04/24/06 — Riverkeepers discuss future of Neuse Basin

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Riverkeepers discuss future of Neuse Basin

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on April 24, 2006 1:47 PM

SEVEN SPRINGS -- The future of the Neuse River Basin and the lives of the thousands of people who live in it will be determined over the next few years, as development speeds up and nature's limits are tested, said riverkeepers making their way downstream on a kayaking trip.

Dean Naujoks and Larry Baldwin spoke to a small group of people gathered Saturday -- Earth Day -- at the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park, where the river curls toward Lenoir County and eventually the coast. They talked about the river's importance to the basin's ecosystem and how growth can be expected to affect its approximately 600 square miles.

The two riverkeepers, one monitoring the upper Neuse and the other the lower portion of the river, said they believe more people are concerned about water quality than ever before. At every stop, they said, they run into people who express concern over what development is doing to the river and its tributaries.

"All sorts of people come out who want to join us on the journey," said Naujoks. "It really is a beautiful river."

He said the kayakers met a fisherman Friday wearing a straw hat and holding a bamboo pole. The man told the riverkeepers that more needed to be done to keep the Neuse clean.

"He is not someone who would come out to a public hearing, but that's the voice we serve out there," Naujoks said.

Naujoks noted that population growth upstream will have a tremendous impact on the section of the river that runs through Wayne County over the next few years. The Neuse basin is among the fastest developing areas in the country, he said.

"I'm worried over what we'll see in the next 20 years. Our success could be nullified if we don't keep the river healthy," Naujoks said.

The riverkeepers' mission is to look for possible pollution and ways to prevent it. That is a big job, they said.

"It's a very large watershed to keep an eye on," Naujoks said.

Naujoks said he and Baldwin are working on major efforts to remedy sedimentation problems and mercury levels that are being found in fish. They work on storm water run-off problems.

"It could be hog farms today and sedimentation tomorrow," said Baldwin, who lives in New Bern and watches over the lower half of the Neuse, from Goldsboro to the Pamlico Sound.

He and Naujoks started their trip April 7 at the Eno River, where that river comes together with the Flat River to form the Neuse. They planned to make it to Kinston today, a 24-mile stretch full of loops and curves.

The kayak trip is expected to end at New Bern on Friday.

To follow the progress of the riverkeepers, go to neuseriver.org and find the journals they're keeping about their river trip.