The North Carolina Division of Water Quality has released its draft 2010 list* of impaired waters throughout the state and, once again, Jackson County waterways have earned a place on the list thanks to fecal coliform contamination.
A proud angler displays his catch, hauled from the Tuckasegee River
Two major tributaries of the Tuckasegee River (13.4 miles of Savannah Creek and 15.3 miles of Scotts Creek) make the roster, along with 2.6 miles of the Tuckaseegee starting upstream from Dillsboro.
(New to the list this year is Sugarloaf Creek, flowing from Balsam Mountain Preserve, and listed as impaired due to "ecological/biological integrity" issues.)
I remember when straight piping was an even bigger problem than it is today, but between straight-piping and failed septic systems, the local streams are still suffering. Of course, last time I checked, the Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority was cited for more water quality violations than any other polluter in the county, due to their propensity for straight-piping untreated sewage into the river.
When will it all end?
Somehow, while marketing our paradisical La-La land to outsiders, the travel and tourism folks have failed to pick up on the aforementioned facts and continue to entice visitors to splash around in our nasty streams and rivers.
Those slick brochures baiting tourists should, like a pack of cigarettes, bear a label warning that the product "could be hazardous to your health."
To assure truth in advertising, I propose changing the name of the Tuckasegee to the Fecal Coliform River. Then, people would have fair notice about what they're (literally) getting into.
"Come an' Git It" - The TWSA treatment plant on "The Feek." Note the large pipe dumping effluent into the river. I'm told that if you get by when they're dispensing raw "fish food" you'll find hundreds of trout clustered around the pipe - "goin' for the good stuff." Fresh trout dinner, anyone? Trout sushi, perhaps?
Take, for instance, those happy blurbs (appropriately edited) on the http://www.mountainlovers.com/ website:
The Fecal Coliform River is the largest body of water in Jackson County, and was called “Western North Carolina’s best trout stream for fly anglers,” by the Charlotte Observer. Fishermen have had good success in their search for rainbow, brown and native brook trout, bass, bream, walleye and crappie.
Crappie? Well, yes, I guess that's right.
Or how about this promotional pitch:
Family friendly rafting, kayaking, ducking, & tubing on the Fecal Coliform River. Fun for all ages.
But if you tip over and get a snout full of river water, don't - I repeat, DON'T - swallow.
No doubt, the same smarmy glibsters who have insisted on truncating the name of the river to "The Tuck" would shorten the name of the Fecal Coliform River to "The Feek."
"Rafting The Feek!"
"Tubing The Feek!"
"Fishing The Feek!"
"Fun for all ages!"
The following video demonstrates how, if we really dedicated ourselves to it, a cleanup of the Tuckasegee (or "The Feek" if you prefer) could happen. To quote Bill Murray, "It's no big deal."
As long-time readers are aware, fishing regulations on the Tuckasegee were revised after the 2008 impaired waters list came out.
Given the latest status report from the Division of Water Quality, I assume those regs will remain in effect again this year. So as a public service to eager anglers and others who plan to play in "The Feek" here's that report from February 2008:
The opening day of trout season will be here before we know it. For me, that’s always an exciting sign of the arrival of spring. All up and down the Tuckasegee, we’ll see folks out to catch a pan full of delicious trout.
But things will be different this year. With the “impaired water” designation on the Tuckasegee River and some of its tributaries new fishing regulations will take effect.
Unfortunately, there is not much time left to inform the public of the new rules, but I understand that the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Jackson County Travel and Tourism Authority, Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority and Western Carolina University are working together on an information campaign leading up to opening day.
I’ll give you the heads-up on what I’ve learned at this point.
All fishermen along the Tuckasegee River will be required to wear latex gloves and surgical masks while fishing in the river, or within ten feet of the banks of the river.
Also, hip-waders or any other waders must be certified as capable of protecting the fisherman from fecal coliform. Waders with the proper certification have not been available in past years so it is important that fishermen make sure they purchase waders that comply with the new requirements.
CITATIONS WILL BE ISSUED to any fishermen along the Tuckasegee River and its designated tributaries, if they are fishing without the required safety gear. Again, that’s latex gloves, surgical mask and waders certified to protect against fecal coliform.
It’s sad to see the need for these new rules, but I understand that the health of the public is at stake. It’s great to know that local organizations will be cooperating to educate fishermen, but I’m sure that they won’t be able to reach everyone prior to opening day.
So I intend to help out by providing latex gloves and surgical masks to any fishermen who arrive without the required items. I’d hate to see them get cited. More importantly, I’d hate to see them get sick.
You’re invited to join me for this volunteer effort, opening day 2008, on the Tuckasegee River.
* Written comments on the draft 2010 list are being accepted until March 3. They may be sent to: Jennifer Everett, NC DWQ, Planning Section, 1617 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1617 or Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mountain WILD! and the Western North Carolina Alliance are hosting a talk on water quality in the French Broad River watershed 7 p.m. Tuesday at the WNC Nature Center, 75 Gashes Creek Road, Fletcher.
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