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Editorial: Yadkin needs watchful eyes

With relatively generous spring rains, drought concerns have receded. That means concerns about the Yadkin River have receded, too.
So long as the water flows, it seems, the river is an afterthought, even though the health of the Yadkin-Pee Dee River system is vital to the health of broad swaths of the Carolinas. From its headwaters near Blowing Rock, the river meanders through 21 counties, including Rowan, and provides water to more than half a million municipal customers throughout the Piedmont before snaking its way on into South Carolina.
Salisbury is among those water customers, but that’s only one reason we should be interested in the river and the work of a newly organized group dedicated to its protection. The Yadkin Riverkeeper isn’t just interested in protecting the river from impurities and toxic contaminants, although that’s certainly a major goal. It also hopes to promote the native biodiversity of the river basin and ensure that the Yadkin remains an easily accessible source of recreation and relaxation for those who enjoy drifting along its meandering route, picnicking or hiking along its banks or dropping a hook into its waters. And they don’t want to wait until there’s another crisis to take action.
You might ask why, with existing state and federal environmental agencies and a slew of regulations, there’s a need for a designated protector for the Yadkin. Simply put, looking out for the Yadkin is a full-time job, just as it has been for the Neuse, the Catawba, the Pamlico-Tar, the Watauga, the French Broad and other N.C. rivers or coastal areas that have greatly benefitted from being under the watchful eye of waterkeepers, who operate under the aegis of the Waterkeepers Alliance. In fact, as organizers made clear at an informational meeting this week in Salisbury, even a full-time riverkeeper can’t function effectively without the additional eyes, ears and noses of many other people who are willing to help protect the Yadkin and its tributaries. Eventually, there will be a full-time riverkeeper for the Yadkin, but it will take many other unofficial keepers to help him or her do the job.
Even without a drought, urgent issues are there, whether it’s the ongoing dispute over interbasin transfers from the Yadkin and the Catawba or relicensing agreements for Alcoa Power’s generating stations. The Yadkin Riverkeeper organizers hope to educate more people about those and other issues and encourage more local residents to become good friends with their neighbor, the Yadkin.
Over the coming months, organizers will hire a full-time riverkeeper while continuing to add membership and build financial support. We should all wish them well. We all have a stake in the river and its continued health.
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For more information about the Yadkin Riverkeeper, visit the Friends of the Yadkin-Pee Dee River Web site www.fypdr.org. or call 336-293-9078.

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