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Muddy Waters runs Saturday in S.C.

LAKE WYLIE--Muddy Water is seeping into South Carolina.

The Muddy Water Watch program, which the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation began in North Carolina to teach residents about "reporting and halting sediment loading," has a new look for its first South Carolina class beginning Saturday at Fort Mill Library in Baxter Village in Fort Mill.

"It's been wonderful, and the best thing about it is you get results," said coordinator Pam Beck. "The program gets results."

Muddy Water Watch classes began earlier this year in Mecklenburg and Gaston counties. Five-week sessions started January to standing-room-only crowds. About 60 people showed up for those first rounds of training, leading organizers to reevaluate goals for the program.

Original plans were to train 200 people throughout North Carolina. Weeks in, Catawba Riverkeeper David Merryman said 200 people could be trained in the Charlotte area alone by June.

Those numbers are a stark contrast for groups such as the Lake Wylie Covekeepers, long made up of dedicated members but little in the way of expanding membership. The more extensive Covekeeper training goes beyond what Muddy Water Watchers does, but the new program could lead interested participants in pursuing Covekeeper training.

"We've got a good group, and we need more," said Covekeeper C.D. Collins. "We love this river so much, and we work so hard. It's good to have partners."

Because counties and states have different rules for runoff and sediment control violations, the curriculum had to be changed somewhat for the South Carolina course. Many rules, however, are federal so some of the training is similar.

"Many are the same state to state and county to county and jurisdiction to jurisdiction," Beck said. "Often times what we see are blatant violations, and that's going to be the same in any state or county."

Different is the format, condensed from four sessions to two, but still with a field trip to observe sediment control measures. Saturday's Fort Mill-area training will be the "first opportunity to find out" how the new format will work. So far, about 20 people usually graduate from each Muddy Water training. A June training is scheduled in Steele Creek, though specifics have not been announced.

Often, Beck said, county staff are able to monitor large commercial or public-use construction sites, making smaller ones like those targeted by Muddy Water important for volunteers.

"The smaller ones often cause the greatest amount of damage," Beck said. "They go unchecked, because they're too numerous to keep up with."

Want to go?

The first South Carolina Muddy Water Watch classes will be held from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. May 2 and May 9 at the Fort Mill Library in Baxter Village in Fort Mill. For more information, call 704-679-9494 or visit catawbariverkeeper.org.

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