Catawba Wildflower Glen Service Outing

Saturday May 31, 9:00 a.m.-noon
Located in northwest Charlotte, NC
Join us at this Catawba Lands Conservancy preserve to help Mary Stauble, Land Stewardship Volunteer, remove invasive plants and contribute to protecting this important natural landscape. The Wildflower Glen is one of the conservancy’s crown jewels due to its rich ecological diversity and proximity to Charlotte.
We’ll meet at the property at 9 a.m. for an orientation where we’ll learn about the history and importance of the preserve. Then we’ll spend time pulling out invasive plants! Afterwards, Mary will lead us on a hike of the glen. Mary frequently visits the Glen and she is very knowledgeable about the local flora.
Please bring work gloves, clippers (optional), water, and a hat. Limit 10 participants.
You can learn more about why and how to control non-native invasive plants here:

All participants on Sierra Club outings are required to sign a standard liability waiver.
Please contact Linda Alley for more information and to register.

Observer Endorses Elaine Powell for County Commissioner

Environmentalist and Sierra Club member Elaine Powell has been endorsed by The Charlotte Observer in the Democratic primary for Mecklenburg County Commissioner At-Large! Primary day is Tuesday, May 6th.

The Charlotte Observer
Old, new faces for Meck at-large
Posted: Thursday, May. 01, 2014

If voters go just on name recognition, Elaine Powell is in trouble. If they go on the candidate’s quality, she’ll be running for Mecklenburg County commissioner in November.

Powell is one of five Democrats – and the least well-known – running in the May 6 primary for a shot at serving on the Mecklenburg board of commissioners.

The five are competing for three spots on the November ballot. Only two Republicans are running at-large, so they have no primary.

The three one-term incumbents – Trevor Fuller, Pat Cotham and Kim Ratliff – all seek re-election. They are challenged by former City Council member Ella Scarborough and by Powell, a long-time volunteer making her first run for office.

Fuller, Cotham and Powell are the strongest candidates.

Fuller took over as board chairman in December after commissioners ousted Cotham from that role. His collegiality and steady demeanor was just what the board needed, and he quickly became a stabilizing force on a fractured body. He leads his fellow commissioners effectively and brings a thoughtful approach to issues. Among his early accomplishments: Helping lead the board in naming Dena Diorio as new county manager. The county and commissioners are beginning to put some of their most tumultuous issues behind them, which is in part a testament to Fuller’s (and Diorio’s) leadership.

Cotham is one of the more polarizing forces on the board, but she brings never-ending dedication to the work and an outsider’s fresh perspective and tough questions. She orchestrated the effort to fire then-County Manager Harry Jones, a move that was needed. She alienated her fellow Democrats too much to remain an effective chairman. But her voice on behalf of citizens and her willingness not to accept the way things have always been done are valuable.

Voters know less about Powell, but she knows Mecklenburg government well, serving the past 25 years as a volunteer in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and on county advisory panels, including waste management and the Parks and Recreation commission. She has demonstrated an impressive work ethic and an open mind, slow to jump to conclusions and eager to hear all perspectives, including, importantly, from rank-and-file citizens. Reluctant to just go along with the majority, she does her homework and asks tough questions. Others describe her as a collaborator; she describes herself as a “deescalator.” Formerly a clinical nutritionist, she says health and stewardship of green spaces are her biggest passions. Mecklenburg needs people like her willing to serve in public office; she would be an asset to the board.

Crowders Mt Hike Sat May 3

The weather will be nice on Saturday, so I’ve made a late decision to start May off by leading a Sierra Club hike at nearby Crowders Mt. State Park. We’ll hike the Kings Pinnacle Trail, about 4 miles roundtrip, with a few steep sections. Hike starts at 9AM and we should be done by noon. If you’ve never been there, you’re missing a great local hike! The park is near Gastonia about 50 minutes from Charlotte. To sign up, contact Steve Copulsky (704-543-7493 or

April 23 – Monthly Meeting – Kayaking in Florida

Two Local Guys Kayak Adventure Around Florida: Join the Central Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club Wednesday April 23rd to hear the tale. Marc Delucca and Jim Windle pushed their kayaks into the Gulf of Mexico in November 2013. They completed their final takeout on the Atlantic coast near the Georgia Florida border in March of 2014. Marc and Jim’s route, The Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Trail, covered over 1500 miles, included various National Parks and seashores, and had them experience many types of wildlife. Come and meet these modern explorers. Free pizza is served at 6:30 pm and the program begins at 7:00 pm at the Mahlon Adams Pavilion in Freedom Park.

Friday Night 3/28 Reception – The Danger of Plastics

Sustain Me Baby Opening Reception
March 28, 2014 – 6:00 PM
Center City Gallery

The Projective Eye Gallery presents Sustain Me Baby, March 28-June 26. Sustain Me Baby combines the work of two artists, portraying the danger of plastics we cannot recycle. Joyce Dallal’s “The Other Toy Story” is a 10-foot baby that is fed during the opening reception with plastic toys. While the giant baby evokes a sense of play, it also illustrates through scale that the waste we leave behind today will be a massive problem for the next generation.

Surrounding this centerpiece sculpture will be photographs from Chris Jordan’s Midway series. These powerful images are a sobering document of dead baby albatrosses, whose stomachs bear the remains of plastics fed to them by their parents, who mistake the trash for food.

The opening reception on March 28 includes original choreography by Mark Diamond, performed by North Carolina Dance Theatre 2.

Reception Location: UNCC Center City Building
320 E. 9TH St.

This exhibition is part of the Keeping Watch Initiative and is supported in part by a grant from the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.

March 9, Sunday – Stone Mt. State Park Hike

Stone Mountain State Park is located near Roaring Gap, NC, about a two hour drive from Charlotte.  We’ll hike the Stone Mountain Loop Trail, a 5 mile route to the top of this 600-foot granite dome and down the waterfall side. The first section of the hike is fairly strenuous. Stone Mountain was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1975.  You’ll enjoy some great views!  We’ll plan to meet at Stone Mt. at 11 AM.  (Note that daylight savings time goes into effect earlier that morning.)

Limited to 15 hikers.  Contact Steve Copulsky at or 704-543-7493 to sign up.  All participants on Sierra Club outings are required to sign a standard liability waiver. If you would like to read the liability waiver before you choose to participate in an outing, download a copy at NC Sierra Club Sign In Waiver.

LYNX Blue Line Extension Workshops

The Charlotte Area Transit System will host a community workshop with updates about the Lynx Blue Line Extension and the University City Area Plan from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Feb. 11 at Oasis Shriners Center, 604 Doug Mayes Place.

CATS officials will present the draft recommendations of the University City Area Plan at the March 11 public meeting, also 4:30-6:30 p.m. at Oasis Shriners Center, 604 Doug Mays Place.

McDowell Park Nature Hike – Sat Feb 8

This will be an easy 1.6 mile nature hike led by naturalist and environmental educator Karan Barber.  We’ll explore hidden life during the winter with a special look at lichens as air quality indicators.  McDowell Park is one of Mecklenburg County’s most beautiful nature preserves.  Contact Karen Barber with any questions or to sign up at  Children are welcome on this hike, but no dogs please.  We’ll meet at the Visitor Center at 9:45 AM.

Duke Energy Plant Reports Coal-Ash Spill


By Bruce Henderson




Duke Energy said Monday that 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash and up to 27 million gallons of water were released from a pond at its retired power plant in Eden into the Dan River, and were still flowing.

Duke said a 48-inch stormwater pipe beneath the unlined ash pond broke Sunday afternoon. Water and ash from the 27-acre pond drained into the pipe.

“We’ve had some temporary solutions that have intermittently worked at times during the day, but we are still working on a short-term solution and the long-term repair,” spokeswoman Erin Culbert said shortly after 9 p.m. Monday.

The pond has a liquid capacity of 155 million gallons when full, according to a recent inspection report, but was at a lower level because the Dan River power plant’s coal-fired units were retired in 2012. It’s not known how much ash was in the basin, but Culbert said most of it appears to still be in the pond.

Duke said it notified local emergency managers and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which last year sued Duke over its ash handling, on Sunday afternoon. The first public notice of the spill came from Duke at 4:03 p.m. Monday.

Environmental groups that have filed lawsuits in an effort to force Duke and other utilities to remove ash stored near waterways quickly pointed out the lapse in time before public notification.

The Dan River plant is about 130 miles northeast of Charlotte near the Virginia line.

The North Carolina environmental agency said it notified downstream water districts of the spill. The nearest municipality that draws water from the Dan River, Danville, reported no problems with its water.

Duke and the North Carolina agency took water samples from the river but said results are not yet back. Coal ash contains metals that can be toxic in high concentrations.

The pond’s dam beside the river “remains secure,” Duke said. Some erosion has occurred on the side of a berm farthest from the river, it said, and engineers are working to stabilize it.

Independent engineers who inspected the pond’s dam in 2009 for the Environmental Protection Agency found it in good condition, but they noted some seepage and recommended a stability study on the structure’s river side. Built in 1956, it was divided into two ponds in the 1970s.

The report said the dam had “significant hazard potential” if it were breached, mainly for property and environmental damage.

A security guard spotted an unusually low water level in the ash pond about 2 p.m. Sunday, Culbert said, leading to the discovery of the pipe break.

Ash was visible on the banks of the Dan River on Monday, and the water was tinted gray.

“While it is early in the investigation and state officials do not yet know of any possible impacts to water quality, staff members have been notifying downstream communities with drinking water intakes,” the North Carolina environmental agency reported late Monday afternoon.

Danville, Va.’s water intake is about 6 miles downstream of the pond.

Barry Dunkley, the city’s water director, said in a release that “all water leaving our treatment facility has met public health standards. We do not anticipate any problems going forward in treating the water we draw from the Dan River.”

A 1-billion gallon spill of ash slurry at a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant in Tennessee in 2008 ignited national debate over coal ash.

Last week the EPA, which had been sued by two North Carolina environmental groups among others, said it would issue the first federal rules on ash-handling by December.

Duke has closed seven of its 14 North Carolina coal-fired power plants, including Dan River, and is evaluating ways to close the ash ponds at those sites. Groundwater contamination has been found around all 14 of its unlined ash ponds, although much of the contamination may occur naturally.

Ash ponds are at the Allen power plant in Gaston County near Belmont and at the Riverbend plant on Mountain Island Lake near Mount Holly.

North Carolina environmental officials, pressured by advocacy groups, sued Duke last year over ash handling at all its coal plants. Environmentalists say Duke should remove the ash from the retired ponds, as utilities in South Carolina have agreed to do.

Henderson: 704-358-5051; Twitter: @bhender

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