Plan would fund clean energy, hog farm buyouts and resilience

Governor Roy Cooper speaks May 11 at a press conference announcing his 2022-23 budget.

Clean energy, hog farm buyouts, forest preservation and management, and the expansion of climate resilience programs are among the key environmental features of Governor Roy Cooper’s proposed 2022-23 budget.

Cooper’s $29.3 billion plan released last week allocates more than $140 million for clean energy and environmental initiatives, including: $92 million for natural and working lands; $22 million for clean transportation projects; $15 million for environmental justice issues; $11 million for expanding clean energy access and adoption; and $1.9 million in energy efficiency upgrades.

Port infrastructure

Cooper’s budget provides a one-time $20 million reserve for infrastructure at the North Carolina State Ports Authority’s Radio Island property in Morehead City. Funding would be administered by the Port Authority and the Departments of Commerce and Transport for “investments that best attract tenant businesses to the island”.

The Southeastern Wind Coalition applauded the move and, citing a recent offshore wind supply chain study commissioned by the Commerce Department, said the improvements would help position North Carolina as a national industry leader. offshore wind turbine, as Radio Island is well suited to support staging. and the manufacture of offshore turbine components.

“This port positions North Carolina to serve the offshore wind industry along the coast, creating jobs and economic growth for years to come,” Coalition President Katharine Kollins said in a statement Tuesday. communicated.

100-year floodplain conservation easements

A program designed to reduce the risk to water quality from potential pollution from hog farms in the 100-year-old floodplain would receive $18 million under the governor’s proposed plan.

This funding would be directed to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, or DACS, to purchase permanent conservation easements on hog farms in the 100-year floodplain.

If approved, the funding could potentially pay for more than 18 to 20 easements, said David Williams, deputy director of the state’s Division of Soil and Water Conservation.

“It’s very important,” he said. “That’s about $1 million per farm.”

The buyout costs cover the certification of the animal operation owner to operate a feedlot, the removal of the contents of the hog lagoons and the subsequent closure of those lagoons.

The volunteer-only Swine Floodplain Redemption was established in November 1999 following Hurricanes Floyd, Dennis and Irene, which caused catastrophic flooding that breached hog lagoons and drowned hundreds of livestock.

To date, 43 farms have been selected to participate in the program. Most of those happened in the early to mid-2000s, Williams said.

They include more than 1,200 acres of conservation easements and the closure of more than 100 animal waste lagoons in the floodplain.

Applicants are selected for the program based on a variety of criteria, including elevation of lagoon levees and production houses relative to floodplain elevation, history of flooding on the property, and distance to a waterway classified as a source of water or high quality waters.

Farmers can use their land once it is part of a conservation easement for low-density agriculture, such as growing row crops or for pasture-based beef production.

Easements cannot be used as spray fields for hog waste or non-agricultural development and require a soil and water conservation plan.

Williams said it was difficult to say exactly how many pig farms are still operating in the 100-year-old floodplain, “but I would say there are probably around 40 or 50.”

Most of them are in the southeastern part of the state.

Water quality, forests and resilience

The budget would provide $6.8 million in recurring funds and a one-time payment of $20 million to the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, or DNCR, to cover grants from the North Carolina Land and Water Fund for the protection and restoration of state lands. and water resources.

The grants would fund the restoration of degraded waterways, the development and improvement of stormwater treatment, and the preservation of military buffers.

An additional $10 million in one-time funding is being earmarked for the purchase and restoration of bogs and pocosins to reduce wildfire risk, reduce carbon emissions, build flood resilience, and reduce improve water quality.

Potential acquisition sites will be determined based on the results of the DNCR’s Natural Heritage Program, which will inventory the wetlands of the coastal plains.

The state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services would receive a one-time $2 million to help North Carolina landowners through cost-sharing ways to improve forest management on private lands .

The governor’s plan would bolster the state’s climate resilience efforts, providing $10 million to expand the Resilient Communities Grant Program and provide grants aimed at helping local governments reduce flood risk and promote the long-term resilience.

A total of $762,825 in recurring funds would also go to program and resilience staff.

other supplies

Other budget recommendations include $3.7 million recurring and $20 million one-time for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund for state park projects, local park development and renovation, and access to the beach.

Also included is $720,526 in recurring funds and $122,500 in one-time funds for the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to create a coastal habitat assessment program to map, assess the vegetation and observe wetland changes in coastal habitats.

Cooper’s plan also includes a 5% pay raise for teachers and state employees, $50 million in assistance for new owners, including public school teachers, medical services staff in emergency, career firefighters and law enforcement, and adding 600,000 uninsured North Carolinians eligible for Medicaid.

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