Duke Energy Foundation Awards Foothills Conservancy $100,000 to Protect Critical Catawba River Watersheds in the South Mountains

Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina received a $100,000
grant from Duke Energy’s new Water Resources Fund in support of the acquisition of one of the largest remaining unprotected Catawba River Basin watershed tracts in the South Mountains.

The grant rounds out more than $3 million in funding required for Foothills Conservancy, a regional land trust, to purchase and permanently protect the 2,213-acre tract this summer with its partner, N.C. State Parks. About 720 acres will be added to South Mountains State Park along the park’s northeastern border. The conservancy will retain and manage approximately 1,500 acres as its new South Mountains Headwaters Preserve for the protection of water quality, biodiversity and wildlife habitat and will work with State Parks to integrate a trail network.

The grant is part of the Water Resources Fund, a $10 million commitment from Duke Energy dedicated to protecting and enhancing regional waterways and the environment.

FCNC_DukeWRF_ProjectMap_Press_FinalFoothills Conservancy is one of 15 organizations across North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia to collectively receive more than $1 million in the first grant announcement of 2015. The Water Resources Fund is a multi-year commitment that will leave a legacy of improved water quality, quantity and conservation in the Carolinas and neighboring regions.

“Our state’s mountain watersheds are among our most critical green infrastructure and must be protected,” said Susie Hamrick Jones, Foothills Conservancy’s executive director. “We thank Duke Energy for its support for this project and welcome its commitment to protecting and preserving our region’s precious waters.”

The watershed tract contains more than 16 miles of headwater streams that feed both the Jacob Fork and the Henry Fork Rivers, which eventually join to form the South Fork Catawba River, a critical regional water source.

To complete the South Mountains Headwaters acquisition, Foothills Conservancy will combine $95,000 from the Duke Energy grant with more than $2 million in grants made to the conservancy and N.C. State Parks by the N.C. Clean Water Trust Fund and other state and federal grant programs, and approximately $1.1 million in private funds and donated land value. The remaining $5,000 in Duke Energy funds will support planning for future public recreational access with South Mountains State Park.

“The Water Resources Fund is a testament to Duke Energy’s long history of investing in the health and vitality of our communities,” said Stick Williams, president of the Duke Energy Foundation. “We look forward to our partnership with Foothills Conservancy and the impact this grant will have in the Catawba River Basin.”

The Duke Energy Foundation and community leaders will gather on April 30 to honor the inaugural Water Resource Fund grant recipients and celebrate their ongoing commitment to communities across the Carolinas.

Investment decisions are carefully reviewed by the Water Resources Fund committee, an independent body that includes five environmental experts and two Duke Energy employees. Selected projects are chosen on several criteria, including whether the project is science-based and research-supported.

Duke Energy anticipates two grant announcements per year over the course of five years. Applications for the next Water Resources Fund grant cycle are due May 15, 2015. Please visit nccommunityfoundation.org for more information on how to apply.