Asheville hasn’t seen a lot of gully-washers this summer, but the heavy rains that pummeled the mountains Aug. 25 and 26 pumped new life into a long-running controversy concerning erosion-control problems at development sites on steep slopes.
In an Aug. 26 e-mail to Xpress, Haw Creek resident Chris Pelly unleashed a torrent of complaints about the developers of Falcon Ridge, a subdivision on Cisco Mountain that is under construction. Enclosing photos of muddy runoff that flooded nearby roadways, Pelly charged that the failure to retain soil during the grading had created a massive erosion problem once the rains hit. “What’s it going to take to make the system work for the folks living below this project?” Pelly wrote.
But George Ryan, manager of Falcon Ridge at Haw Creek, told Xpress that his company had corrected the problem. “Due to Tropical Storm Fay, over four-and-a-half inches of rain fell Tuesday at the Falcon Ridge site,” Ryan wrote in an e-mail to surrounding neighbors the day after the storm. “Crews worked until late evening and again Wednesday morning to maintain the site and to make sure any erosion was cleaned up. City inspectors made a site inspection on Tuesday and stated that the site was in compliance.”
RiverLink, an Asheville-based nonprofit, has been working to address the issue of erosion control and its inevitable consequence—clouded waterways—through a program called the Muddy Water Watch. A three-week course teaches volunteers how to spot erosion-control violations and alert state agencies, in hopes of prompting enforcement. A recently launched Web site, IM Rivers (www.imrivers.com/hartwell), documents their findings to date. “This site allows the public to see the severity and widespread problem that is caused by failing erosion-control measures,” explains French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson of RiverLink.
The Web site spotlights sediment problems at 15 sites; an interactive map provides links to photos and information about each location. The online tool also charts scenic destinations and access points along the French Broad. RiverLink is gearing up for the next Muddy Water Watch training, with the first session scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 9.
To learn more, e-mail email@example.com, or call 252-8474, ext. 114.
Relief for the uninsulated
Warren Wilson College is emerging as a national leader in the movement toward sustainability. The tiny liberal-arts college in Swannanoa recently snagged fourth place in Sierra Magazine‘s list of the “10 Coolest Schools” nationwide—i.e. campuses that are getting seriously proactive about global warming. The publication lauded the school’s attempts to integrate green building, organic gardening and other elements of sustainable design. Now, Warren Wilson is rolling out a new batch of programs that aim to extend their efforts to the community at large.
The urgently named “INSULATE!” aims to provide low-income homeowners with home repairs that will reduce their energy bills (and carbon footprints). Statistically, it’s the folks in the lowest income brackets who shell out the most on heating costs, because their homes tend to be far less energy-efficient. One family, for example, has an annual income of $10,000 and spends about $3,000 a year on energy costs, says Phillip Gibson, director of community outreach at the college’s Environmental Leadership Center.
Offered through the ELC’s Mountain Green program, the service will send Warren Wilson students and professionals from the Asheville Home Builders Association to low-income households to conduct free energy audits and efficiency retrofits. Partners in the volunteer program include Community Action Opportunities, the Buncombe County Council on Aging, the Asheville Home Builders Association, the city of Asheville, the Sustainable Advisory Committee on Energy and the Environment, Mountain Housing Opportunities and Progress Energy. (The utility donated $5,000 to buy an infrared camera for energy audits.)
The first leg of the initiative will target senior citizens living below the poverty line, Gibson explains. “When people are having to decide whether to pay their energy bill or get a medication they may need, that’s a problem,” he says.
The program also fits with a pact that Warren Wilson made with the city of Asheville last year to work toward developing tangible ways to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in the wider community. Gibson says he hopes “INSULATE!” will provide a model for similar programs throughout the region.