Two Weeks, For the Rivers

As I concluded my second week on staff at American Rivers, floating down the upper Flint River in a kayak with Joe Cook, the Coosa Riverkeeper, I couldn’t help but reflect on the meandering path that brought me here. It was almost exactly 10 years ago that I took my first paddling trip, long before… Read more

Joe Cook, Coosa Riverkeeper

As I concluded my second week on staff at American Rivers, floating down the upper Flint River in a kayak with Joe Cook, the Coosa Riverkeeper, I couldn’t help but reflect on the meandering path that brought me here. It was almost exactly 10 years ago that I took my first paddling trip, long before I even considered the possibility of becoming a ‘water guy’. Most of the time, we don’t recognize the events that define us until long after they’ve past. As I set out to get acquainted with the river I’ll be working to restore and protect, I couldn’t help but conjure feelings of a blind date.  Would it be love at first sight?

Being new to American Rivers, and to Georgia, I’ve found myself with a lot to learn. I’ve already spent countless hours reading everything I can about the Flint River and water management in Metro Atlanta. Beyond that, I’ve spent years learning about the state of water around the world through work and study. Now it’s time to take everything I know, combine it with who I am, and turn it into some kind of momentum that will evoke positive change for people and the rivers.

In two weeks, not only have I been adopted by a family of inspired, passionate, motivated, and fun people, I’ve also been responsible for creating highly relevant and useful products. I provided advice to seven municipalities on how to restructure their codes and ordinances to ‘unpave’ the way for green infrastructure (turns out blowing up parking lots isn’t a thing yet, but we’re working on it). I’m also working up material on maximizing water efficiency efforts before building new dams and reservoirs. I’ve attended conferences and working group meetings, met amazing people, read so many fascinating reports (seriously), and above all else, I’m a part of integrated water management in action. Could a water guy ask for more?

I was fortunate to float the high waters of spring on the Flint; I saw the river overflowing its banks and gurgling through the often intact and healthy floodplain. Deer, beavers, turtles, fish, birds, budding flowers, massive trees, and (perhaps most importantly) rope swings were everywhere. It’s hard to imagine such a beautiful place Running Dry, but Atlanta is thirsty, the earth is increasingly impermeable, crops need water, and droughts happen. Most of us have emotional connections to the rivers and streams with which we’ve grown up. Mine are mostly in North Carolina: the French Broad, the Haw, the Big Ivy, and the Neuse to name a few. So, the question remains. After finally meeting the Flint River, was it love at first sight? We still have a lot to learn about each other, but we’re off to a great start, and I can’t wait to spend more time with her.

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