ASHEVILLE, NC—RENCI at UNC Asheville received the Friends of the River Award by the Land-of-Sky Regional Council at the 33rd annual Friends of the River Dinner held Sept. 29.
The Friends of the River Award is presented to persons, private organizations, civic groups, and public agencies who have made a significant contribution toward the restoration and enhancement of the French Broad River or its tributaries as a recreational, economic, and cultural resource for the residents of Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania, and Madison counties. RENCI at UNC Asheville was sited for its contributions to informed decision-making that lead to better water management, marking the first time that a university entity has received the award.
On hand to receive the award were RENCI at UNC Asheville Director Jim Fox, Project Manager Susan Weatherford, and GIS Research Coordinator Greg Dobson.
Letta Jean Taylor, Chair of the Land-of-Sky Regional Council, presented the award, saying, “RENCI has become an invaluable partner in ongoing efforts around our community and region for better decision making tools that are user friendly and not just accessible and understandable to engineers and architects. Jim [Fox] is an original member of the Asheville-Buncombe Flood Damage Reduction Task Force. RENCI provided GIS, visualizations, 3D movies, decision support tools, museum displays, and more in support of this group. The RENCI team of Jim, Susan Weatherford, Greg Dobson, and Bridget O’Hara have been invaluable in helping to define the alternatives for flood control measures that take into account important community values and blend those values with the latest engineering and technology and thoughts on how to prepare for the next flood event – and climate changes in general – without harming our enjoyment of rivers like the French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers. They are a highly capable team ready, willing, and able to help our region visualize and understand the possibilities and limitations.”
In addition to the work done supporting the Swannanoa Flood Reduction Task Force, Taylor noted that, “RENCI partners and supports education and outreach on water issues. They support RiverLink, the Arboretum, and the Colburn Museum to get the information into the classrooms and community. They also provided key support in the creation of the Water Suitability Maps for our region in partnership with the Land of Sky Linking Lands project.”
At the dinner, the Land-of-Sky Regional Council celebrated over 30 years of regional efforts to improve the French Broad River and its tributaries. Said Council member David Gantt, “We have all worked together to bring about a greater awareness of our river as a resource – for its beauty, its recreational potential, its economic value, its fish and wildlife habitat, and as a drinking water source.”