Yadkin has its first riverkeeper

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
The Yadkin River will soon have a full-time, paid advocate.
Dean Naujoks has been hired as the first Yadkin riverkeeper, effective Nov. 14.
The founding board of Yadkin Riverkeeper Inc. announced Naujoks’ selection at its annual meeting Saturday on High Rock Lake.
Naujoks is the former Upper Neuse riverkeeper, a position he resigned Aug. 1 after seven years.
“He is a charismatic leader and brings a wealth of knowledge about what it takes to be a riverkeeper,” said board president Zoe Gamble Hanes, an environmental attorney in Forsyth County.
Hanes said Naujoks will become a voice and watchdog for the Yadkin, working closely with citizens, local officials, state regulators, inspection officers and environmental groups.
He’ll do such things as appear at hearings related to the river, review permits issued for point-source pollution, identify polluters with a record of noncompliance, work with municipalities on stormwater runoff ordinances, have input on a pollution control plan for High Rock Lake and make sure developers use best management practices for erosion control.
“It will certainly be a new challenge,” Naujoks, 39, said Monday.
As the Yadkin riverkeeper, he is walking into a similar situation he found when he became the first Upper Neuse riverkeeper in 2001. Except for the work the founding board has done, the Yadkin program is starting from scratch.
“There’s definitely a lot of work to do,” Naujoks said, adding that one advantage will be that it’s a program he won’t have to fix or reshape. “We really need the support of the community for this thing to work.”
When he left the Upper Neuse organization in August, Naujoks was part of a staff of six, the budget had tripled since 2001 and the organization had good, sustainable programs, he said.
Naujoks founded Muddy Water Watch, an initiative involving citizens across the state in monitoring sediment, probably the biggest pollution threat to the Yadkin River and its lakes.
Hanes expects the Yadkin riverkeeper could have a visible presence in both Winston-Salem and Salisbury.
In the beginning, the organization will focus on the central part of the Yadkin-Pee Dee Basin from north of Winston-Salem to south of the Rocky River.
Several candidates were interviewed for the Yadkin riverkeeper’s job, whose salary comes from membership dues, grants and private donations.
Z. Smith Reynolds foundation has been a major grant provider.
“It’s really what we’ve been working for all year, laying the foundation to get to this point,” Hanes said. “It’s exciting, and we’re lucky to get such a strong candidate.”
Yadkin Riverkeeper Inc, part of the national Waterkeeper Alliance, is a nonprofit, grassroots organization that advocates for the river as a nongovernmental entity.
In his former position, Naujoks monitored and served as an advocate for the Neuse River from above Falls Lake in Raleigh to Goldsboro.
Naujoks, pronounced “Now-Yucks,” is an avid fisherman, hunter and canoeist. He worked for eight years for the N.C. Wildlife Federation before returning to N.C. State University and majoring in environmental policy and sustainable development.
He has served on numerous boards, coalitions and task forces, including a task force to clean up PCB contamination from the Ward Transformer.
Naujoks and has been a member of the N.C. Wildlife Federation board, the Umstead State Park Coalition, Raleigh’s Tree Conservation Task Force and its Stormwater Management Advisory Commission.
He also was on the Neuse Basin Oversight Committee for the Neuse Agriculture Rules.
“He is extremely well thought of,” said Granite Quarry’s Melba Eagle Melton, membership team chairperson for Yadkin Riverkeeper Inc. “… We’re so excited we can hardly stand it.”
Melton noted the Yadkin-Pee Dee River Basin ó second largest in the state ó was the largest without a full-time riverkeeper.
She said Naujoks is well connected. He supplied many letters of recommendation and is held in high regard among his peers and government officials, Melton said.
The new Yadkin Riverkeeper Inc. board elected Saturday includes Melton and Steve Hannah of Rowan County; Katherine Trotter, Montgomery County; Edward Hill, Velvet Motsinger and Kevin Carle, Stanly County; Hanes, of Mecklenburg County; Montie Hamby and Ward Swann, Forsyth County; Marti Utter, Yadkin County; and Patricia Colwell and Anita Harrington, Surry County.
Edward Norvell, Ron Bryant and Hope Taylor serve as advisers to the board.
Retiring board members include Shona Simpson, John Cararelli and Rick Chatham.
Melton said the organization has 187 members.
Charter memberships are being accepted through Jan. 31, 2009. Donations made to Yadkin Riverkeeper Inc. are tax-deductible. For more information on memberships contact Melton at 704-279-7753. The organization’s Web site is under revision and will be updated with new information in a couple of days.