Thursday, August 23, 2007


Additional environmental legislation approved this session includes:

The Legislature approved House Bill 859, which establishes a fairer fee for mitigation for development in the impaired Neuse and Tar-Pamlico River basins. Last year, at the behest of developers, the Legislature reversed the Environmental Management Commission's fee increase for the nutrient offset program, reverting the fees to a lower, woefully inadequate amount while the issue was studied. A consultant study has been done, and the bill sets the fee at around $28 per pound for nitrogen in the Neuse, $22 for nitrogen in the Tar-Pam, and $28 for phosphorous in the Tar-Pam, and directs DENR to transition to a program based on actual cost of mitigation based on the least cost alternative. I voted against the bill because it is not clear that developers are paying their fair share.

A potentially troubling bill regarding bridge construction, House Bill 1005, was passed on the last day of session. After severe flooding during Hurricane Floyd, which washed out bridges and damaged associated infrastructure like power lines and sewer lines, DOT began a policy or practice of elevating their bridges over streams. This bill contains a provision that reverses that policy by requiring DOT to construct bridges to accommodate the 100 year flood level, which, in the coastal plain especially, is not strong enough. The bill further states that bridges shall be built "without regard for riparian buffer zones" and expressly prohibits rules or agreements between departments contrary to this mandate. I voted against this bill.

We have approved a bill that undermines the Fisheries Reform Act and erodes the authority of the Marine Fisheries Commission. House Bill 1017 restricts fishing for menhaden with purse seine nets off the coast of Brunswick County from May through October. It is not good policy for the NCGA to be making specific fisheries management decisions, particularly when we have a strong fisheries management program in place. Management disputes between commercial and recreational fishermen are emotionally charged and require good science and expertise, not meddling by the legislature. I voted against this bill as well.

Two additional bad environmental bills are still alive for the short session. Senate Bill 150 would permit additional tree removal around billboards. The bill passed the Senate, but does not appear to have any momentum for House action. Another troubling environmental bill, Senate Bill 599, which would allow Figure 8 Island to construct a terminal groin at the north end of the island in contravention to our 20-year-old ban on hardened structures on our beaches, also appears to have no momentum in the House.

Please continue to contact me regarding issues which impact you, your family, and your community. I value the input of my constituents and want to continue to be responsive to your cares and concerns.



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