Local News

Riverkeeper says she speaks for the Neuse

Posted January 12, 2009 8:42 a.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— As the new upper Neuse riverkeeper, Alissa Bierma is in charge of patrolling the river.

“I absolutely love the Neuse,” she said. “It can’t speak for itself, so we do it.”

Bierma and her colleague in New Bern, who is the lower Neuse riverkeeper, advocate for water quality and work to improve the water conditions through investigation, education and public involvement.

The Neuse River runs through 11 counties in North Carolina, encompassing more than 6,000 square miles of watershed.

Bierma says the river is in trouble.

"There's a reason there are two full-time people on this job, because we are one of the fastest-growing areas in the nation,” she said.

All that growth brings problems that flow directly into the river.

"We don't want development to stop. That's a completely unrealistic viewpoint. What we do want is responsible development,” Bierma said.

Too much mud is running off the land, she said, which is hurting life in the river. For example, fish have an easy time spotting food in crystal-clear water.

"In mud, you have this incredible problem: finding your food. At these very basic levels, too much mud is a problem,” Bierma said.

The extra mud also hurt Falls Lake during the drought. It wasn't just a lack of rainwater that dried out the lake.

"We have less space to put it, because all the dirt has been building up on the bottom, making the lake shallower,” she said.

Bierma also says people have to be careful about what goes down storm drains.

“If something goes down that gutter that you see outside your house, it ends up here,” she said, pointing to the Neuse River. “We rely on the river every single day. And it relies on us."

Bierma and her colleague work with the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation. The group is training volunteers to help keep an eye on the Neuse.