra & Jeff Rezeli, at email@example.com or 919-971-3788 for more information. Register for this event here: http://conditioningnccg.eventbrite.com/