Here’s a glimpse of what we’ve been up to lately.

Dean Naujoks, former Upper Neuse Riverkeeper, has just completed the site visit for the proposed Charleston Waterkeeper program. After 7 years as the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper (in Raleigh, NC), Dean has taken a position as the Waterkeeper Alliance’s southeastern representative.

The site visit is an essential part of the application process as it gives a Waterkeeper Alliance representative exposure to a proposed program. Despite flooding streets and torrential downpours, Friday’s site visit went off without a hitch. The massive amount of rain served as a blessing in disguise as it provided an opportunity to show Dean the incredible amount of flooding that occurs in downtown Charleston. We were able to see water gushing out of storm drains, resembling some of the fountains seen around the area. This serves as an obvious problem as all of the water backing up into our streets during heavy rains and high tides eventually drains into our rivers and harbor, carrying along with it anything that was in its way (gasoline, motor oil, chemicals, particulate matter, etc.). The EPA suggests that stormwater runoff is one of the primary causes of a degradation in water quality around the nation.

After a brief, but wet, tour of the peninsula and surrounding waterways Dean and I made a brief presentation at the county library. All those in attendance were able to hear Dean speak of his experiences as a Riverkeeper. There was a great amount of interest from those present at the meeting and I thank every one of you who came out to support.

I have finally submitted to the Waterkeeper Alliance, a final version of the proposal for a Charleston Waterkeeper. After months of revisions and improvements, the proposal has been sent off for review by the Waterkeeper Alliance’s Board of Directors. On September 14, 2008 the Board will meet to review all proposed programs. Each proposed program must meet all quality standards set forth by the Waterkeeper Alliance in order to become a member.

Until then, there is a scheduled site visit on Friday, August 22, by Waterkeeper Alliance board member, Dean Naujoks. Former Upper Neuse Riverkeeper, Dean will be visiting Charleston as the Alliance’s southeastern representative. He will be coming to evaluate our waterways, potential threats, need for a Waterkeeper, and all other aspects concerning this proposed program. This will be an essential part of the application process since this site visit will offer much insight into the necessity of establishing a Charleston Waterkeeper here in our community.

Charleston Waterkeeper

(Proposed member of Waterkeeper Alliance)

“Measurably improving the quality of Charleston’s waterways through hands-on community involvement, scientific monitoring, and legal action”


History of Waterkeeper Alliance:

In the 1960s amid mass fish killings throughout New York’s Hudson River, a number of commercial fishermen banded together to create the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association (HRFA), in order to protect the River’s natural resources from contamination and pollution. Using the Refuse Act of 1899, which outlawed pollution emissions on the nation’s waterways, the HRFA successfully won suit against power companies, polluters, and anyone who brought harm to the River and its natural resources.

After nearly 20 years of acting as the voice for the Hudson and its people, the HRFA hired the first “Riverkeeper,” responsible for patrolling and advocating for all matters of public interest on the river. From this appointment, a separate organization based around the Riverkeeper position was born. In 1986 the HRFA and Riverkeeper merged, “to track down and prosecute every polluter on the river; to protect its biological integrity and return the Hudson to the public.”

The establishment of Riverkeeper on the Hudson spawned a national environmental movement aimed at protecting our country’s waterways. Throughout the late 1980s Waterkeeper programs began to appear all over the nation: Long Island Soundkeeper, San Francisco Baykeeper, Delaware Riverkeeper, etc. Each program modeled its mission and its goals after Riverkeeper. Finally, in 1992 the National Alliance of River, Sound, and Baykeepers was formed to protect and preserve the name and integrity of all established and future Waterkeeper programs. In 1999 after an explosion of Waterkeeper programs all across the world, the National Alliance of River, Sound, and Baykeepers evolved into the Waterkeeper Alliance. Today the Alliance includes over 180 programs internationally.

Proposed Charleston Waterkeeper:

Cyrus Buffum has submitted an application to Waterkeeper Alliance proposing for the establishment of a Charleston Waterkeeper program, devoted to improving and protecting the quality of Charleston’s waterways. Through hands-on community involvement, scientific monitoring, and legal action, Charleston Waterkeeper proposes to influence progressive change toward improving Charleston’s water quality and protecting it from pollution.

Upon pending approval from the Waterkeeper Alliance Board of Directors, Charleston Waterkeeper, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, will be one of the newest members of the Alliance. South Carolina is already home of one other Waterkeeper program, the Waccamaw Riverkeeper in Conway, while North Carolina has 12 established Waterkeeper programs spread throughout the state. Together, all of the Waterkeeper programs within the Carolinas hope to preserve a high quality of life for all Carolinians by improving and protecting the quality of our waterways. The establishment of Charleston Waterkeeper is essential in providing protection and improvement throughout this entire region.

Just as Riverkeeper promised to return the Hudson to the public, Charleston Waterkeeper will strive to encourage Charleston’s citizens to take pride, ownership and responsibility over the waterways. By upholding a strong visual presence on the water and around the community Charleston Waterkeeper hopes to become the voice of the people.

Charleston Waterkeeper intends on succeeding in improving Charleston’s waterways through the following objectives:

  • Maintain constant communication with government officials and policy makers regarding all matters concerning water quality
  • Update the community on issues regarding the quality of its waterways (via website, newsletter, email, signage, postings, etc.)
  • Establish a citizen’s hotline number allowing members of the community to call to report pollution incidents or concerns
  • Maintain a patrol boat that will be used in monitoring the waterways and taking monthly water quality samples
  • Partner with other organizations in efforts to improve our waterways and to shed light on issues regarding conservation, preservation and education of our natural resources
  • Work with all stakeholders invested in our waterways (i.e. fishing, tourism, shipping, development, etc.) to devise responsible and environmentally conscious means of supporting economic growth within the Charleston area
  • Track down and file suit against any polluter responsible for violating the Clean Water Act of 1972
  • Encourage all members of our community regardless of socioeconomic background, race, creed, etc. to actively become involved with the quality of our waterways
  • Build a diverse and devoted membership that accurately represents the citizens of Charleston
  • Participate in community activities associated with our waterways
  • Monitor polluter permits and attend all permit hearings concerning water quality

Already, there has been an overwhelming level of support for the proposed Charleston Waterkeeper program. Through your support and cooperation, Charleston Waterkeeper will help to give future Charlestonians cleaner water to enjoy and live on, in, and around for years to come.

This is the executive summary of the Charleston Waterkeeper proposal as received by the Waterkeeper Alliance Board of Directors, August, 2008. If there are any questions or comments regarding this endeavor, please feel free to contact Cyrus Buffum at or by phone at 843.810.9785