Volunteer Feature

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Coastal Carolina Riverwatch

Volunteer Feature


Meet Maria

Coastal Carolina Riverwatch Member, Advocacy Committee Member, and Research Volunteer

Using her Masters in Biology from Virginia Commonwealth University, Maria Mood-Brown has been volunteering as a researcher and advisor for Coastal Carolina Riverwatch since May of 2020.

Maria grew up around the wetlands of Delaware and has “always had an affinity for these ecosystems, as well as for their conservation and restoration. I believe it is imperative to educate the inherit importance and priceless value of these systems.”

Maria used her time at VCU to focus on plant ecology. She has previous state and federal work experience in water quality.

Maria plays a vital role in our Water Quality for Fisheries Program (WQ4F) She has completed research for our Industry Working Group collaborative meetings and participated in a five-part assessment review process. She also created a media contact database for WQ4F press releases.

In 2021, Maria joined the CCRW Advocacy Committee to help identify and collaborate on specific areas of focus within our Pure Farms Pure Waters Program and work to improve outreach and education.

Maria also worked to improve the CCRW Coastal Habitat Restoration Program, which strives to replant and restore areas on the coast that are being impacted by over-development.

Maria assisted staff and Advocacy Committee members with researching and developing public comments on the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan, now in review.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization. We are a small grassroots advocacy nonprofit working to provide services to a total area of 320 miles of rivers and streams, 140,104 acres of estuaries, and 129 miles of coastline. We do so with limited resources, because we have a support system like you.

Thanks Maria and to all the CCRW volunteers, members, and donors!

Together, we protect the quality of water and quality of life in Coastal North Carolina.

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What you need to know about the “Right to Farm Act”

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Protecting Quality of Water and Quality of Life in Coastal Carolina
“Protecting Quality of Water and Quality of Life in

Coastal North Carolina.”

What you need to know about the “Right to Farm Act”

Oral arguments for the constitutional challenges to HB 467 and SB 711 (laws that eliminate nuisance claims) were held at the Court of Appeals (One West Morgan Street in Raleigh) at 2:00pm on Dec. 1.

Requests for change from all over North Carolina, including our coastal water quality community include:

Amendments to NC’s “Right to Farm” law (codified at N.C.G.S. §§ 106-701 & 702)

NC House Bill (HB) 467 (2017)

When a neighbor sues an agricultural or forestry operation for creating a private nuisance, the amount they can recover (their “damages”) is limited to their home’s lost property value. They can’t be compensated for other types of damages that have traditionally been awarded to plaintiffs for nuisance, including personal discomfort, inconvenience, annoyance, loss of enjoyment, injury to health, and mental distress.

The bill went even further by limiting the total, combined damages that can be recovered from an ag/forestry operation to the property’s fair market value. This means that no matter how many times an operation creates a nuisance or how severe the nuisance is, a neighbor can never be awarded more than their property’s fair market value.

A couple of implications:

If the harmed property is eventually sold and the buyer sues the same ag/forestry operation for creating a nuisance, the buyer will not be compensated if the operator already paid fair market value to the seller in a previous lawsuit.

If a different company buys the ag/forestry operation and creates another nuisance, it will not be liable for damages if the first company already paid the full market value of the harmed property in a previous lawsuit.

Additionally, punitive damages can only be awarded to plaintiffs if there is “a criminal conviction or a civil enforcement action taken by a State or federal environmental regulatory agency pursuant to a notice of violation for the conduct alleged to be the source of the nuisance within the three years prior to the first act on which the nuisance action is based.”

Senate Bill (SB) 711 (2018)

SB 711 prohibits nuisance lawsuits against an ag/forestry operation unless: (1) the harmed property is located within a 1/2 mile of the ag/forestry operation and (2) the operation is less than a year old or undergoes a “fundamental change” which does not include a change in ownership, size, technology, or product. If an operation undergoes a “fundamental change,” any lawsuit must be brought within a year of that change.

The one-year time limit for filing a claim (the “statute of limitations”) begins when the operation is established or the fundamental change occurs, not when the nuisance starts. Under this one-year limit, essentially all CAFOs are protected from nuisance actions because no new hog operations were built after the 1997 moratorium on hog farms, and because of the very restrictive 2013 definition of “fundamental change”, essentially no operation that expands or changes operations can be sued for nuisance.

SB 711 also strikes N.C. Gen. Stat.§ 106-701(a2), which excluded “negligent or improper” agricultural or forestry operations from the law’s exemption from nuisance liability.

Three main arguments that HB 467 and SB 711

violate NC’s Constitution

Use and enjoyment of property is a fundamental right, and compensatory damages are a form of property. Because HB 467 and SB 711 concern a fundamental right, they must pass heightened scrutiny under the court’s “ends-means” test.

Under this test, the State must look at the actual purpose of the law (in this case, to protect hog operations from nuisance liability and resolve pending lawsuits in Smithfield’s favor) and determine whether it was within the State’s proper police power.

Additionally, the means chosen must be necessary and only reasonably interfere with property rights. SB 711’s elimination of the nuisance remedy for all hog operations in existence since 1997 and HB 467’s elimination of all compensatory damages except lost property value do not satisfy the “ends-means” test. In contrast, they exceed the state’s police power and unreasonably interfere with fundamental property rights.

Read the full article here.

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Getting stoked about the upcoming release of the Water Quality for Fisheries Documentary Film?

We are too!

We want to hear how you will improve Water Quality for Fisheries.

Submit your video today @coastalcarolinariverwatch #WQ4F.


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Coastal Carolina Riverwatch


700 Arendell Street

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Morehead City, North Carolina 28557

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Water Quality For Fisheries 🐟

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Protecting quality of water and quality of life in Coastal North Carolina

🐟Water Quality For Fisheries🐟
Water Quality for Fisheries is a priority program for Coastal Carolina Riverwatch. The purpose of the Water Quality for Fisheries (WQ4F) Program is to identify and address the impacts of water quality on the North Carolina fisheries. “We do so by working directly with the coastal fishing communities. The commercial and recreational fishing communities represent the voice of the coast and come directly in contact with water quality issues before many of us realize the impact.” – Lisa Rider, CCRW Executive Director

Water Quality Priorities Identified by Coastal North Carolina Fishermen:

  • Agriculture and Factory Farm Runoff
  • Stormwater Runoff from Roads, Highways, and Parking Lots
  • Industrial Pollutants
  • Plastic Pollution
  • Municipal Wastewater Treatment Plants and Septic Tanks

Coastal Carolina Riverwatch. 2021. “Commercial and Recreational Fishermen Survey.” ECU Center for Survey Research, Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC. March 4-21.


As part of the Water Quality for Fisheries Program, Coastal Carolina Riverwatch is producing a documentary film to elevate the voices of Coastal Carolina fishing communities. Stay tuned for 2022 announcements on how and where to watch the film. The film will also be available for school classrooms and other educational opportunities upon request. For more information, you may contact CCRW Executive Director, Lisa Rider.
PHOTO: WQ4F Film Crew (Keva Creative, LLC), Rick Kearney, Board President,
Lisa Rider, Executive Director, Otway, NC, L. Rider, 2021.

The Industry Working Group (IWG)

The Industry Working Group (IWG), made up of the North Carolina coastal commercial and recreational fishing community, play a vital role in the WQ4F program.

The IWG represents the voice of our coastal fishing community and have come together to resolve water quality issues that impact fisheries.

In 2021, the IWG met the following goals:

  1. Collaborate and communicate with other fisheries representatives to address concerns about how water quality impacts fisheries.
  2. Collectively learn (from the WQ4F Assessment Process) what is currently being done in the State to address water quality issues impacting fisheries.
  3. Collaboratively make recommendations on what more needs to be done to improve water quality for fisheries.
  4. Propose next steps to address gaps in addressing what is not currently being done to address water quality issues.

Coastal Carolina Riverwatch Water Quality for Fisheries Industry Working Group (IWG):

Thomas Newman – Williamston
Mark Hooper – Smyrna
Mike Blanton – Elizabeth City
Sam Romano – Wilmington
Glenn Skinner – Newport
Greg Ludlum – North Topsail Beach
Joey Van Dyke – Frisco
Krissi Fountain – Wrightsville Beach
Jot Owens – Wilmington

Source: L. Rider, 2020, Cape Lookout National Seashore.
Pure Farms, Pure Waters and Water Quality for Fisheries

Coastal Carolina Riverwatch re-launched, revamped, and refueled the (White Oak River water basin) Pure Farms, Pure Waters Program in the mid-summer of 2021. CCRW also launched the Water Quality for Fisheries program in early 2021.

Just like the first law of ecology, everything is connected. The two programs address water quality improvement through several collaborative objectives. In the coastal community, everything is connected to our coastal waters and our fisheries. Now, both programs are elevating coastal voices through advocacy to improve water quality with a focus on priority areas outlined by survey work.

A research-based survey was conducted among the NC coastal fishing community (recreational and commercial) to identify prioritized water quality concerns. From these results, it was determined that agricultural and factory farm runoff was the number one concern. Pure Farms, Pure Waters is a program that works directly to address water quality issues that have a direct impact from industrial agriculture and factory farm runoff.

“Through research and assessment, we know that industrial agriculture and factory farming impacts water quality, and therefore fisheries, through runoff of chemical and bacterial pollutants. North Carolinians can help reduce these impacts by supporting sustainable farms and advocating for improvements in industrial farm regulations that reduce or eliminate impacts to water quality. Coastal Carolina Riverwatch (CCRW) staff, board, and members are grateful for the support and collaboration from the commercial and recreational fishing community. Together, we are identifying recommended future actions to improve water quality through the voices of the coastal fishing community.” – Lisa Rider, Executive Director, Coastal Carolina Riverwatch

“Industrial agriculture pollution has affected North Carolinians for decades. Unmanageable animal waste and copious amounts of fertilizers and pesticides are running into our waterways. This is all exacerbated by extreme weather events that our state regularly experiences. These water quality impacts are felt deeply by coastal fishing communities who depend on our waters as a way of life. Through the Water Quality for Fisheries program we are working collaboratively to amplify these voices and move towards a more sustainable future for our fisheries, farms, and all North Carolinians.” -Rebecca Drohan, Waterkeeper, Coastal Carolina Riverwatch

Pure Farms, Pure Water Update!

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💧Pure Farms, Pure Water Program Update💧
Pure Farms, Pure Waters

The past few weeks, Coastal Carolina Riverwatch has been highlighting the Pure Farms, Pure Waters campaign. Pure Farms Pure Waters is a Waterkeeper Alliance program calling attention to the destructive practices of industrial animal agriculture. Coastal Carolina Riverwatch participates in this program locally, in the New River and White Oak River watersheds. You may read more in depth about the program, HERE.

We Appreciate Small Farmers
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) have negative impacts on water quality, environment, and public health. These facilities hold thousands of animals in very confined spaces. NC is number two in the nation for swine production and number three in poultry production. With massive amounts of animals, comes massive amounts of unmanageable waste. This waste pollutes our water, air, and soils with fecal matter, bacteria, nutrient overloads, hormones, and heavy metals. This can result in algal blooms, fish kills, noxious odors, and health impacts in surrounding communities. These impacts disproportionately affect communities of color and/or low income.

Though these are huge problems to address, one way we can take action is to support the small sustainable farmers that the CAFO industry threatens.

We envision collaborative alternatives, working with local farmers to protect our community and natural resources. Building relationships with our food providers ensures the transparency we need to make the best choices for our health, environment, and local economy. We appreciate our small farmers and the many benefits of choosing local.

Benefits of local farms:

  • Animal waste can be managed more effectively.

  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions from food transport and long term refrigeration.

  • Produce is less likely to come wrapped in single-use plastic.

  • Preserves genetic diversity of crops and livestock.

  • Supports our local economy, jobs, and our neighbors.

  • Local food can even be more nutritious as it is harvested at peak freshness.

  • Small farms can be more equitable. Industrial agriculture operations are often located in communities that are predominantly Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and/or low income, contributing to environmental injustices.

  • Many small farmers take great care to be good stewards of our environment and communities. Check out our #FarmFriday series on our social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) where we highlight local farmers and their sustainable practices.

Thankful for Clean Water!

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🍁💧Thankful for Clean Water💧🍁
At Coastal Carolina Riverwatch, we are all thankful for many different things including, family, friends, good health, all of you, and so much more!

We want to share with you 5 reasons why we are thankful for clean water. Water is truly fascinating. It is the most abundant compound on Earth’s surface, covering about 70% of the whole planet.
Though there are many more reasons we could share, we are limiting it to 5.
With your help, we will continue to work to keep the waters in Coastal North Carolina safe, and clean.

Pure Farms, Pure Water Update!

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💧Pure Farms, Pure Water Program Update💧
Pure Farms, Pure Waters
Pure Farms, Pure Waters
is a Waterkeeper Alliance campaign addressing pollution impacts from industrialized meat production. The campaign calls attention to the destructive pollution practices of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. The Pure Farms, Pure Waters campaign addresses the failure to regulate pollution from industrialized swine, poultry, and dairy facilities that is devastating rivers, lakes, and estuaries and lowering the quality of life in our communities. Coastal Carolina Riverwatch (CCRW) works on this program locally in the New River watershed. We work to monitor these facilities and educate our community about impacts to quality of water and quality of life. We support local farmers and sustainable food systems, and work with statewide partners to advocate for reform of industrialized meat production.
CAFOs contain unmanageable amounts of animal waste. Hog facilities store waste in large open air pits, known as “lagoons”. This waste is disposed of by spraying onto adjacent fields. This spraying can cause contaminated runoff, and extreme weather events can cause lagoons to fail. Poultry waste is stored in large litter piles, easily carried away by wind or rain. Due to transparency issues within the industry, little is known about where and how poultry waste is disposed of. Coastal Carolina Riverwatch conducts regular monitoring of CAFO facilities in the New River watershed. We do this through ground and aerial surveys, as well as water quality sampling.

Twice a month White Oak Waterkeeper, Rebecca Drohan, collects water samples from targeted sites on the New River. CCRW selects sample sites surrounding CAFOs, both upstream and downstream to reflect pollution impacts.

We test for E. coli, a fecal bacteria present in warm-blooded animal manure. E. coli is commonly present in our environment, however elevated levels can indicate contaminated runoff or waste management issues from nearby CAFOs. E. coli can impact public health, causing infection, gastrointestinal effects, and fever.

We run E. coli analysis at our in-house lab using an IDEXX system. This is EPA approved equipment to quantify E. coli.

We also submit water samples to State certified laboratories to identify nutrient contamination. Nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, are also present in animal waste. Excessive nutrients in waterways can lead to Harmful Algae Blooms, resulting in fish kills and dangerous pathogens.

We use YSI equipment to monitor other parameters such as pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and turbidity that can be indicative of water quality issues.
In photo above: White Oak Waterkeeper, Rebecca Drohan.

Your VIP Access to the Eco-Gift Guide!

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Action Alert: Protect Gibbs Creek

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Pure Farms, Pure Waters

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Pure Farms, Pure Waters

Coastal Carolina Riverwatch’s Pure Farms, Pure Waters campaign calls attention to the destructive pollution practices of industrial agriculture and factory farms, ensures compliance with environmental laws, and supports the traditional family farms that industrial practices endanger.

The Pure Farms, Pure Waters campaign addresses the failure to regulate pollution from industrialized swine, poultry, and dairy facilities that is devastating rivers, lakes, and estuaries and lowering quality of life in our communities.

Coastal Carolina Riverwatch (CCRW) works to educate the public about the impacts to quality of water and quality of life, supports communities and local farmers, and advocates for sustainable food systems.
We work to help decision makers understand the need to strengthen and enforce existing rules on the discharge of animal waste into our waterways, seek to hold corporations that dictate facility operations accountable for waste management practices, promote best management policies that protect our waterways and support independent farmers, and take legal action against violators.

CAFO pollution has affected North Carolinians for decades. Each year, NC hogs produce 10 billion gallons of manure. This unmanageable amount of waste is contaminating our waterways and harming our communities. In our watershed, the New River is most heavily impacted. Coastal Carolina Riverwatch collects regular water samples surrounding these facilities to analyze for fecal bacteria. We also conduct watershed flyovers to look for pollution violations. By collecting this data, we can work with several statewide partners to advocate for the reform of these destructive industries”. -Rebecca Drohan, Waterkeeper, Coastal Carolina Riverwatch (in photo).

CCRW will be highlighting this program during the month of October and provide regular updates throughout the year.

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CCRW Supports Local Sustainable Businesses

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Coastal Carolina Riverwatch Supports Local Sustainable Businesses

Coastal Carolina Riverwatch (CCRW) understands the value and importance of shopping local. It is the preface for creating the local Eco Gift Guide in 2020. While CCRW prepares to launch the Eco Gift Guide for the second year, staff reflect on why they feel so strongly about buying locally.

“Shopping local, sustainable businesses is not only good for the environment, it makes our communities more resilient.”
-Lisa Rider, CCRW Executive Director
Buying locally is as trendy as boots in the fall, pumpkin everything, whimsical charcuterie boards, and vintage thrifting. It’s the reason why community and farmers markets are all the rage. It’s the reason why all the cool-kids on Instagram promote all their fav local artists, musicians, creators and makers. Shoppers love the idea of knowing where their products are coming from and supporting their neighbors.
So, how does supporting local businesses help the environment?

Supports Local Workforce

By shopping locally, we are doing our part to support the local workforce. If you buy gifts locally, you’re helping to keep your neighbors in their jobs. Without the support from you and the local consumer demand, these local businesses may not exist. Many of the employees would have to seek work elsewhere, and likely outside of the community. This would add to roadway congestion and increase the overall carbon footprint. In Coastal Carolina, we rely on locals to support businesses in the off-season. Tourists head back to school and work at the end of the summer, when the gift-giving season begins. By shopping at local sustainable businesses, including restaurants, bars, local artists, and experiences (Charters and Tours), during the off-season, we help sustain that business throughout the year.

Reduces Our Footprint

One of the most important ways buying locally helps the environment is by reducing your carbon footprint (the miles products spend in the shipping process, etc.). By shopping locally, you are purchasing goods produced, made, and grown in your local community by your friends and neighbors. Did you know that when you shop at the grocery or retail chain store, much of what you buy travels over 1500 miles before you start to drive it home.

More Accessible and Transparent

Local sustainable (eco-friendly) businesses are able to operate in the heart of their local communities. Local markets, for example, are smaller than traditional grocery stores and therefore they are able to set up their shop right in the heart of the community, making them more accessible.

At our local community and farmers markets (like Island Produce, an Eco-Gift Guide member since 2020) consumers are able to easily access lots of local homegrown produce without leaving their own community. Customers can also learn about where their products are made or grown here in North Carolina. Island Produce owner, Jen, takes the time to visit each of the farms in NC to touch and feel where the products are grown and learn from the farmers.

“I just love our local candle-maker, Alexia at Sea Oats Candle Company (Eco-Gift Guide business since 2020), and her magical way of making my home, office, and car smell amazingly nostalgic each season” – Eco-Gift Guide User

Fresher and Saltier

By buying and eating local, consumers are able to enjoy produce that is super fresh. For our local fish markets, we’re talking super #FreshAndSalty! Many local producers pride themselves on keeping their product organic, hormone free and pesticide free, which is also great for the environment. Our Executive Director, Lisa Rider, loves shopping at our local markets, because the products are fresh and brought directly from farm/ocean to table, which creates less waste. “Most of our markets prefer you BYOBag or they provide paper bags, which is ocean-friendly.” We live in the best place imaginable for fresh and local seafood. Eco-gift guide alumni, Oysters Carolina, owned and operated by Coastal Carolina Riverwatch board member, Ryan Bethea, gives farm-to-table a whole new meaning. He harvests his Harkers Island oysters the same day that they are delivered to your doorstep.

Protects Local Land & Wildlife

Did you know that buying-local also helps to protect local lands and wildlife? Because your local sustainable farm is owned and operated by local (and in most cases generational) farmers and producers, they aren’t being sold to local developers, which reduces important habitat for wildlife. When small sustainable farms are bought out by big business producers, those big business (and in many cases foreign owned) industrial and factory farms incorporate inhumane and non-eco-friendly farming practices.

Accessing the Eco-Gift Guide

Our 2021 Eco-Gift Guide includes some of our favorite local businesses committed to protecting clean water in coastal North Carolina. Each business has been carefully curated for its story, and alignment to Coastal Carolina Riverwatch’s values. As a patron of these businesses, you will not only be conserving resources by supporting your local economy, but also reducing your carbon footprint.

The Coastal Carolina Riverwatch Eco-Gift Guide will be available in digital format, via a dedicated website that is user-friendly. Desktop and mobile versions will be accessible for those shoppers who desire to either shop at home, or on-the-go.

Coastal Carolina Riverwatch Members receive VIP First Access to the Eco-Gift Guide, followed by the newsletter subscribers. Full access to the Eco-Gift Guide will be available to the public October 18, 2021.

Business Involvement

If you are a business owner, or part of an organization that serves or supports our coastal communities, and feel that your business values align with those of Coastal Carolina Riverwatch, and you wish to join the Eco-Gift Guide, please contact Shannon Arner, Marketing Specialist.

Click to feature your Local Eco-Friendly Business