Projects and legislation that the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation has worked on.


Here are a few of the things we have accomplished since we started in 1997:

2015 Accomplishments

Read about the many victories for our waterways in the 2015 Annual Report.


2014 Accomplishments

2014 Accomplishments

Click here or the image above to see the 2014 accomplishments graphic.


2013 Accomplishments

  • Coal Ash- Catawba Riverkeeper prompted the North Carolina Attorney General to file lawsuits to stop pollution from coal ash waste pits on Mountain Island Lake, Lake Norman and Lake Wylie, as well as other locations in North Carolina. Catawba Riverkeeper documented and sampled many leaks at these unlined lagoons. The Riverkeeper found contaminants flowing directly into drinking water reservoirs. Testing found some contaminants at levels as much as 128 times above the health standard. A state court judge allowed Catawba Riverkeeper to intervene in the state's lawsuits. Catawba Riverkeeper filed additional claims in federal court.  
  • CAFO Flyovers- Through research, flyovers and stream testing, the Catawba Riverkeeper revealed 787 poultry houses. Many of these poultry houses – not subject to public record – mismanage their waste. Waste runoff become major nutrient and bacteria sources to the Catawba River and its tributaries. The Catawba Riverkeeper investigated and reported more than a dozen sites.
  • Cleanups- Catawba Riverkeeper volunteers organized numerous cleanups throughout the basin. Volunteers removed more than 43,000 pounds of trash from the River, lakes and streams.The trash removed included: hundreds of tires; thousands of cans and bottles; boats; car batteries; swing sets; and more. Trash can become not only a source of pollution to the environment but can become boating hazards. Most of these cleanups occur on the first Saturday in October each year, but watch our calendar for other cleanup dates.
  • Medicine Drops- CRF orchestrated the collection of more than 2,000 pounds of expired and unused pharmaceuticals. Water and waste water treatment systems often cannot remove these chemicals from the water. Operation Medicine Drop (OMD) keeps drugs out of the water supply. Thanks to our partners: Yadkin Riverkeeper local law enforcement agencies, and the Women's Impact Fund.
  • Duck Race- The first annual Rubber Duck Race fundraiser was a huge success! Approximately 1,000 ducks raced down Little Sugar Creek for $5,000 in prizes! The 2014 Rubber Duck Race will be on July 12 at Freedom Park.
  • Summer Youth Kayak Program- More than 100 inner-city youth experienced the Summer Youth Education and Kayak (SYEK) program.  The SYEK program included classroom sessions on river ecology and kayak trips on the River. Participants learned water safety skills and examined threats to the river. Most importantly, they developed an appreciation for the beauty and importance of the River.  
  • Sewage Sludge Spreading- Because of questions raised by the Catawba Riverkeeper, the Rock Hill sewage sludge spreading permit ended. Also, the permit to spread Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s sewage sludge in South Carolina was appealed.  
  • Transportation Issues and Sprawl- Catawba Riverkeeper continued to work to prevent unnecessary new highways and reduce the impacts of urban sprawl, which is the root cause of stormwater pollution that threatens many stream in the basin. In 2013, CRF, with the Southern Environmental Law Center, filed a lawsuit to stop the costly "Garden Parkway." The Garden Parkway would have crossed Lake Wylie twice in its meandering path of destruction across southern Gaston County. Catawba Riverkeeper is also working with developers and local governments to create new models for green development.
  • Volunteer Training- CRF held three training classes in 2013 at various locations throughout the basin. Among the classes was our first urban water watcher class, held in conjunction with Johnson C. Smith University. Each class consisted of four 2-hour classroom sessions and at least one field session. Students learned water sampling techniques. They also learned and how to evaluate the environmental compliance of construction sites. The graduates of the urban water watcher class formed their own group to focus on issues with Stewart Creek in Charlotte. They held their first stream cleanup in the fall. And, they are having regular meetings with the County to address water quality issues in West Charlotte. CRF's trained volunteers allow Catawba Riverkeeper to monitor and protect all 5,000 miles of waterways in the basin.

2012 CRF Accomplishments

  • Reached an settlement with South Carolina Electric and Gas (SCE&G) of a suit brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center regarding coal ash storage at Wateree Station. SCE&G agreed to the closure of the ash pond and to switch to dry ash handling.
  • Collaborated with other organizations to study water use in the basin.
  • Monitored and commented on proposals to significantly increase water withdrawals and interbasin transfers, such as the proposed reservoir near Lancaster, SC.
  • The Southern Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of CRF and Clean Air Carolina challenging the Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Garden Parkway.
  • Provided 250 youth from local Boys and Girls Clubs the opportunity to learn water safety, kayaking skills, and environmental science concepts through the Summer Youth Education and Kayak program.
  • Taught children at local schools and youth organizations about the Catawba and water pollution.
  • Organized the 11th annual Lake Wylie Riversweep in which 1,110 volunteers removed 16 tons of trash.
  • Conducted several Covekeeper training sessions to teach basin residents about the Catawba, its history and ecology, laws and regulations affecting water, and how to identify and report issues.
  • Collaborated with Duke University to sample sediment as part of a study on coal ash contamination of drinking water reservoirs.

2011 CRF Accomplishments

  • Advocated for water efficiency and conservation measures as water supply development opposed to dam construction and stream inundation.
  • Identified and informed the public of heavy metal and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) contamination in water, sediment and fish tissue.
  • Challenged polluters who violated water quality standards by discharging bacteria, metals and chemicals illegally into public water bodies.
  • Coordinated take-back events for expired and unused medications with local law enforcement officers in the Operation Medicine Cabinet program.
  • Led educational kayaking program for youth enrolled with Boys and Girls Clubs and Salvation Army.
  • Organized the 10th Annual Lake Wylie Riversweep that involved over 1,000 volunteers.
  • Participated in Big Sweep cleanups and organized other cleanup events throughout the basin.
  • Organized coal ash project to reduce the threat to drinking water supplies from coal ash ponds (in partnership with the Southern Environmental Law Center and the North Carolina Conservation Network).
  • Hosted family eco-tours.
  • Managed a fecal coliform sampling program.
  • Partnered with the Union of Concerned Scientists and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy on the interconnection between the generation of electricity and water use.
  • Trained Covekeeper, Water Watchers, and Muddy Water Watchers to monitor and report pollution problems throughout the basin.
  • Challenged the construction of new reservoir by the Catawba River Water Supply Project.
  • Led the fight to prevent the renewal of permit for Tega Cay Water Services until upgrades were made to prevent the discharge of untreated sewage.
  • Led the fight to limit interbasin transfers, including monitoring compliance with settlement in litigation against proposed transfer by Concord-Kannapolis.
  • Conducted youth education programs in partnership with YMCA, scouting organizations, and local schools.

2010 CRF Accomplishments

  • Established significant reductions in the amount of water transferred from the Catawba River by the state-approved Concord-Kannapolis IBT during drought conditions and secured the implementation of water efficiency practices in the two cities
  • Submitted over 350 comments to U.S. EPA regarding the impacts of coal ash wastes on the Catawba River and testified with hundreds at U.S. EPA hearing on coal ash regulations
  • Organized 9th Annual Lake Wylie Riversweep- 900 people removed 28 tons of garbage
  • Delayed permitting decision for two non-compliant wastewater treatment plants operated by Tega Cay Water Service, Inc., resulting in contractual obligations to clean-up treatment process and stop chronic sewage spills
  • Trained and launched Lake James Covekeeper group – immediately began investigating fecal coliform issues and monitoring areas of concern for illicit discharges
  • Sampled and publicized surface water, sediments and fish tissue in Mountain Island Lake for heavy metals and PCBs
  • Leveraged sampling results to force additional sampling of fish for the protection of human health
  • Pressured South Carolina to issue and post PCB consumption advisory for Lake Wateree fish and sample upstream Catawba lake fish for PCB contamination
  • Challenged discharge limits and water quality standards in North & South Carolina
  • Re-instated arsenic concentration limits for water quality human health standards in South Carolina
  • Lobbied for and testified at public hearing regarding discharge permits for three coal-fired power plants along Catawba in North Carolina
  • Won a challenge on the lack of arsenic concentration limits from the discharge of a coal ash pond in Eastover, South Carolina
  • Sampled and reported sewage overflows in Great Falls, SC
  • Hiked, paddled and sailed 150 miles through the upper Catawba River basin on our 1st ever Krazy Kayak event
  • Re-planted over 300 trees in the buffer zone of a destabilized island in Lake Norman
  • Spoke out with Chester County residents and statewide partners to defeat a proposed incineration facility that would have trucked and railed hundreds of thousands of pounds of waste into the Catawba River basin
  • Co-hosted and organized an Environmental Crimes Seminar with SC Wildlife Federation and U.S. Attorney’s Office
  • Supported the successful reclassification of Catawba River headwaters to High Quality Waters (HQW)
  • Petitioned for reclassification of Lake Norman to HQW
  • Held 2nd Annual Lake Norman Big Sweep After-Party at Queens Landing- over 700 people participated in Lake Norman Big Sweep and removed several tons of waste

2009 CRF Accomplishments

  • Initiated public awareness campaign regarding the four EPA-list "High Hazard Potential" Coal Ash Ponds on Catawba River drinking water reservoirs: one on Lake Norman, two on Mtn. Island Lake and one on Lake Wylie

  • Launched Youth Kayaking River Expedition Program to bring youth in contact with the Catawba River and educate them about issues –  over 212 youth from Boys and Girls Club of Greater Charlotte and surrounding areas participated

  • Kicked-off Upper Catawba Riverkeeper campaign at Peaky Top in Blowing Rock, NC- overlooking Globe Valley and Upper Johns River

  • Commented on inadequacies and highlights in the FERC's draft Environmental Impact Statement regarding Duke Energy's request for Hydro Relicensing

  • Held 8th Annual Riversweep on Lake Wylie – more than 500 volunteers removed over 60,000lbs. of waste

  • Collaborated with other Lake Norman organizations to expand and increase Riversweep on Lake Norman – a grand total of nearly 300 participants removed over 4,600lbs. of waste

  • Conducted new training program in Iredell County entitled "Cove and Stream Watcher Training"- graduating 26 new Covekeepers

  • Continued regular water quality sampling on Lake Wateree- collaboration of Lake Wateree Covekeepers, WaterWatch and University of South Carolina

  • Unraveled the "impaired waterbody" listing status of Wilson Creek with Division of Water Quality staff members from Asheville Regional Office

  • Participated in the redrafting of Lake and stream buffer rules in York County, SC

  • Continued litigation against the Inter-basin Transfer (IBT) of Catawba River water to the Cities of Concord and Kannapolis

  • Completed training of 125 Muddy Water Watch Volunteers throughout North and South Carolina in the Catawba basin

  • Filed over 150 reports with enforcement officials regarding violations of sedimentation and erosion control regulations

  • Held 2nd Annual Catawba River Film Festival

  • Catawba Riverkeeper selected as a "voting member" on SC Dept. of Natural Resources' Catawba Scenic River Advisory Council

  • Educated more than 60 civic, religious, school and community groups on issues impacting the Catawba River

  • Continued litigation in opposition of mercury releases from Duke Energy's Cliffside Coal-Fired Power Plant in Rutherford County, NC

  • Worked with Rock Hill, SC Planning Services to develop a Needs Assessment and Goals/Objectives for the Natural Resources 2020 Vision Plan

  • Completed Lake Rhodhiss Watershed Restoration Plan with Advisory Committee to reduce nutrient-loading

  • Worked with other community organizations to orgranize response to proposed "Garden Parkway" in Mecklenburg and Gaston Counties, and commented on the potential degrading impacts of the toll road

  • Stopped variance for trout water dissolved oxygen standards below Lake James via EPA ruling

  • Spoke out to uphold a $500,000 bond for sediment impacts to nearby coves in Catawba River at Lake Norman from Burton Creek Development

  • Conducted three Eco-tours for members and residents to have an on-the-water experience with their River: nearly 100 paddlers participated

  • Stopped destructive development project in the upper portion of the Johns River watershed

  • Upgraded website and social media sites to provide more information about the issues affecting the Catawba-Wateree River

  • Expanded work with youth to include co-sponsorship of the Environmental Club in Dilworth, assisting a local Girl Scout Troop with a year-long journey towards their Bronze Award through exploration of water quality, and providing on-the-water training for Boy Scouts about water quality and quantity issues


2008 CRF Accomplishments 

  • 2008’s “Most Endangered River” – facilitated 2 Press Conferences to inform and educate the public about the Catawba River’s status.
  • Continued litigation against the Inter-basin Transfer (IBT) of Catawba River water to the Cities of Concord and Kannapolis. This IBT would allow a 10 million gallon per day transfer of water from the Catawba River Basin to the Yadkin River Basin.
  • Launched Muddy Water Watch Program in North Carolina portion of the Catawba River Basin. The purpose of the Muddy Water Watch (MWW) program is to train volunteers in identifying sediment and erosion control problems at active construction sites, and procedures for working with regulatory officials to correct sediment and erosion problems. 
  • Participated in the Duke Hydropower Relicensing process, which to date has resulted in commitment to protect more than 6,000 acres of riparian land preservation, restoration of the Great Falls of the Catawba River and more than $60 million in recreation and water quality enhancements for the river and its lakes.  The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is one of a small handful of parties that have not yet settled with Duke and are in a position to advocate for additional requirements being proposed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
  • Guided and supported five Covekeeper Teams on Lake Hickory, Lake Norman, Mountain Island Lake, Lake Wylie and Lake Wateree, which investigated and responded to hundreds of citizen complaints about environmental problems affecting the Catawba River.
  • Participated in Clean Water Lobby Day – North and South Carolina – to educate legislators on the need for buffer zones, sediment and erosion control, water supply regulations and overhaul of interbasin transfer laws.
  • Participated in the Big Sweep and our volunteers implemented Island Keepers to clean up trash from the waters and islands in the Catawba River. Lake Norman Islandkeepers has pulled over 100,000 pounds of litter from the Catawba River at Lake Norman.
  • Partnered to promote the South Carolina Scenic River Designation. Educated the public about this designation with a press conference with Gov. Mark Sanford of S.C.
  • Educated more than 75 civic, religious, school and community groups throughout the Catawba River Basin regarding issues impacting the Catawba River.
  • Held the 7th Annual Riversweep on Lake Wylie where 278 volunteers removed 23,500lbs. of waste from the lake.
  • Continued litigation in opposition of mercury releases from Duke Energy’s Cliffside Coal-Fired Power Plant in Rutherford County, NC.
  •  Advocated for upholding of Catawba River Buffer Rules on Lake Hickory - lead to $30,000 for tree re-establishment.
  • Partnered on effort to purchase 116 acres surrounding Lincoln County’s water intake at Little Creek Cove on Lake Norman.
  • Re-established regular water quality sampling on Lake Wateree. This was a collaboration of the Lake Wateree Covekeepers, WaterWatch and the University of South Carolina.
  • Worked with County staff and officials to rewrite Stormwater and Buffer Ordinances in York County, SC.
  • Participated as Stakeholder in Lake Rhodhiss Advisory Committee- develop plans to reduce nutrient-loading into Lake Rhodhiss.
  • Investigated Lake Wyle fish kill in Mount Holly, NC and assisted to help resolve the problem.  

2007 CRF Accomplishments

  • Led eleven counties, eight cities, three Marine Commissions and the South Carolina General Assembly as they took action to oppose one the largest interbasin transfer (IBT) requests (up to 38 million gallons per day) in the history of North and South Carolina, which was proposed by the cities of Concord and Kannapolis. CRF filed administrative appeal of the N.C. Environmental Management Commission decision to allow a 10 million gallon per day transfer of water from the Catawba Basin to the Yadkin Basin. CRF was instrumental in encouraging the South Carolina Attorney General to file an action in the United States Supreme Court challenging the proposed IBT.
  • Advocated for comprehensive water supply regulations for North and South Carolina, which resulted in the introduction of legislation to overhaul North Carolina’s IBT law and to establish comprehensive new water supply regulations in South Carolina.
  • Kept leaders of local communities informed about the impact of the drought on the Catawba River and advocated for better coordinated management of water use practices.
  • Guided and supported five Covekeeper Teams on Lake Hickory, Lake Norman, Mtn Island Lake, Lake Wylie and Lake Wateree which investigated and responded to hundreds of citizen complaints about environmental problems affecting the Catawba River.
  • Participated in Clean Water Lobby Day - North and South Carolina – to educate legislators on the need for buffer zones, sediment and erosion control, water supply regulations and overhaul of interbasin transfer laws.
  • Participated in the Big Sweep and CRF volunteers continued to support the Island Keeper program to cleanup trash from the waters, and islands in the Catawba River. Lake Norman Island Keepers reached a milestone of over 100,000 pounds of litter removed from the River.
  • Participated in the Duke Hydropower Relicensing process, which to date has resulted in commitment to protect more than 6,000 acres of riparian land preservation, restoration of the Great Falls of the Catawba River and more than $60 M in recreation and water quality enhancements for the river and its lakes.
  • Continued a water quality monitoring program for Lake Wylie in partnership with Winthrop University.
  • Participated in and led a key committee of the Bi-State Catawba River Study Commission.
  • Spoke to over fifty civic, community and school groups regarding environmental issues affecting the Catawba River.
  • Participated in and encouraged the process to designated 30 miles of the Catawba River below Lake Wylie as a South Carolina Scenic River, which appears likely to come to fruition in 2008.
  • Led opposition to lack of Best Available Control Technology for mercury on the proposed Cliffside Coal-Fired Powerplant, including successful legal challenge to recent relaxation of federal mercury rules.
  • Publicized sewage spills and spurred criminal investigation of sewage treatment plant operators.
  • Participated in training for the Muddy Water Watch program, a statewide campaign to train volunteers to investigate, document and prompt correction of sedimentation and erosion control problems. Training of volunteers in the Catawba River Basin will begin in 2008.
  • CRF and others sponsored the RiverDocs Exhibit – a photographic exhibition at Spirit Square in downtown Charlotte and photo documentation of issues affecting the Catawba River, which is intended to educate the public about issues threatening the Catawba River Basin.

2006 CRF Accomplishments

  • Lake Hickory Covekeepers successfully completing our intensive environmental advocacy training course. 
  • Appointed the first Lake Hickory Covekeeper
  • Senator Wes Hayes appointed Catawba Riverkeeper Donna Lisenby to co-chair and lead an ad hoc committee tha twill draft comprehensive water supply regulations for the state of South Carolina.
  • Led eleven counties, eight cities, three Marine Commissions and the South Carolina General Assembley as they took action to oppose one of the largest interbasin transfer requests in the history of North and South Carolina proposed by the cities of Concord and Kannapolis.
  • Our award winning Island Keeper Program achieved a landmakr milestone, removing more than 100,000 pounds of trash from 42 Lake Norman Islands. 
  • Lake Norman Covekeepers completed a three year development process and in partnership with Lincoln County government have written a new county-wide sediment and erosion control ordinance. 


2005 CRF Accomplishments

  • Advocated for the protection of our Catawba River water availability for the future by unifying basin-wide opposition to a 38 million gallon per day interbasin transfer petition under consideration in North Carolina 
  • Provided personal and stakeholder team leadership in the Duke Power Hydro Relicensing Process to advocate for key objectives of shoreline preservation (riparian easements, buffers, and lands), restoration of the Great Falls of the Catawba, and more than $60 million in recreation and public access enhancements for the future
  •  Achieved the timely designation of the Catawba River below Lake James dam as a trout stream, taking the issue to the NC Superior Court to overcome significant opposition
  •  Featured in a nationally distributed documentary film called "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price" The film chronicled our 2004 actions to have harmful substances to our waters stored and protected properly in area Wal-Mart stores 
  • Established an Assistant Catawba Riverkeeper with a target of supporting existing and expanding the Keeper programs
  •  Instrumental in the establishment of a joint Catawba River Basin Commission by North and South Carolina legislatures to provide guidance and direction in managing the resource as "one river"
  •  Successfully advocated to assure timely compliance with new Phase 2 cooling water regulations at the McGuire Nuclear Station.
  • Protected Lake Wylie from further sedimentation through investigating and reporting violations by a major development that led to the removal of accumulated sediment at $50,000 expense to the contractor and fines in excess of $16,000. 
  • Improved the appearance and health of the Catawba with leadership of clean-up activities in Lakes Norman, Wylie, Wateree, and Mountain Island Lake
  •  Executed successful fundraising and public awareness events such as the Dammed Catawba River Challenge, Creations for the River, and an evening at the White Homestead
  • Provided leadership and other resources to Covekeepers on Lakes Norman, Wylie, Wateree, and Mountain Island Lake 
  • A successful independent audit of our financial activities for 2005 was conducted by Dixon Hughes PLLC

 2004 CRF Accomplishments

  • Settled the lawsuit with Crescent Resources, creating a new 2900 acre state park on Lake James that will be protected from development into perpetuity and establishing even greater environmental protections for the remaining 4000 acres of developable land on Lake James
  • Stopped Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, from illegally storing herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers in parking lots where rainwater was washing pollutants that cause birth defects and  other reproductive harm into public drinking water supplies of the Catawba River
  • Appointed the first Lakekeeper for Mountain Island Lake
  • Responded to and investigated fish kills and algae blooms on Lake Norman, Lake Wylie and Lake Wateree
  • Discovered and stopped an illegal dredging operation causing the destruction of wetlands on Lake Wateree
  • Began advocating for the restoration of the Great Falls of the Catawba River
  • Led and executed the 2004 Clean Water Lobby Day
  • Created River Guardian buffer award program to reward lakefront property owners who maintain exemplary buffer zones on the river
  • Launched the River for Everyone campaign
  • Settled the Delta Apparel lawsuit with a requirement that Delta reduce pollution levels by 85%
  • In partnership with Carolina Sportslink, launched the Dammed Catawba River Challenge
  • Investigated and reported on flooding issues caused by 3 Hurricanes hitting the Catawba River watershed in September 2004
  • Conducted the 3rd Annual River Sweep, picking up 10 tons of trash
  • As a result of Riverkeeper pressure, Charlotte Mecklenburg Sewage spills down 38% from 538 sewage spills in FY 2003 to 350 sewage spills in FY 2004
  • Filed a petition for rulemaking to have a supplemental trout designation added to the Catawba River below Lake James

 2003 CRF Accomplishments

  • Led and executed the 2003 Clean Water Lobby Day
  • Published two years of water quality research from our water quality monitoring program on the South Fork Catawba River and Lake Wylie
  • Began a new water quality sampling study to determine the effects of a 1400 acre golf course community called The Palisades on the water quality of the Catawba River
  • Launched the Boaters Right to Know campaign
  • Conducted a door to door Community Education Initiative to raise awareness about sewage treatment plant discharges into Lake Norman and seek support for CRF’s work to phase them out
  • Graduated 32 new Covekeepers for Lake Wylie
  • Launched the Island Keepers Program , spent 219 man-hours picking up 9,040 pounds of trash from Islands on Lake Norman
  • Created the Lake James Task Force to defend Burke County against the Crescent Resources legal attack
  • Held the first ever Catawba River Romp and Eco-Kinetic Race
  • Won the final decision on the wetlands rule case at the NC Supreme Court, defeating and finally ending a 7 year effort by business, industry and agriculture interests to weaken wetland protections
  • Graduated 17 new Lake Wateree Covekeepers
  • Deployed more members than any other conservation organization in the 14 counties of the Catawba River basin to  speak at public hearings in favor of makingCatawba River Buffer rules permanent
  • Successfully defended the Judges ruling rescinding the Hwy 150 sewage plant permit at the EMC final ruling level
  • 17 CRF members became official stakeholders appointed to the 6 Duke Power Relicensing Teams that will negotiate the terms and conditions of all 11 dams on the Catawba River for the next 30-50 years
  • Catawba Buffer Rules made permanent by the Environmental Management Commission 
  • Graduated 7 new Mountain Island Lake Covekeepers
  • Secured 42 Business Sponsors of the Boaters Right to Know Campaign

 CRF Accomplishments

  • Won the Mid-South case at the Administrative Law Division level
  • Secured 17 precedent setting water quality protection requirements for a massive commercial, residential and golf course development on Lake Wylie called The Palisades
  • Successfully leveraged passage of The Palisades requirements and the Catawba River Water Quality Symposium to create a new county wide policy guiding future development in Mecklenburg county called the Water Quality Framework
  • Took the Mid-South case to trial and provided expert testimony, research and data that supported the creation of new public policy in NC prohibiting discharge of sewage treatment plant effluent into recreational lakes where intensive public use occurs, if successful this case could set a new statewide precedent for protection of public health and water quality
  • Established the third and fourth Covekeeper Programs on Mountain Island Lake and Lake Wateree, appointed a retired major from the NC Highway Patrol to serve as the first Lakekeeper for Lake Wateree
  • Led and executed the 2002 Clean Water Lobby Day
  • Created and led the Lake James Task Force to defend the new Lake James Land Use Ordinance passed by Burke county which is among the most protective of water quality in the state of NC
  • Secured donations for and purchased a specially equipped water quality research vessel, the Rachel Carson for more intensive water quality research
  • Investigated and verified numerous sewage spills from Charlotte Mecklenburg Utilities for which the state of North Carolina took no enforcement action and levied no fines, sparked in depth media coverage and revision of Charlotte’s sewage notification procedures
  • Uncovered a malfunctioning sewage treatment plant that discharged raw sewage for 5 days and 5 nights before intense media coverage and collaborative efforts led by the Riverkeeper resulted in emergency orders by regulatory officials to decommission the plant
  • Intervened in the Crescent Resources lawsuit against Burke County which seeks to strike down a precedent setting land use ordinance designed to protect water quality of Lake James and the Catawba River…Crescent Resources is a Duke Energy subsidiary

 CRF Accomplishments

  • Advocated and secured protection of buffer zones on the main stem of the Catawba River by thwarting efforts of private property groups from the upper basin to derail the buffer rule making process
  • Helped create, lead and execute a Clean Water Lobby Day bringing grass roots activists from throughout the state to the NC General Assembly to lobby on clean water issues
  • Advocated and secured the most endangered rivers designation for the Catawba River from American Rivers
  • Won the wetlands rule case at the NC appellate court level, defeating sustained efforts by business, industry and agriculture interests to weaken wetland protections
  • Advocated for, and secured legislative passage of the most comprehensive revision and improvement of water quality standards throughout South Carolina in decades
  • Negotiated statutory improvement to Mecklenburg county buffer zone regulations for Lake Wylie
  • Won the phosphorus control case at the SC appellate court level
  • Settled the MidSouth civil case in order to provide funding to continue the administrative legal action against the state of North Carolina and the new owners of the MidSouth wastewater treatment plant at issue
  • Defeated efforts to build an eighty million gallon per day sewage treatment plant with 7 foot diameter raw sewage lines constructed in the flood plain of the Catawba River for over 20 miles
  • Filed a motion to intervene with the Federal Energy Regulatory against the Duke Power Shoreline Management Plan for failing to provide adequate environmental protection, public recreation, water quality and aquatic life protection
  • Investigated and reported raw sewage spills from Carolina Water Services, sparked 3 month investigation and inspection of 31 lift stations by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control
  • Advocated and secured new color control requirements for dischargers of textile mill dyes into South Fork Catawba River
  • Created and led the Steele Creek Task Force in response to a four mile fish kill due to an extended raw sewage spill after a contractor blasted too close to a manhole, the developer and landowner were fined by over $10,000 by the state of NC and the maximum fine allowed by the state of SC, marking the first time fines for water quality violations were levied by both states and one of the few times anyone was fined for sewage spills in Mecklenburg county
  • Completed a non-point source pollution control project in partnership with the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, the Cooperative Extension Service and United States Soil Conservation Service
  • Joined forces with Trout Unlimited, American Rivers, SC Coastal Conservation League, Real Running River Protective Society, Foothills Land Conservancy, and others to create the Catawba Wateree Relicensing Coalition, a stakeholder group to address the hydropower relicensing of the Duke Power dams on the Catawba

 CRF Accomplishments

  • Participated in the state technical committee to develop buffer zone recommendations for the main stem of the Catawba River in North Carolina
  • Filed legal actions against the Catawba River’s most notorious violator of water quality regulations, MidSouth Utilities
  • Advocated and secured broad support for water quality, aquatic life protection, public access and environmental protection in the Duke Power shoreline management plan which impacts over 1600 miles of shoreline on the Catawba River lakes
  • Helped lead an effort of diverse groups and individuals that created and secured funding for the Catawba Wateree Relicensing Coalition, an organization dedicated to providing a framework for citizen and local government participation in negotiation of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license for eleven hydroelectric dams on the Catawba River
  • Uncovered an illegal straight pipe from a Charlotte restaurant that had been dumping raw sewage into Lake Wylie for years, resulted in a $9000 fine
  • Co sponsored or participated in numerous environmental education initiatives, such as the Lake Norman Lakefest, the Lake Wylie Lake Splash, Catawba Riverkeeper Day at Queen’s Landing, Earth Day Celebrations at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the Schiele Museum, Anne Springs Close Greenway, and the Museum of York County
  • Was the lead advocate on the Voices and Choices water quality action team and served as a catalyst for introducing the concept of integrated management resulted in passage of study bills in both the NC and SC General Assemblies
  • Partnered with the Cooperative Extension Service to conduct a floating aquatic ecology classroom for Lake Wylie called 4H2O Pontoon Classroom
  • Uncovered and stopped a commercial port a potty business from dumping the contents of used port  a potties into a tributary of Lake Norman
  • Discovered and stopped leachate entering Lake Norman from a Lincoln County landfill
  • Partnered with the Mecklenburg County Department of Environmental Protection to execute a lift station awareness campaign, resulted in significant upgrades of mechanical infrastructure and spill warning systems
  • Uncovered and stopped a wastewater treatment plant illegally land applying sewage effluent in a residential community on the shores of Lake Norman

 CRF Accomplishments

  • Established the Catawba Riverkeeper General Counsel to take legal action on environmental issues in North Carolina
  • Served as the lead environmental advocate for the establishment of buffer zones throughout the basin
  • Filed legal action to defend North Carolina’s new wetland rules that were challenged in court by industry and agriculture interests
  • Established a water quality research program by purchasing of state of the art water quality monitoring equipment and contracting with a research director, Dr. Peter Phillips, an aquatic ecologist at Winthrop University to manage the program
  • Uncovered evidence that a major developer had knowingly installed a raw sewage lift station below the high water mark of Lake Wylie and submitted permits to the Corps of Engineers that grossly underestimated wetland impacts, as a result of evidence presented by the Riverkeeper, numerous stop work orders were issued and regulatory agencies levied a $78, 000 fine, the highest ever levied against a developer in SC
  • Initiated intensive water quality monitoring of the South Fork Catawba River and Lake Wylie
  • Established the second Covekeeper Program on Lake Norman, forty North Carolinians completed the year long training and selected Lakekeepers Jay and Selah Bunzey from among their ranks
  • Provided technical assistance and political support which resulted in the establishment of buffer zones in York and Chester counties
  • Provided presentations advocating the protection, preservation and restoration of the Catawba River to approximately 70 groups and 2000 people

1998 CRF Accomplishments

  • Created and secured sponsors for the first Catawba River Clean Water Platform, nine basic principles to guide future water quality policy, regulations, land use laws and enforcement for the Catawba River. Sponsors came from diverse constituencies including the Lake Wylie Chamber of Commerce, Trout Unlimited, the Agricultural Resources Center, and the Lake Wateree Homeowners Association
  • Established the first Covekeeper Program on Lake Wylie, a trained citizen group that advocates for river preservation in their local communities
  • Secured two boats and started regular patrols of the Catawba River
  • Initiated the Riverkeeper Hotline which responds to more that 100 calls per year for assistance
  • Uncovered the destruction of a 2.47 acre wetland, brought publicity and enforcement to bear, resulting in the developer being required to secure a $250,000 bond for restoration of the wetland and $28,500 in fines
  • Tackled the South Fork Catawba River’s decades-old textile mill pollution problem by organizing downstream residents and preparing a federal clean water act case against the state of NC for issuing permits that violated water quality standards
  • Filed legal action to defend South Carolina’s new phosphorus control requirements which were challenged in court by a coalition of seven sewage treatment plant operators
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Jan 25, 2017 NC Riverkeeper Report
From the perspectives of 12 NC Riverkeepers, this report discusses how multiple environmental issues pose challenges in the pursuit of clean, plentiful water. Whether you are in North Carolina or downstream in South Carolina, read this report about the state of environmental enforcement.
Dec 13, 2016 Community Foundation of Gaston County grants $5,000 to CRF for Riverkeeper Program
The Community Foundation will fund Catawba Riverkeeper's work in Gaston County.
Dec 12, 2016 A Successful Launch of our Water Education Program at Great Falls Elementary
Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in partnership with 4-H Clemson Cooperative Extension successfully completed our pilot Education Outreach Program with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students from Great Falls Elementary.
Sep 27, 2016 Lake Wateree Fall Cleanup a Sweeping Success
86 volunteers collected 5,490 pounds of trash from Lake Wateree
Jun 13, 2016 Dozens of Youth Reached in Water Education Outreach Program Pilot Lessons
More news…
Report Pollution in the Catawba River

Help protect your River! 

Tell your Riverkeeper if you see:

  • Sewage Overflows
  • Failure to control sediment from construction sites
  • Illegal clearing of buffer areas
  • Fish kills 
  • Unpermitted discharges
  • Other issues that concern you

Click here to fill out a pollution report or to report water pollution to Catawba Riverkeeper by phone, call 1-888-679-9494 or 704-679-9494.  In addition, to informing your Riverkeeper, you should also report spills or contamination to federal, state and local environmental officials.

To report South Carolina water pollution call 1-888-481-0125.

To report North Carolina spills or fish kills, call your local regional Department of Environment & Natural Resources office during normal business hours (704-663-1699 for most Catawba basin areas or (828) 296-4500 for Burke, Caldwell, McDowell and other mountain counties) or 800-858-0368 after hours.  (For more information on NC spill reporting, click here)


The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is a proud member of EarthShare North Carolina, the North Carolina Conservation Network, River Network and the Waterkeeper Alliance.  It also in in an alliance with Clean Air Carolina to address issues, such as sprawl, that cause air and water problems.

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715 N. Church St., Suite 120 . Charlotte, NC 28202 . Phone: 704.679.9494 . Fax: 704.679.9559