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Editorial:A new day for Yadkin

This week marks an exciting new chapter in the history of the Yadkin River as its first full-time advocate wades into the important work of protecting and enhancing this vital resource.
Everyone who cares about the Yadkin River ó and that should be everyone who lives in this region ó ought to wish the Yadkin’s new riverkeeper, Dean Naujoks, well and support his efforts as he officially takes up his duties. He has a big job before him. The Yadkin-Pee Dee watershed is the second largest riparian system in the state, stretching from Blowing Rock in the mountains to South Carolina’s Winyah Bay. The watershed takes in 21 counties with a total population of almost 1.5 million people and links hundreds of secondary streams and tributaries. It provides drinking water for Salisbury and many other municipalities, and it feeds reservoirs and lakes where people boat, swim and fish. It generates electricity, helps keep the economy afloat by providing water to businesses and ó most importantly ó is an environmental lifeline that sustains the plants and creatures in a broad swath of the state.
For the Yadkin to continue to do these things in a much more populous future will require greater coordination among its users and stakeholders, and more vigilant protection. The need for better planning and protection for the Yadkin-Pee Dee watershed has been driven home by issues that arose during recent droughts, including interbasin transfers and remediation of silt buildup at water intake sites. More recently, the state’s updated list of impaired waterways included sections of the Yadkin where increased development has worsened sedimentation and other water problems. Such issues are what prompted the formation of Yadkin Riverkeeper, Inc., the nonprofit group that rallied early support and raised the funds that made it possible to hire Naujoks, formerly the riverkeeper for the Upper Neuse. While his role is central, he will need helpers ó a network of volunteers spread along the river’s sprawling banks who can help monitor its health, promote its benefits and educate others about its importance. (For information, contact membership@yadkinriverkeeper.org).
Salisbury and Rowan are well situated to participate in this endeavor and benefit from its impact. The riverkeeper organization already has a strong core of supporters here, and other organizations are pursuing complementary paths. For instance, Salisbury is home to the LandTrust for Central North Carolina, and there’s an essential link between preserving open spaces and promoting well-buffered streams. The Center for the Environment at Catawba College has a growing reputation as a catalyst for action on issues such as air and water quality and sustainable growth. It frequently serves as host for groups such as the riverkeeper and would be a natural setting for future outreach and educational efforts.
In short, Salisbury and Rowan County have a lot at stake in the riverkeeper’s success ó and many reasons to embrace the project’s work.

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