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Charlotte native named new Catawba riverkeeper

By Bruce Henderson
bhenderson@charlotteobserver.com

The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation has named Charlotte native Sam Perkins as the fourth Catawba riverkeeper in its 15-year history.

Perkins, 27, who was hired in 2012 as the foundation’s technical programs director, will replace Rick Gaskins. Gaskins, who served in a dual role for the past year as riverkeeper and executive director, will remain director.

The Charlotte-based nonprofit foundation serves as an independent watchdog and advocate of the 225-mile Catawba. Gaskins said Perkins “has proven himself to be energetic, knowledgeable and willing to work countless hours to help protect the Catawba River.”

Perkins earned two bachelor’s degrees at UNC Chapel Hill and in 2011 completed a master’s degree in marine sciences there.

Under Gaskins, the foundation focused on water quantity, coal ash and stormwater issues in the past year.

Last year, the group struck an agreement with S.C. Electric & Gas to clean up ash lagoons at a power plant near Columbia. In June it sued Duke Energy in federal court over lagoons at the Riverbend power plant west of Charlotte.

Perkins conducted the water tests on Mountain Island Lake that led to the Duke lawsuit and has assessed effects of chicken-farm waste on the Catawba. He also researched Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities’ spreading of sewage sludge in South Carolina.

“There is a special feeling in coming home and working to protect where I grew up,” he said, “so that I can have children of my own who will be able to enjoy the beauty of the basin and its waterways.”

Henderson: 704-358-5051 Twitter: @bhender
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