What we’re about…

Welcome to the Website for the Friends of Bolin Creek!

Bolin Creek provides a home for an amazing diversity of creatures, including the rare four toed salamander, both in its waters and in the riparian buffer surrounding it. This stream also feeds into Jordan Lake, which is a water supply for over half a million people! Unfortunately, this wonderful stream is classified as impaired, meaning that it does not pass the standards set by our state for drinkable, fishable waters. In this site, you can learn about how to join us and make a difference to the creek!

We Need Your Help! Bolin Creek and its forest are threatened again! Your help is needed to preserve this area in Carrboro’s heart from blasting, pavement and increased flooding.

GoPetition

Why?  The Town of Carrboro’s Board of Aldermen has decided consider again the feasibility of building a concrete bikeway along Bolin Creek itself between Homestead Road and Estes Extension. If the Board of Aldermen were to vote to proceed, a bikeway along this section of Bolin Creekwould be constructed on the edge of Bolin Creek, thus destroying the riparian buffer the birds and other wildlife depend upon.

Where?  Bolin Creek winds for 2 miles through a 400 acre forest within a unique natural setting of stunning beauty, historical significance, documented ecological value, and offers humans much needed serenity as our towns have become more urban. See map.

What Happened?

  • In early 2009, Town planning staff contracted with a consultant to develop a “Conceptual Greenway plan” concept plan for CAarrboro.
  • In December 2009 the Board of Aldermen approved and asked staff to implement and construct selected greenways that are now underway.  A number of options were proposed for phases 3 and 4. Citizens expressed concern that what amounts to a 10-foot-wide paved road, described as a “transportation corridor”, would harm water quality and the fragile ecological health of the forest. As a result, the BOA said in their resolution that they would not consider the matter further until the staff proposed a process for public engagement for phases 3 and 4.
  • In January 2010, the BOA charged the town’s Greenways Commission to discuss the controversial proposal in 2010 and make a recommendation. After deliberation at monthly meetings for over a year, the Commission finally resolved in March 2011 that the controversial concept did not bear further discussion given that planned alternative bike connections, specifically along Seawell School Road were already planned.
  • In June 2016, seven years after the passage of the Concept Plan, the BOA asked the staff to return with a process.  Stay tuned.

Our Forest is Endangered.  Bolin Creek flows into Jordan Lake, a water supply for more than a half million people.

  • Bolin Creek and its forest have been called by former N.C. Botanical Garden Director Peter White “our Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”
  • Bolin Creek shelters hawks, owls, herons, woodpeckers, box turtles, deer, beavers, coyotes, numerous other birds, as well as the rare four-toed salamander.
  • Bolin Creek’s forest protects us from further climate change by providing a wide stretch of tree canopy that acts as a carbon sink.

Make Your Voice Heard!  Here is What You Can Do.

  • Sign the Save Bolin Creek petition now!
  • Tell your friends, neighbors, family and others about what’s at stake.
  • Contact Carrboro’s Mayor and members of the Board of Aldermen.
  • Attend Board of Aldermen meetings on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. in Carrboro Town Hall.
  • Join our newsletter list by signing up on the right panel of this page.

GoPetition

For more information or questions about how to help, contact friendsofbolincreek@gmail.com

Thanks, Friends of Bolin Creek
Artist’s map by Geneva Green, Geneva’s website: Greenstone Quarterly

Posted in Bolin Creek Watershed, Friends of Bolin Creek Community Exchange, Friends of Bolin Creek mission, Friends of Bolin Creek: Can We Heal Our Local Waterways? | Tagged | 1 Comment

No Buffers, No Birds

This article by naturalist Mary Sonis originally appeared in the Chapel Hill News on November 23, 2015.  With a growing appreciation of our birds and the disappearance of wild places, it’s worth rereading.

Bolin Creek saw a great turnout of migrating warblers this fall along with a solid showing of many resident species. As the birds move south to their wintering grounds, the creek offers an invitation that is irresistible to wildlife, and especially to our warblers – water.

Every day from 4 to 6 p.m., I headed out with a camera and chair, and set up my viewing station along the creek. The sound of water flowing over rocks produces of soft murmur that can be heard by any passerby. It is this sound that draws the birds. From the safely of the dense undergrowth, birds cautiously make their way down the trees and find a variety of tiny shallow rock pools. It is there that they bathe and drink at the end of the day.

Some tiny pools are so sought after that birds line up to take their turn. The diminutive Northern Parula Warbler might be driven off by a more determined (and larger) Black and White Warbler, while a migrating Chestnut-sided Warbler on its journey from the Northeast, lands without hesitation, and ignores the fray. An entire family of resident American Redstarts appears daily. Two siblings practice their flying skills by chasing each other in and out of the creek zone, often zipping by my head as if to show off their newfound acrobatic skills. The more sedate parents call the youngsters in and make their own cautious forays to a small crevice between the rocks that holds a scant half-inch of water.

What is it about this habitat that is so appealing to wildlife?

A riparian zone is the area of vegetation that borders a creek or stream. It is often a dense, impenetrable area of tangled greenery. It shades the creek, soaks up water after floods, absorbs toxins in the water, prevents erosion, and provides a protection zone for wildlife.

At creek’s edge a beaver family builds a lodge that is nestled only a few feet from the path of high school runners. It is so close a region that the beavers lift their heads when they hear a passing runner or dog walker. Box Turtles forage the moist leaf litter in search of invertebrates, and find their own soaking pools in the ruts and puddles along the main dirt path. Spotted Salamanders spend their lives buried deep beneath rotting logs in the forest and creek border, making their yearly journey to the vernal pools on the path to lay their eggs when soaking spring rains flood the trail in February.

There is only one thing that won’t fit along the Bolin Creek Trail. Pavement.

For warblers, the riparian border offers a perfect habitat. There are plenty of insects to be gleaned from the leaves, hidden sites for nests, water for drinking or bathing and finally, vegetative cover to protect the warblers from predation by the owls and hawks that patrol the creek.

A riparian border is the golden area of any creek.

It is not surprising that this creek trail also draws large numbers of humans to the Carolina North Forest. It is a beautiful trail that local residents have used for years as a peaceful spot to walk their dogs. Our outstanding Chapel Hill High School cross country running team makes their way down the path at 4 o’clock, the same time that the warblers arrive. On sunny fall afternoons, science classes from Smith Middle School can be found studying water ecology at creek’s edge. Mountain bikers join the activity as they negotiate the roots and dips along the trail.

Surprisingly, it all works. Runners, hikers, naturalists, and mountain bikers all share the beauty of this small stretch of land that winds its way from Wilson Park to Chapel Hill High School.

There is only one thing that won’t fit along the Bolin Creek Trail. Pavement. Some groups in Carrboro are advocating for a paved greenway along the creek in Carrboro. In order to meet state Department of Transportation standards, this paved path would require a buffer of 10 feet on either side. Unfortunately, that buffer would cut into the riparian zone.

This is the golden area that we can’t afford to lose. No buffer, no birds. No erosion control, no shade, no carbon absorbing trees, no Box Turtles lingering in a cool patch of muddy water on a sunny day. Is the cost too high to create yet another paved commuting route for bikers? Let the Carrboro Board of Aldermen know what this trail means to our community. Let them know if you’ve taken your children on nature walks along Bolin creek to see our Barred owls. Let them know if you want your teenagers to run that trail with dirt beneath their feet, and warblers calling in the canopy.

Mary Sonis is a naturalist, photographer and writer in Carrboro. You can reach her at msonis@nc.rr.com

Posted in Birding, Bolin Creek, Bolin Forest, Conservation, Riparian buffers | Leave a comment

More Bad News from Raleigh

Conservation Insider Bulletin: June 20, 2016

Multiple bills to gnaw away more environmental protections crawled out of the legislative woodwork, plus more news, this week in CIB:

Legislative Watch: Attacks Broaden Against Clean Water and Land Quality Laws

Multiple bills to slash North Carolina’s clean water, air and land protection laws are being pushed forward in the General Assembly.

HB 169, “Regulatory Reduction Act of 2016”:   The NC Senate last week approved legislation to eliminate North Carolina’s electronics recycling program and further gut the ability of state environmental boards to protect clean air and water. These damaging provisions are contained in HB 169, “Regulatory Reduction Act of 2016”. Conservationists targeted this bill for a hard lobbying effort in opposition and were rewarded with strong and well-informed debate on the floor, but anti-environmental votes prevailed 30-15. The bill has gone to the House for deliberation.

HB 169’s biggest problem provisions include these:

1) It would end North Carolina’s electronics recycling program, allowing old equipment with dangerous heavy metals to end up back in landfills.

2) It would block state regulatory boards and agencies, including the Environmental Management Commission (EMC), from enacting rules which would cost more than $100 million over five years. There is no exception for public health protections, environmental emergencies, requirements of federal or state law or courts, or findings of net benefits. It’s an absolute bar which under state fiscal calculation rules is practically assured of clashing with federal clean air and water programs that states like North Carolina have been allowed to manage and enforce.

HB 593, “Amend Environmental and Other Laws”, popped out of Senate committee with 14 pages of newly written material with minimal notice to the committee members and multiple questions left unanswered during initial committee discussion. Provisions would affect stream impact mitigation requirements and waste disposal rules, among other matters. (One provision would double the amount of linear stream impact allowed without mitigation.) However, it was later returned to committee— a well-advised move.

SB 770, “The Farm Act”, would exempt agricultural operations from water withdrawal limits in limited-capacity basins and horticultural operations from sedimentation control requirements. On several fronts, the Senate is working to giveth to favored special economic interests and taketh away from environmental protections for the public at large. All of these late-session rules-slashing moves are carried out with minimal public notice and no transparent development process, unlike the extensive procedural requirements imposed on regular administrative rule-making.

Of course, the Senate doesn’t favor de-regulating everyone. As we see in our next item, if you’re a renewable energy development that may compete with coal, gas, or nuclear power, you’re in line for a regulatory whipping.

Coast Watch: Blocking the Wind

After years of continuing efforts to undercut solar energy development, some members of the NC Senate are ready to block wind energy as well. Last week, the Senate approved on an initial vote HB 763, the so-called “Military Operations Protection Act”, which would give the NC Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) veto power over any wind energy development, even if the U.S. Department of Defense and federal regulators found no conflict between the wind turbines and flight operations. The bill also included a map of supposed conflict zones (approved by the state’s DMVA rather than any of the normal aviation regulatory bodies) that could knock out two major wind energy projects already under development. Wind energy and rural economic development advocates argued against the bill both in committee and on the floor. While it passed its initial vote, the final Senate vote was delayed to this week in order to permit further negotiations.

On the flip side, last week a state administrative law judge denied a challenge to the Amazon Wind Farm project in Perquimans County, allowing it to continue construction. The challengers asserted that changes to the project were enough to lose its exemption to new permitting requirements adopted by the state after it was initially approved. The judge concluded that the changes were insufficient to do so.

Judicial Watch: Supreme Court Rejects Another Air Toxics Appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court last week declined to hear another request by some states and business interests to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2012 mercury and air toxics rule for coal-fired power plants. This rule, supported by environmental advocates as a step forward in cleaning up air pollution from coal plants, had already bounced between the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals twice on various procedural/technical grounds. This latest rejection by the Supreme Court may close the door on continuing challenges to the rule, which has gone into effect.

Environmental Defense Fund general counsel Vicki Patton said, “Today, millions of American families and children can breathe easier knowing that these life-saving limits on toxic pollution are intact.”

Conservationists: Stein Headlines NCLCV event

NCLCV will kick off its efforts to impact the general election with an important event this Wednesday evening.

Senator Josh Stein (D-Wake), Democratic nominee for NC Attorney General, will be the featured guest at an event for NCLCV this Wednesday evening, June 22, in Raleigh. Stein was named the 2016 “Defender of the Environment” at the Green Tie Awards last month for his pro-environment work in the General Assembly.

Other conservationists and pro-environment candidates will take part in the June 22 reception as well. Tickets for the event are still available. For details, see here.

Conservationists: Everett Bowman

Everett Bowman receiving NCLCV’s 2014 Catalyst AwardEverett Bowman, a strong environmental advocate and friend of NCLCV, passed away last week at his home in Charlotte. A generous supporter of land conservation efforts from the Appalachians to the Atlantic, he was recognized just last year as the Stanback Volunteer Conservationist of the Year by the NC Land Trust. NCLCV members and leaders send our sympathy to his family, along with our gratitude for his dedication to protecting our green land today and for future generations.

That’s our report for this week.

 

Posted in Bolin Creek Watershed, Conservation Insider, Jordan Lake | Leave a comment

Contact your representative!

From the NC State Sierra Club…..

Dear Environmentalist,
Years of progress — and yes, leadership– in cleaning up our state’s rivers is on the chopping block.  Your help is urgently needed today.

Last week, the NC Senate unveiled and virtually overnight passed a plan that would eliminate many important water quality protections across the state.  There’s hope in stopping these rollbacks, but if we are going to, we need you to contact your NC House Representative today!

First, let me remind you where this story begins.  In the summer of 1995, millions of fish died in the Neuse River, capturing the attention of the state and nation.  The cause? Low oxygen levels due to pollution in the river.

Citizens demanded action and North Carolina began a journey to put programs and policies into place to keep our rivers healthy by limiting pollution. The results?  The Neuse River rules. The Falls Lake Rules. The creation of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

But just last week, the North Carolina Senate voted to reverse course.

The state Senate’s policy rollbacks were added to the budget (Section 14.13) passed on Friday.  The provision would delay implementing rules designed to protect Jordan Lake for the fifth time and — for the first time– delay rules that protect Falls Lake.

Worst of all, in 2020, the provision would repeal the protections for these lakes and replace them  with an unknown alternative.  Together, Jordan and Falls Lakes supply drinking water for over 700,000 people in the Triangle.

That’s not all.

This budget provision would also eliminate one our most cost-effective ways to protect water quality: vegetated buffers along rivers. The Senate voted to get rid of buffer and other water quality requirements for the following impaired waterways in 2020:

  • Neuse River Basin;
  • Tar-Pamlico Basin;
  • Part of the Goose Creek watershed;
  • Randleman Reservoir in Guilford County; and,
  • Catawba River Basin riparian buffers.And again, our existing science-based protections would be replaced with an unknown alternative.We need you to take action today!  Hurry, there’s not much time to contact your state House Representative before the final budget negotiations begin!

    Contact your representative here,

    Zak Keith
    Lead Organizer for the NC Sierra Club
    P.S. – We need you to help protect important water quality protections that keep our public waters swimmable, fishable, and drinkable!

Posted in Conservation, Riparian buffers | Leave a comment

The Story of Chapel Hill High’s Cross Country Team and Course

Tiger Mascot, Chapel Hill High School

Tiger Mascot,
Chapel Hill High School

Many knew about Carrboro’s 1B Multi-Use route (from Claremont to Homestead Road and then east to Chapel Hill High School.  What almost no on knew until a few weeks ago was that the route would intersect with the High School’s Cross Country Course three times.  The Carrboro Board of Aldemen will meet again this Tuesday, May 17, at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall to discuss the topic.

The team. Chapel Hill High sports a winning Cross Country team.  The girls’ team won the 3A state championship in 2015 and the boys’ cross-country team got second place in the 3A state championship in 2015 this past fall. The girls’ indoor track team won the 3A state championship in 2016. Now, the girls’ (outdoor) track team just won 3A regionals this past Saturday and are favored to win the 3A state championship this coming Friday; the boys got third in the 3A regionals this past Saturday.

The course. Since the Town announced construction would commence a few weeks ago, hundreds of concerned members of the public, including high school students, have attended three Carrboro Town meetings – most of them asking for a route adjustment.

Despite the conflicts with the cross country course, contracts for receiving the money and hiring contractors have already been completed. Can anything be done at this late date to minimize damage to the cross country course while honoring current agreements?

A quick look back.  The recent controversy erupted because:

  • Until several weeks ago, everyone was unaware there was a conflict between cross country facility and new multi-use trail – including the Board of Aldermen, the Greenways Commission and the Transportation Advisory Board, Friends of Bolin Creek, the high school principal, and the cross country team and coaches.
  • This project concept was approved in 2010 but subsequent details of the route were not shared with key stakeholders before the contracts were signed. The Greenways Commission determined that the “green route” was preferable at the Homestead Road and Bolin Creek crossing, but that concept plan did not locate a route through school property.
  • The Board of Aldermen apparently delegated review of plans to staff and the Greenways Advisory Commission whose members say they don’t recall seeing a final project map showing the routes through school property – they meet only 4 times a year.
  • The staff has recently produced a list of outreach efforts, but the bottom line is that the stakeholders, Board of Aldermen, members of the Greenways Advisory Commission were all surprised by the fact that the final plan route conflicts with the High School Cross Country Course.
  • A wonderful championship cross country course that has been lovingly tended for years by a championship team is to be significantly damaged by a “paved multi-use” roadway cutting through and along side the trail that will require at least 20 – 30 feet of clearing where ever it is located.

Mayor Lydia Lavelle stated that she did not know about the multi-use conflict with the course, nor did members of the Board of Aldermen. Friends of Bolin Creek representatives toured the school property in 2010, and assumed, wrongly, that additional pavement would not be needed in addition to the existing asphalt paths already present on the school site.

Clearly it was upsetting for the many runners and walkers who use this cross county trails to learn a contractor hired by the Town of Carrboro was to start construction in the next few weeks on a multi-use 12-foot hard surface roadway that would cross the wooded cross-country trail facility three times.

teamxcountryConsider the incredible history of this remarkable cross country championship team. The running times of cross country runners going back to the 1980’s are listed just outside the entrance to the track. The recent recommendation to remove part of the cross course course diminishes the history of this extraordinary athletic program, especially when there are modifications the Cross Country team and the elected leaders could support.

This news story describes the controversy. The most recent story from the Chapel Hill News suggests the current resolution on the table offers a compromise to all parties, which is NOT the case.

Three of the Town meetings held recently:

  • Cross-country team members turned out at the Board of Aldermen meeting the previous Tuesday, May 3, to express their objections to the planned route. Members of the public, including students, and concerned citizens and Friends of Bolin Creek, requested an alternate route that would refrain from impacting the cross-country course. The BOA asked the Town Manager and Attorney to respond with some options. Video here.
  • A preconstruction meeting was held on Thursday, May 5, for interested parties that included Carrboro Town staff and the engineering firm, Kimley-Horn.
  • On Tuesday, May 11th, the Town attorney returned with a list of financial impacts if the project were abandoned or modified. An option presented by the town staff would require relocating part of the cross country course in order to reduce the crossings from three to one, and would put a portion of the multi- use pavement running for several hundred feet along the woodland trail. Video here.

The question remains:  what can be done at this late date to preserve this wonderful community and school facility without delaying the project?

View map #1 showing the 1B route intersecting with the High School Cross Country course. The most recent proposal would eliminate several of the crossings but would require part of the course to be removed.

1B route intersecting with cross country coursThe alternate route below was proposed at the May 3rd Board of Aldermen meeting. It would remove fewer trees, mean less disturbance of the forest, and less construction cost. It would be safer and mean less conflict for runners and bikers.

Alternate Route

Alternate Route


Fobc logo

 

Posted in Bolin Creek, Bolin Creek paving controversy, Bolin Creek Watershed | Tagged | Leave a comment

NC DEQ Solar Bee Analysis

Last week the North Carolina Division of Environmental Quality Report released a report on the efficiency of the solar bees in Jordan Lake.  Ir was removed from the state website shortly after it was posted.  What we learn is that here is no solution other than to reduce pollution at its source.   NC DEQ Report

Posted in Jordan Lake, Solar Bees | Leave a comment

A Wildflower Walk with Surprises!

The blog post from Maria de Bruyn; Posted on April 4, 2016

owl-img_3036c2a9-maria-de-bruyn-resThis past Saturday morning, we awoke to water streaming from the heavens in quite a heavy downpour. A local conservation group, Friends of Bolin Creek, had scheduled a wildflower walk to see some of our ephemeral spring blooms but the wet conditions were not inviting. A decision to postpone the walk to early afternoon was taken – and the weather-people had gotten it right – the sun began shining at mid-day and the temperature rose, creating lovely conditions for a walk after all. A large owl (later revealed to be granddaughter Kate of the group’s president) greeted the small group of intrepid walkers and we set off to see what we could find.  Read more here.

Posted in Bolin Creek Watershed, Bolin Forest | Tagged | Leave a comment

Clean Up the Coal Ash Dump


Chapel Hill Police station, 828 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Chapel Hill

In May 2014, the Town of Chapel Hill informed the public that a coal ash landfill was found to be located on the site of the Chapel Hill Police Building. For more than a decade in the 1960s and ’70s, this property was used as a burial pit for coal ash. The coal ash in this unlined landfill contains known hazardous substances, including heavy metals that have leached out into the environment and will continue to do so.

The discovery of the coal ash deposit was likely made during a 2013-14 review of town property launched by the staff when considering the sale of town assets. The presence of the coal ash waste undoubtedly complicates the decision to sell the property. Whatever the town decides to do about the location of a new police station, we would expect that our Town will clean up the site. Chapel Hill residents deserve no less.

In a May 2014 letter to Mayor Kleinschmidt, Friends of Bolin Creek urged the Town to clean up the large coal ash dump and not to allow the coal ash to remain in an unlined pit in the center of town. Here is topographical map showing the location of the coal deposit.

The Town hired a consultant Falcon Engineering to make tests and to report to the North Carolina Department of the Environmental Quality (DEQ). Soil samples taken on the site by Falcon in early 2014 identified elevated levels of coal ash metals in the ground water such as arsenic, mercury, chromium, lead, thallium, and other dangerous pollutants. Well test results have been mixed at a new set of well locations, where the counsultant used filtered samples without finding high levels of dissolved coal ash pollutants.

Friends of Bolin Creek has raised questions about the procedures used and the choice of location for the tests, and we have communicated our concerns to the Town and Department of Environmental Quality.

The Town has posted a Web page called “Chapel Hill Coal Ash Disposal Site Remediation Project” containing relevant documents here. In mid 2015, Friends of Bolin Creek requested help from the Southern Environmental Law Center for legal and support services.

Clean up makes a difference.  According to a January 29, 2016 report, groundwater contamination dramatically declined along the Catawba-Wateree River after a South Carolina utility removed the coal ash under a settlement negotiated by the Southern Environmental Law Center. See article.

“These results confirm that when you remove the polluting coal ash, you also eliminate pollution of groundwater,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Duke Energy and North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality must wake up to this reality, learn from South Carolina, and move all of Duke Energy’s polluting coal ash from unlined waterfront pits to safe dry lined storage.  Otherwise, North Carolina’s groundwater will be polluted for years to come.”

North Carolina has more than 30 such sites in 14 different locations across the state. A pipe running under one of the ponds run by Duke Energy in Eden NC ruptured in February of 2014. The coal ash spilled, largely affecting the Dan River which flows into Virginia. The spill is the third largest of its kind in U.S. history.

Posted in Bolin Creek, Bolin Creek Watershed, Coal Ash Dump, Conservation | Tagged | Leave a comment

Mary Sonis Reprise: “A Carolina Walk in the Woods”

Mary Sonis, photographer and naturalist will join us again for a talk about local wildlife.

Sunday, March 20th at 4:30 – 5:30 pm

Chapel Hill public library

Piliated WoodpeckersWoodpeckerFlier3_20_SM

Posted in Birding in Mason Farm, Bolin Creek Wildlife | Leave a comment

A Carolina Walk in the Woods

A Carolina Walk in the Woods

Posted in Birding, Bolin Creek Wildlife | Leave a comment