Runoff in the Tuck is simply unacceptable

 

To the Editor:

We are the Tuckaseigee Chapter of Trout Unlimited (TU), and we want to protect the Tuckaseigee River and its tributaries (the Tuck) from damage caused by runoff, specifically the runoff from the housing construction at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee.

TU’s mission is to protect coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. For many years our chapter has worked to maintain and restore public waters in Jackson and Swain counties and we want to speak up for the Tuck in this case.

Beginning this past summer, river users began noticing troubling amounts of sediment in the Tuck, which was traced by county inspectors to the construction on WCU’s West Campus. The remediation by WCU and Zimmer Development Company was later described in a Notice of Violation (NOV) to be “woefully inadequate.” Not long ago heavy runoff knocked a home off its foundation. (Sylva Herald Nov. 7). Multiple violations from state and county agencies have documented the destruction of cold water habitat. Fine dirt and silt will severely damage the river for generations.

We need something done immediately to control this runoff. WCU bears some responsibility for damages caused by this public-private partnership on property owned by its endowment fund. We commend the Jackson County Commissioners and other county and local public servants who are working diligently to resolve the problem. We recognize the issue is complex with slopes and heavy rain events challenging the engineers.

We believe however, a solution must be found.

We suggest that action to design a new engineering plan start immediately, and it should integrate standards to protect cold water habitat. This engineering work can start now as the legal issues run through county channels and stakeholders. As a regional leader and lessor of the property, WCU is in a position to guide the developer towards immediate action. It is much less expensive to prevent more issues than to remediate damage caused in the future.

The Tuckaseigee and its tributaries give us so much – power, drinking water, local economic growth, recreation and natural beauty of all kinds. People come from all over the country to enjoy it. We need to protect this gift of sparkling beauty for now and the future.

Dale Collins, president

Tuckaseigee Chapter 373 Trout Unlimited,

Sylva