French Broad River Partnership | At the Intersection of the Environment + Economy 

Regional Leaders Gather to Discuss the French Broad River 

FREE and open to the public

The French Broad River Partnership (FBRP) invites the community to attend its fifth annual meeting to be held Wednesday, November 8, 9:00-11:30 a.m. in the Ferguson Auditorium at A-B Tech. The program will feature three moderated panel discussions on The French Broad River Watershed :: The Intersection of the Environment + Economy. Panelists including state and local elected officials, government, and regional business and industry leaders will engage moderated discussions designed to be energetic, informative, collaborative, and representative of multiple perspectives. Each session will be followed by a brief audience Q&A (please see panelist details below). 

Western North Carolina is increasingly viewed as a climate refuge with abundant freshwater resources; yet nineteen miles of the French Broad at Asheville and several urban tributaries were recently classified as “Impaired” under the Clean Water Act. The Partnership last year released a study indicating the French Broad is an economic engine worth some $3.8 billion annually to the region’s economy. Panelists will reflect on questions regarding the future of the river and lands alongside her, considering what the French Broad means to their enterprise, and the greatest threats to the river from their perspective within the local economy. 

Lisa Raleigh, RiverLink Executive Director and FBRP Steering Committee Member has worked to draw stakeholders together on topics critical to the health of the French Broad watershed. “I am incredibly excited to have our community’s leaders and key decision-makers come together in one place to have candid conversations around the importance of the French Broad River watershed to our region and how we all must come together to better understand and collectively protect and improve this extraordinary environmental, community and economic asset.” 

Mary Roderick, Land of Sky Regional Council Planning Director and FBRP Steering Committee Member agrees. “Our annual meeting brings together a broad cross-section of this community and is

a fantastic opportunity for interested folks to connect, get important updates on current projects, and learn new things!” 

Jane Margaret Bell, Water Resources Planner at WK Dickson & Co. and FBRP President, is excited for the cross-pollination offered by the gathering. “I can’t wait to hear the conversations, ideas, and new collaboratives that are inspired by our cross-sector panelist discussions. Knowledge shared between our water quality advocates, our elected leaders, and our key economic players–in hospitality, recreation, and beer!–this is exactly the work the Partnership set out to achieve. This never-before-seen program and high-level lineup of panelists shows how far the Partnership has come and where we’re headed for Western North Carolina.” 

Program and Confirmed Panelists: 

Panel 1 :: State + Local Elected Officials and Government (30 min + 10 min Q&A) 

● NC Senator Julie Mayfield 

● Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer 

● Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers 

● Henderson County Manager John Mitchell 

● Moderator: Gray Jernigan, Deputy Director & General Counsel, MountainTrue

Panel 2 :: Major Industry Stakeholders (30 min + 5 min Q&A) 

FBR MPO – Tristan Winkler, Director at Land-of-Sky Regional Council 

● Pratt + Whitney — Michelle Ragland, Environment, Health, and Safety Manager ● Duke Energy — pending confirmation 

● Asheville Brewer — Brock Ashburn, VP Highland Brewing 

Agricultural – Dr. Jennifer Harrison, BC Agriculture and Land Resources Director ● Moderator: Preston Jacobsen, ED Haywood Waterways Association 

Panel 3 :: Business + Tourism (30 min + 5 min Q&A) 

● Buncombe County Explore Asheville – Vic Isley, CEO + President 

● Asheville Chamber of Commerce – Clark Duncan, Senior VP of Econ. Development ● Transylvania Tourism Development Authority – Clark Lovelace, ED 

● Blue Heron Whitewater – Fritz Johnson, Co-Owner 

● Biltmore Company — Chase Pickering, VP Guest Experiences + Operations ● Moderator: Lisa Raleigh, ED RiverLink 

About the Partnership: The French Broad River Partnership is a collaboration of business, nonprofit, and government stakeholders interested in water quality and the economic impact of the French Broad River watershed in Western North Carolina. Steering Committee members include staff from RiverLink, Land of Sky Regional Council, the Environmental Quality Institute, Haywood Waterways, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, ClearWater Environmental, MountainTrue, City of Asheville, Blue Ridge RC&D, Trout Unlimited, Mills River Partnership, and the National Forest Foundation.

More on the FBRP here: