How a Waterdog is Helping Us Address Climate Change

Sep 4, 2019

by Daniel Parkhurst

Last month Clean Air Carolina, along with Sound Rivers and the Center for Biological Diversity, settled a lawsuit with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) on a highway project called Complete 540. Represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, we were able to make real gains in the fight against climate change. This settlement has far-reaching impacts that go far beyond the scope of this particular project. The protections and policies we’ve agreed to will reduce emissions driving climate change from all future state-funded transportation projects in North Carolina.

But this story begins with the Neuse River waterdog, a humble little guy who spends most of his days at the bottom of the Neuse River buried in the mud.

The Neuse River waterdog is an at-risk species of salamander that lives here in North Carolina in some of our beautiful rivers and streams. Waterways that are threatened by the construction of roads, highways, homes, and sprawl. Despite its small stature (it can grow up to 11 inches long), this little salamander helped raise the profile of our legal challenge to protect wildlife habitat, limit the use of dirty construction equipment, and reduce climate change emissions from our transportation sector.

The settlement will preserve important wildlife habitat, including the home of the Neuse River waterdog.

The resulting settlement we negotiated requires North Carolina DOT to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from construction equipment, conduct greenhouse gas analyses as part of all major project studies in North Carolina, focus on strategies and tools to reduce vehicle-miles-traveled and vehicular emissions across the state, and address access to 540 through partnerships with local public transportation. It also introduces land preservation and stream mitigation guidelines that will help preserve some of North Carolina’s most precious wildlife. (Go here for more settlement details.)

The Neuse River waterdog is an integral member of North Carolina’s native wildlife community and deserves to be protected. The new policies we’ve achieved with this settlement will ensure that this humble little guy has a home in our state for decades to come.

To learn more about this historic agreement, check out these articles on the settlement:

  • WRALLawsuit settlement clears way for DOT to finish NC 540 loop
  • New Haven Register: Deal with environmental groups clears path for NC highway
  • San Francisco Chronicle: Deal with environmental groups clears path for NC highway
  • Herald Sun: Environmentalists drop objection to NC 540, after NCDOT agrees to concessions

Or read the full settlement here.

If you would like to read more about our efforts to reduce emissions from construction projects and protect air quality, be sure to look at our Clean Construction Toolkit .