"We have the water right here, and we EXPECT it to be cleaned up."

            -Wilma Dykeman Stokely 

Photo by WNC Magazine

The Cherokee called the Pigeon River the "beautiful maiden". The waters of have long served as a life-blood for the people that reside along its banks throughout Western North Carolina and East Tennessee, providing life and livelihood with its waters. Over a century ago (1908), the river got a new neighbor named Champion Paper Products, and life for everyone else along the downstream shores quickly changed.

History of the Pigeon River

 Pigeon River Timeline


Clean Water Expected in East Tennessee was started by Brian Overholt, Will Johnson and Seth Smith, who joined together to organize through their experience as river guides. Inspired by the Dead Pigeon River Council, these founders sought to see the rivers of our region live up to their full potential by holding upstream polluters accountable to the standards set forth by the Clean Water Act. Choosing the name Clean Water Expected in East Tennessee based on Newport's famous author, Wilma Dykeman Stokely's quote: "We have the water right here, and we EXPECT it to be cleaned up."

Through the years, CWEET's activities have stayed true to its original mission and have also expanded to range from environmental activism and research to community activities that strengthen and help sustain our local (and global) ecosystem. 

What We Do









Meet The Team


Deborah Bahr

Executive Director

Deborah Bahr is the Director of CWEET and has been a community worker, mother, and artist living in East Tennessee for almost 30 years. She holds a degree in Women’s Studies from the University of Tennessee. Deborah is a mentor and life coach and is dedicated to a clean Pigeon River and the development of healthy Appalachian economies.


Laurie "Spring" Duckett

Community Organizer

Spring has been in love with Mother Earth since taking her first breath. Her story includes a degree in green & sustainable mgmt, activism, community service, holistic living, parenting, homeschooling, sustainable gardening, intentional community work, festival event infrastructure, and more. She describes her work for CWEET as “weaving water webs”: admin tasks, networking, event infrastructure, even roadside trash pickup!


Jillian Bryan

Stream Monitoring Coordinator

Jillian Bryan has lived along the Nolichucky River in East TN for 20 years and is dedicated to monitoring and advocating for the health of our streams. She is naturally curious and enjoys everything outdoors, crafting, learning and spending time with her daughter.

Board of 


  • Aaron Szevans

  • Jennifer Szevans

  • Jacob Judd

  • Briggs McLaurin

  • Mindy Shelton Seagle

  • Cassidy Duckett

​Board at Large:​

  • Maria Guzman

  • Amelia Taylor


CWEET works for the benefit of all living things by honoring the basic ecological concept that all life is interconnected. We encourage healthy, thriving Appalachian communities by educating ourselves, the public, and our leaders about responsibility for the earth and its people. We do this by advocating for and creating solutions to ensure clean water and environments, flourishing local economies, participation in politics, and positive social and individual growth. Our work is based on the values of empowerment, self-determination, respect, compassion, and ultimately, love.