The Neuse and Cape Fear are included in a national environmental advocacy group’s list of the most endangered rivers this year.
The new ranking by American Rivers, released Tuesday, calls on the N.C. General Assembly to include in its Hurricane Matthew recovery package money to remove large-scale livestock feeding operations from the 100-year floodplain, including restoring funding for a swine buyout program for operations affected by flooding.
The Neuse River and Cape Fear River basins were hit by Hurricane Matthew last year and Hurricane Floyd in 1999, exacerbated by pollution from animal waste. North Carolina is the second-leading producer of hogs and the third-leading producer of poultry in the country.
The annual report is meant as a tool to raise awareness of rivers that are in danger of increased pollution, which can be avoided through public policy decisions.
“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that face a critical decision in the next year,” Peter Raabe, conservation director for the state chapter, said in a statement. “For the sake of our clean drinking water and public health, our state’s leaders must act now to help farmers to move millions of gallons of animal waste from the edge of the river and prevent it fouling the Neuse and Cape Fear rivers.”
Andy Curliss, chief executive officer for the N.C. Pork Council, said Monday the industry would support in concept a voluntary buyout program.
“We have engaged in formal and informal discussions with interested parties and would be supportive of voluntary efforts for a buyout,” Curliss said. “We supported the program after Floyd and we think it has been a great success.”
Livestock operations are not allowed to discharge waste into the state’s waters.
The Neuse and Cape Fear rivers are both listed at No. 7 on the list. More than 4 million people receive their drinking water from the two rivers, according to American Rivers.
This is the 15th time a North Carolina river has made the list since 1989. It’s the fifth time the Neuse has been included.
The most recent Triangle waterway to be included was the Haw River in 2014, due to threats from polluted water runoff, degrading sewer pipes and health hazards in Jordan Lake.
America’s Most Endangered Rivers 2017
1 Lower Colorado River (Arizona, California, Nevada). Threat: Water demand, climate change. At risk: Reliable water supplies and river health.
2 Bear River (California). Threat: New Dam. At risk: Native culture, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation.
3 South Fork Skykomish (Washington). Threat: New hydropower project. At risk: Fish and wildlife, recreation.
4 Mobile Bay Rivers (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi). Threat: Poor water management. At risk: Secure water supplies, river health, fishing industry.
5 Rappahannock River (Virginia). Threat: Fracking. At risk: Clean drinking water.
6 Green-Toutle River (Washington). Threat: New mine. At risk: Clean drinking water, recreation.
7 Neuse and Cape Fear Rivers (North Carolina). Threat: Pollution from hog and chicken farms. At risk: Clean water and public health.
8 Middle Fork Flathead River (Montana). Threat: Oil transport by rail. At Risk: Clean water, human health and safety, and wildlife.
9 Buffalo National River (Arkansas). Threat: Pollution from massive hog farm. At risk: Clean water, recreation.
10 Menominee River (Michigan, Wisconsin). Threat: Open pit sulfide mining. At risk: Clean water, Native culture, recreation.
Source: American Rivers