Governor Roy Cooper announced that nearly $20 million in Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF) grants have been awarded to help fund 50 projects that will conserve lands and protect waterways serving millions of North Carolinians. The Fund awarded Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) $606,645 for two projects in Watauga County.
$522,460 from the CWMTF will fund the acquisition of 200 acres on the North Slope of Harmon Knob. This is the second acquisition of a multi-phase project to expand the Tater Hill Bog Preserve. This property contains over a mile of Norris Branch and is home to several rare plant species. Harmon Knob is a large, broad, highly visible mountain located in the Amphibolite Mountains. The property is situated in the Potato Hill Bog, Rich Mountain Bald, and Harmon Knob Natural Area, as designated by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program (NHP).
The Tater Hill Bog Preserve is 1,200 acres of rare bog ecosystem, is home to an array of endangered and threatened plant species, and contains the headwaters of Howard’s Creek, an outstanding fisheries resource. Tater Hill Bog is identified as a top conservation priority by the NHP and is used for ecological research. Tater Hill Bog Preserve is managed by the NC Plant Conservation Program, a division of the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Resources.
$84,185 was awarded to BRC to protect 26 acres of Backbone Ridge. Backbone Ridge is a prominent ridge on the on the Blue Ridge Escarpment in Watauga and Caldwell County. Conservation of this ridge has been ongoing for many years and BRC helped expand it along Curtis Creek. This property will buffer Backbone Ridge in Pisgah National Forest and land owned by NC State Forest Service from potential negative development or land use impacts. Curtis Creek, which flows along the eastern boundary, contains “Catherine Falls,” and unique water fall of approximately 15 feet. A number of other headwater streams and springs flow through the property and are protected by forested buffers. The property will ultimately be transferred to the NC State Forest Service.
Both of these projects were made possible with funding by a public/private partnership. Fred and Alice Stanback made a generous donation toward the acquisitions, which helped leverage public funds from the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund.
In total, the $20 million in CWMTF grants will be used to protect 10,286 acres, including western waterfalls, maritime forests, historic forts, greenways and trails and buffers around military bases. More than 8,200 acres will be open to the public for hiking, birding and other recreational uses. Funds were also granted for 10 projects to restore more than 13 miles of the state’s waterways and five projects designed to introduce innovative techniques for managing stormwater.
“The Clean Water Management Trust Fund plays a vital role in protecting North Carolina’s most treasured natural and cultural resources for future generations,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “Since the fund’s beginning, these grants have been used in every North Carolina county to protect drinking water supplies, preserve historical resources, conserve clean streams for fishing and swimming, and provide buffers around our military bases.”
In the last 20 years, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund has conserved more than 500,000 acres of land, protected more than 2,500 miles of streambank, and preserved 12 historic sites. The Fund was established in 1996, awarding grants to protect land for natural, historical and cultural benefit, limit encroachment on military installations, restore degraded streams, and develop and improve stormwater treatment technology.
“Protecting the state’s natural and cultural resources are critical to the economic sustainability of our state, helping to make North Carolina an attractive place to live, work and visit,” said Susi H. Hamilton, secretary of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.