The Pigeon River Fund (PRF) was established in 1994 when Carolina Power & Light (CP&L), subsequently Progress Energy and, now, Duke Energy, sought a new 40-year license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to continue to operate and maintain the Walters Hydroelectric Project on the Pigeon River. The license was granted but required the creation of a grant program dedicated to water quality and the health of aquatic invertebrates and fish.
CFWNC has administered the PRF for 25 years. During that period, the Fund has distributed nearly $8 million to nonprofits addressing water quality issues in the former CP&L service area encompassing Buncombe, Madison and Haywood counties, as well as the Town of Fletcher in Henderson County.
Grants are awarded from the Fund twice per year with applications due in March and September. In a given year, $350,000 to $550,000 is distributed. Projects must meet at least one of the program’s four objectives: improving surface water quality, enhancing fish and wildlife management habitats, expanding public use and access to waterways, and increasing citizens’ awareness about their roles in protecting their resources. As long as appropriate projects exist, 50% of the Fund’s distributions must serve Haywood County, the county most deeply impacted by the location of the Walters Dam.
The most recent Pigeon River Fund grant recipients are:
Asheville GreenWorks was awarded $22,390 for environmental clean-ups, environmental education, installing trash-capturing devices on waterways, community involvement and riparian zone restoration.
Environmental Quality Institute was awarded $44,500 for water quality monitoring programs and its AmeriCorps Project Conserve position.
Haywood Waterways Association was awarded $26,255 to repair failing septic systems for low-income homeowners identified by the Haywood County Environmental Health Department.
Haywood Waterways Association was awarded $50,000 for 2021 program and administrative support.
Maggie Valley Sanitary District was awarded $30,000 to protect the 45-acre Setzer Mountain property in Haywood County.
Mountain Valleys Resource Conservation & Development Council was awarded $45,150 for operating costs associated with addressing water quality of the Ivy River Watershed in Buncombe and Madison counties.
RiverLink was awarded $10,000 for an Adopt-A-Storm Drain program in the Central Asheville Watershed that pairs volunteers with a storm drain that they will monitor and clean for one year.
Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy was awarded $20,000 to survey a conservation easement on the 240-acre Mark Rogers Farm in the Crabtree community of Haywood County that includes significant headwaters of the Pigeon River.
The next application deadline for qualifying nonprofits in Buncombe, Haywood and Madison counties is March 15, 2021. Nonprofits can view applications and instructions. For information about the Pigeon River Fund, contact Senior Program Officer Tara Scholtz at 828-367-9913.