NC Marine Debris Symposium

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Make a Splash into Wetlands Wednesdays

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Make a Splash into Wetland Wednesdays
We are passionate about water quality, in our oceans, rivers, streams and even our wetlands. Wetlands often get a bad rap with being muddy, buggy and stinky. However, they are also beautiful, wonderful places rich in biodiversity and evolved to fulfill many important ecological roles and functions. Stay on the lookout every Wednesday for Wetland Wednesdays and we hope you enjoy!

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Video and photo footage Kelly Burke

Mark Your Calendars!

Please join us on August 25 in Beaufort for the screening of “Tidal Alert”. The screening will be taking place at Mill Whistle Brewing in Beaufort. Have some brewskies and meet the cast of the documentary. Hope to see you there!
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We need your help!

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We Need Your Help!

Together, we protect the quality of water and quality of life in coastal NC.

We cannot do it without YOU!

The primary goals of Coastal Carolina Riverwatch are:

Please help us reach our goals

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Welcome Kelly to the CCRW team!

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Welcome Kelly Burke to the CCRW Crew!

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PHOTO: BURKE, 2022
Hello all! I am so proud to be a part of the CCRW team as the new administrative assistant and I wanted to introduce myself. My name is Kelly Burke, and I am the proud momma bear of five grown girls, quite a few grandkids and I have lived in Carteret County for nearly 15 years now.

I decided late in life to pursue a B.S. in Natural Resources and happy to say I am near the home stretch! My interests in riparian and wetland ecosystems and the protections they require and deserve have been lifelong passions of mine. I am excited to be a part of the CCRW team and look forward to a future working within this impressive organization.

– Kelly Burke

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NC Marine Debris Symposium Call for Papers

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Message from the Waterkeeper

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A Message from the White Oak Waterkeeper

“As I enter my final week as White Oak Waterkeeper, I am reflecting on the work Coastal Carolina Riverwatch has done to protect the quality of water and the quality of life in coastal NC.

Below are some of my favorite memories over the last few years.”

– Becca Drohan, White Oak Waterkeeper

Advocacy
CCRW serves the White Oak River basin through strong advocacy. We have worked collaboratively with East Coast residents, non-governmental organizations, local governments, and researchers to achieve a moratorium on offshore drilling. We have worked to mobilize our community to impede destructive coastal development, and to protect maritime forests. We have expanded our networks to address state level and federal level policies and actions.
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PHOTO: BROOME, 2018
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PHOTO: LORAINE, 2020
Education and Outreach
We have reached thousands of White Oak River basin residents through community outreach. This includes environmental programming at The Bridge Down East, field days at East Carteret High, tabling events, sustainable farm visits, and the Ocean Friendly Establishment certification process.
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PHOTO: ANSEL, 2019
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PHOTO: RIDER, 2022
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PHOTO: STEPHENSON, 2022
Watershed Monitoring
CCRW reinvigorated our CAFO monitoring program, identifying targeted sample locations and collecting consistent data on bacterial contamination. We have begun pilot programs to sample for the presence of PFAS and micro-plastics, as well as conducted regular aerial monitoring of CAFOs. We have responded to countless citizen concerns regarding water quality and proceeded with investigations and advocacy.
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PHOTO: PERRY, 2022
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PHOTO: PERRY, 2022
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PHOTOS: DROHAN, 2022
Cleanups
In the last four years, the CCRW crew along with volunteers and community partners, removed over 20,000 pounds of litter and marine debris across our river basin. We installed a Trash Trout to catch debris before it reaches our oceans, and are studying results to better inform local plastic advocacy.
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PHOTO: BALDWIN, 2019
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PHOTO: PERRY, 2022
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PHOTO: ARNER, 2021
Though we are up against formidable challenges, CCRW will continue to tirelessly advocate for our waterways. I extend my deepest gratitude to our community, volunteers, and members.

Without your support, none of this would be possible. Together, we are working towards a more sustainable and equitable future for residents in our watershed, and beyond.

I am so honored to have been part of this endeavor and look forward to the future of CCRW and the White Oak River basin.

-Rebecca Drohan, White Oak Waterkeeper

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PFAS Pollution

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What is PFAS?
PFAS stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. PFAS are a group of chemicals that have been widely used in manufacturing since the 1940s. They are commonly found in water/grease-resistant products such as non-stick cookware, food wrappers, household products, and clothing, as well as in fire-fighting foams, and industrial processes.

PFAS are known as a “forever chemical” because they do not break down in the environment. They can travel through air, soil, surface water, and groundwater, and can accumulate in people, wildlife, and aquatic life.

According to the EPA, health complications associated with PFAS exposure can include cancer, liver and kidney disease, reproductive issues, immunodeficiencies, and hormonal disruptions.

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PFAS Update in NC

At the recent National PFAS conference, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Elizabeth Biser announced the formation of the DEQ Applied Research Fellowship in partnership with the North Carolina Collaboratory to address PFAS. CCRW Board Member and Duke University Associate Professor, Dr. Lee Ferguson, will serve as a 2022 fellow to assist DEQ with PFAS-related laboratory methods, data analysis, and field sampling, along with Dr. Jamie DeWitt from East Carolina University

“The Faculty Fellowship program is an outstanding collaboration between the NC Policy Collaboratory and the NC DEQ. It represents an opportunity for direct and substantive collaboration between academic researchers and state agency scientists and regulators, with the express goal of improving drinking water quality for all North Carolinians. The inaugural class of fellows includes internationally recognized leaders in the field of PFAS fate, effects, and analysis, and I’m honored to be included among these outstanding researchers. I look forward to working closely with Secretary Biser and her team in the fall as we strive to make NC’s drinking water the cleanest in the nation.”

-Dr. Lee Ferguson, Duke University Associate Professor, CCRW Board of Directors

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CCRW

In the field, students from the Duke University Engage program joined White Oak Waterkeeper, Becca, in sampling the White Oak River for PFAS in a new pilot program. CCRW is participating in this program through a partnership with Waterkeeper Alliance and Cyclopure. In this unprecedented initiative, over 130 US waterways will be tested for PFAS and posted to study reports.

CCRW will also be participating in PFAS monitoring and programming on the state level in collaboration with Waterkeepers Carolina.

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To reduce impacts, try choosing alternatives to PFAS-contaning products. Advocate to your representatives for comprehensive water testing, legislative action and enforcement of PFAS sources, investment in research, technologies, and treatment.
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Action Alert: Protect Emerald Isle Forest

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Action Alert: Protect Emerald Isle Maritime Forest

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Photo: Surfrider Bogue Banks
Help our community protect Emerald Isle’s 30-acre tract of pristine maritime forest and wetlands known as McLean-Spell Park. Find more info below and submit comment HERE by July, 13th.

This area is the last major remnant of mature maritime forest in Emerald Isle’s interior and, given its unique location and stunningly beautiful topography, is perhaps the only natural feature of its kind on Bogue Banks. It is also worth noting that this site is home to the Painted Bunting, listed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as a federal “special concern” species.

Despite the park’s rarity and irreplaceability, there are Town proposals that would allow clear-cutting of up to 10 of the 23 forested acres for recreational amenities (7 acres are undevelopable wetlands). Many of these features are already available just across the bridge at Western Park athletic complex in Cedar Point.

There are already plans underway to develop at least one acre of the forest for a dog park. Likewise, Bogue Banks Water Company secured a 4-acre lease to install a well-site in the forest due to water quality issues that have arisen in recent years due to development, particularly saltwater intrusion.

A bit of history on this land: On October 31, 2017, The Conservation Fund closed for Emerald Isle the $3 million sale of this tract, which is located adjacent to the town government complex and community center (bordering the north end of the property). Half of the funds for the purchase came from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, since the forest is directly beneath the flight path for Harrier jet training conducted at nearby Bogue Field. State grants were a major funding source as well, including the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.

Following the town’s request for a grant from the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund (from which $545,000 was awarded to Emerald Isle), terrestrial ecologist Michael Schafale of North Carolina’s Natural Heritage Program published a required Site Survey Report in April 2017. His report states: “The town’s proposal to retain nine acres of the tract for recreational development would … be a serious threat to the natural integrity of the site, given [its] small size…” (p. 5). If the middle of this 30-acre tract were developed, Schafale warns that “it would destroy virtually all of its ecological value” (ibid).

Likewise, the parcel is extremely valuable in its natural state for absorbing stormwater; buffering against hurricane-force winds, recharging the underground aquifer with clean, filtered water; providing relief from heat and salt spray; and enhancing neighborhood aesthetics/home values.

Emerald Isle’s 2014 Economic Development Strategic Plan has compelling survey data based on feedback from 1,242 residents, which seems to support the desire for environmental conservation. Two results in particular demonstrate a strong public desire for environmentally sensible policymaking:

1.) When asked about the key areas of interest over the next 5 years in Emerald Isle, 65% of respondents chose natural environment preservation (p. 34).

2.) For improving quality of life, 60% of respondents identified passive parks & preservation of natural resources as a top priority (p. 34).

The Town’s survey to decide the future of McLean-Spell Park is a significant opportunity to demonstrate public support for preserving this pristine 30-acre maritime forest/wetland area, the last interior tract of its kind on Bogue Banks. Find the survey HERE. It includes a portion to submit comments, a list of amenities that should be considered, and a list of amenities that should not be. Comments are due July 13, 2022

On Wednesday, July 6, the Town is hosting two virtual public stakeholder meetings regarding the future of McLean-Spell park that folks are encouraged to attend. Zoom log-in details can be found HERE.

Thank you for your help protecting this pristine forest/wetland area for current and future generations.

For further reference, see below articles from Carteret County News-Times writer Brad Rich (two are from The Coastal Review):

1.) “EI park purchase finalized”

2.) “Will ParkPlan Save or Ruin Maritime Forest?”

3.) “Town: ParkWithout Ball Fields Not Worth It”

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Ocean Friendly Establishments

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Jan Farmer, CCRW Board Director collecting oysters from Ryan Bethea, Oyster Farmer and CCRW Board Director. Ocean Friendly Establishment, Oysters Carolina

PHOTO: L. Rider, 2020

Ocean Friendly Establishments
June 2022. by Piper Farmer
Supporting environmentally friendly businesses is a great way to protect the quality of water and quality of life by voting with your wallet.

The Ocean Friendly Establishments program helps you identify some of the many local businesses who take an extra effort to protect our local community environment.

Ocean Friendly Establishments (OFE), a nonprofit founded in 2015 during the NC Marine Debris Symposium, and emerged from concern over the amount of plastic pollution found on our beaches.

Plastics like disposable straws, styrofoam containers, and leftover condiment packages are all threats to the local marine environment. Consumers can take steps to avoid these plastics, but avoiding harmful materials is difficult if a business doesn’t offer a sustainable alternative. Being able to choose businesses that offer environmentally safe options is essential. That’s what Ocean Friendly Establishments is dedicated to – recognizing businesses that keep our environment safe.

OFE, which has North Carolina chapters in Cape Fear, Crystal Coast, Topsail, the Outer Banks, and Brunswick County, is coordinated by a local conservation nonprofit and certifies businesses who agree to protect the environment. For businesses, that means only offering straws to customers on request, in addition to other measures like reducing plastic use, providing recycling facilities, and composting food waste.

Ocean Friendly Establishments also provide education and outreach opportunities for businesses. According to OFE founder Ginger Taylor, “most [businesses] are eager to learn about simple changes they can make to help protect our marine environment.”

For the Carteret and Onslow County areas, Coastal Carolina Riverwatch partners with the local Plastic Free by the Sea group, the Bogue Banks Surfrider chapter, and Ocean Fest to certify OFE businesses.

Finding an Ocean Friendly Establishment in your area is a great way to show support for environmental causes while enjoying local shops and restaurants in your community.

Plastic pollution was identified by both commercial and recreational fisheries representatives as one of the top five water quality impacts to NC fisheries.

Learn more about plastic pollution, Water Quality for Fisheries, and Ocean Friendly Establishments during the 2022 NC Marine Debris Symposium.

Save the Date – October 12-14th, 2022 at the Duke University Marine Laboratory.

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Photo of beach cleanup at Cape Lookout National Seashore.

PHOTO: S. Wheatcraft, CCRW Board Director. 2020

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NC Shark Conservation through Photography

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Shark Conservation through Photography

Coastal Carolina Riverwatch, Executive Director, Lisa Rider is a scuba diving instructor and one of her favorite places to dive in the world is off the coast of North Carolina.

When asked what North Carolina’s diving is most famous for, she states “Wrecks and Sharks!”

The North Carolina Wreck Shark Shootout is a photo and video competition in Morehead City hosted by Mike Gerken at Olympus Dive Center.

Every year divers and photographers migrate from all over the world to share a love of diving, underwater photography, sharks, wrecks and compete for big prizes in the competition. The NC Coast is famous for their numerous shipwrecks that are home to the prolific sand tiger shark; Carcharias taurus, cousin to the great white shark.

The wrecks are also host to a myriad of marine species from up and down the food chain. Large numbers of jacks, barracudas, tunas, spade fish, cobia, giant stingrays, sea turtles and NST’s (non-sandtigers) are seen with regularity.

“Sand tiger sharks are the main subject for the NC Wreck Shark Shootout and there is no better place to photograph them on the historic wrecks off the Carolina Coast.” – Mike Gerken

Other programs like Spot A Shark USA, offer a citizen-science-based program that engages divers to take part in data collection that can be useful in shark conservation efforts.

“Events like the the NC Wreck Shark Shootout and programs like Spot a Shark are a wonderful way to bring conservation awareness to this fragile species of shark as well as the entire coastal ecosystem they call home.” – L.Rider, Coastal Carolina Riverwatch

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