All ten Riverkeeper organizations in North Carolina are members of Waterkeepers Carolina. Each organization is run differently to address the needs of the specific watershed that is being protected, because the rivers vary in size, the issues are dependent on the territory and industry where the river is located, and many of the rivers cross state lines. Each Riverkeeper is unique and perhaps the greatest power of Waterkeepers Carolina is bringing to the same table such a diverse and strong group of advocates.
CAPE FEAR RIVERKEEPER®
Kemp Burdette is the Cape Fear Riverkeeper and Executive Director of Cape Fear River Watch where he works to protect and improve the water quality of the Lower Cape Fear River. He is a Wilmington native who grew up exploring the waterways and swamps that make our area so special. Kemp has lived and travelled around the world as a US Navy search and rescue swimmer, a Fulbright Scholar, and a Peace Corps volunteer. At home and abroad Kemp has always been interested in the way humans interact with their environment. His academic background is in geology and history and he recently received a Masters of Public Administration, with a concentration in nonprofit management from UNC Wilmington. He also holds a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. Kemp spends most of his free time with his wife Jenn and their two daughters Olivia and Caroline, working in his garden, or tinkering in his workshop, or exploring the waterways and swamps of the Lower Cape Fear Region. He has been the Executive Director and Riverkeeper for Cape Fear River Watch for two years.
Rick Gaskins is the Catawba Riverkeeper and Executive Director of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation (CRF), an organization that advocates for the health, protection and enjoyment of the Catawba River watershed. Prior to joining the staff of CRF, he worked as an attorney in private practice for 24 years. Rick obtained his law degree from Harvard Law School, where he was the Chairman of the Environmental Law Society and the Managing Editor of the Harvard Environmental Law Review. Before law school, Mr. Gaskins received a Fels Research Fellowship to study public policy issues at the University of Pennsylvania and was awarded a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Duke University, summa cum laude. During his time at Duke, Rick was the leader of a team that designed an energy efficient automobile that won first place in an international design competition. While in private practice, he was listed in The Best Lawyers in America for Environmental Law, and Charlotte Magazine identified him as one of the “The Best Lawyers in Charlotte.” Rick is a past Chair of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association, and a past Chair of the ASTM Environmental Risk Assessment and Global Sustainability Committee as well as leading and serving on the boards of various other civic and professional organizations. He has published papers and has spoken at seminars and conferences in the United States and Canada on environmental topics.
Elaine Chiosso is the full-time Haw Riverkeeper who monitors and protects the Haw River watershed, including Jordan Lake and the tributary creeks. She serves as a scientific and educational resource to all the people living in the watershed. Elaine is a part-time investigator, scientist, educator, lobbyist, advocate and public media spokesperson. However, she doesn’t work alone: a force of volunteers provides the manpower necessary to adequately monitor and protect the waters of the Haw River Watershed. The Haw River Assembly’s mission is to promote environmental education, conservation and pollution prevention; to speak as a voice for the river in the public arena; and to put into peoples’ hands the tools and the knowledge they need to be effective guardians of the river.
LOWER NEUSE RIVERKEEPER®
Before becoming the Lower Neuse RIVERKEEPER®, Mitch Blake worked with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Division of Marine Fisheries. He focused on data collection and assessment for the purpose of evaluating the environmental conditions, biological impacts of health and disease and impacts of coexisting species of finfish fisheries in the Neuse, Pamlico and Pungo Rivers and the Pamlico Sound. He also worked closely with the DENR Division of Water Quality to relay information regarding evidence of pollutants obtained through water sampling, information concerning fish kills and data regarding disease within fish populations. Prior to Mitch’s employment with DENR, he worked with the North Carolina Waterfowl Association as the project leader for the Mallard Restoration and Research Program which required creating wildlife management plans and banding, releasing and tracking waterfowl to better understand waterfowl stocks and environmental influences and impacts. Mitch was instrumental in communicating program work and outcomes to stakeholders and recruited volunteers and members to provide ongoing support for local chapters. Mitch holds an Associates of Applied Science in Fish and Wildlife Management and in Turf Grass Management from Wayne Community College. He also has a U.S. Coast Guard issued Captain’s License and has worked with and operated small businesses that are impacted by the condition of the Neuse River. He is a North Carolina native with a strong connection to the Neuse River basin and the communities of the Lower Neuse where he resides with his wife and two children.
UPPER NEUSE RIVERKEEPER®
Matthew Starr is the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper for the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation where he works to protect Falls Lake and the upper Neuse River. Matthew is a native to Raleigh who grew up playing in and exploring the creeks in his back yard. Before becoming a Riverkeeper Matthew was a sergeant in the North Carolina Army National Guard. Matthew has a degree in Environmental Management and has a passion for learning anything about water. When Matthew is not working he spends time with his wife Nicole and their three children Caden, Kinley, and Lilly. 612 W. Lane Street Raleigh, NC 27603, Office Phone: 919-856-1180 or email email@example.com.
Heather Jacobs Deck is the Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper. She provides the scientific expertise to aid members’, the public’s, planners’ and lawmakers’ understanding of the complexity of the ecosystem. She responds to the public’s environmental concerns, notifies agencies that enforce water quality regulations and monitors the responses to pollution events. She cooperates with civic organizations, schools, religious groups and others to restore and monitor the Tar-Pam waterway, and she educates the public in the watershed about how they can all help protect the river. Heather joined PTRF in July 2003 and leads the advocacy, volunteer and educational programs of the foundation. As the Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper, she is typically sought after and appointed to commissions and working groups related to North Carolina’s water policies and management of the Tar-Pamlico watershed.
UPPER WATAUGA RIVERKEEPER®
Donna Lisenby is the Upper Watauga Riverkeeper and the Waterkeeper Alliance Coal Campaign Coordinator from Boone, North Carolina. Donna is the Carolina’s most experienced Riverkeeper with 14 years of history advocating for the protection, preservation and restoration of waterways in four states-NC, SC, TN and KY. She has played a key role in bringing litigation against coal companies, changing the Carolina’s interbasin transfer laws and was the first environmental advocate to report and blow the whistle on leaking coal ash ponds across the state of North Carolina. She is the recipient of 11 awards for her work to engage citizens and reduce industrial, sewage and sediment pollution. She appeared in the film “Wal-Mart, the High Cost of Low Price” where she exposed the retailers appalling failure to protect the environment and the National Geographic mini-documentary Clean Coal: Water Pollution at the Light Switch produced by Alexandra Cousteau as part of the Expedition Blue Planet series. She was named an environmental hero in a video by the University of NC School of Journalism in 2009. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from Clemson University and two beautiful grandchildren who motivate her work to ensure a healthy environment for future generations.
FRENCH BROAD RIVERKEEPER®
Hartwell Carson has worked to protect and defend the French Broad River as the Riverkeeper for the last six years. He has played a key role in reducing sediment pollution, starting and expanding bacteria, sediment, and coal ash monitoring programs, implementing over two miles of stream restoration, and ensuring regulations are adequate and enforced to meet the goals of the Clean Water Act to have all waters be fishable and swimmable. He completed his undergraduate work at the University of Georgia studying Recreation and Resource Management. While a student there, he worked with the Outdoor Recreation Center as an environmental educator and guide. After working for the Forest Service in Colorado, Hartwell earned his Master’s of Science from the University of Montana, where he conducted extensive work examining social and ecological impacts on the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. Hartwell has also served as a community advocate on the City of Asheville’s Flood Damage Reduction Task Force and Watershed Policy Committee, and currently serves as the president of Tennessee Riverkeeper.
WHITE OAK-NEW RIVERKEEPER®
The White Oak-New Riverkeeper Alliance was founded in 2008. At the time there was a strong need for a program that would restore and protect our local rivers. Therefore, a group of concerned citizens joined together to create an alliance for strong advocacy. Some of the issues worked on by the White Oak-New Riverkeeper Alliance are CAFOs, Operation Medicine Cabinet, Litter clean-ups of both the New and White Oak Rivers, and advocacy work particularly focusing on preventing injection of wastewater into our drinking water aquifer. The White Oak-New Riverkeeper Alliance is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, but does not have a Riverkeeper currently on staff.
Dean Naujoks is the Yadkin Riverkeeper. He has been working for over 20 years to protect rivers and wildlife in NC. He has a degree in Environmental Policy and Sustainable Development from NC State University. He served as the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper from 2001 to 2008 working with whistle-blowers to uncover more than 20 environmental and labor law violations at Raleigh’s sewage treatment plant – the largest discharger to the Neuse River. Dean created the annual Neuse River Clean-up, which spans 70 river miles, developed and led “Muddy Water Watch” – a statewide construction stormwater runoff campaign involving all the NC Riverkeepers, and has been the driving force behind litigation and regulation for both the Neuse and the Yadkin. He was recognized as one of River Network’s 2009 National River Heroes and the NC Wildlife Federation named him Water Conservationist of the Year in 2010. When he is not out protecting or restoring the rivers, he likes to hunt, fish, hike, canoe, travel, and go white water rafting.
Christine Ellis is the Waccamaw Riverkeeper promoting fishable, swimmable and drinkable water in the Waccamaw River watershed in North and South Carolina. In this role, she acts on behalf of the community to raise awareness of issues that threaten the health of the river and works to engage citizens in its stewardship. Ms. Ellis took on this responsibility in August 2006. She has a MS in Environmental Management and a BS in Zoology.