04/14/04 — All benefit: Clean Water Trust demands priority

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All benefit: Clean Water Trust demands priority

Probably many among the rank and file are not even aware of the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund. Or of its vital role in ensuring the viable future of the state’s economy and its natural resources. The two go hand in hand.

“Clean Water Management” understates the organization’s importance. Its scope encompasses a broad spectrum of resources, needs and quality of life.

It includes the ability of cities and towns and counties — Goldsboro and Wayne County among them — to cope with the demands they face in providing an adequate supply of safe drinking water, and in treating and disposing of their wastewater. Wetlands, Earth’s natural filters, are a key to this; and thousands of acres of wetlands have been created or preserved through trust fund assistance.

The Clean Water Management Trust Fund, in concert with private and other public agencies, has provided millions of dollars to counties, municipalities and state agencies to carry out projects they could not have accomplished on their own.

Goldsboro, Wayne County and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base have looked to the trust fund for almost $2 million to help meet required environmental protection standards.

The challenges are of particular importance to the military, and this is a state where the Army, Marines and Air Force are vital to our local economies as well as to the national defense.

Thanks to the trust fund, thousands of acres have been acquired to protect the viability of military bases and are being managed as public game lands by the Wildlife Resources Commission.

As a state and as a local community, we are fortunate in the balanced makeup of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund board. Our own Phil Baddour Jr., is a member. He is a former majority leader of the state House of Representatives, a retired colonel in the National Guard and a proven leader in state and local economic development.

Bill Holman, former head of the state’s Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, is the executive director. Its members include former Wildlife Resources Commission Chairman Jerry Wright of Currituck County, and former Rep. Ronnie Smith of Carteret County. Both have keen insights into clean water and other environmental needs.

Its greatest advocate has been Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight of Dare County. Basnight’s foresight and leadership led to its creation of the trust fund which was accomplished through a bill introduced by then Sen. Beverly Purdue and strongly supported by Sens. John Kerr of Goldsboro and Charlie Albertson of neighboring Duplin County.

In February, the trust fund gave tentative approval to a $1.7 million request from Goldsboro and Wayne County to improve water quality, restore wetlands and protect from development land in the 100-year floodplain. The request will be reviewed next month.

North Carolina, like most states, faces difficult financial decisions in the coming months and years.

But in the interest of public health, our environmental and wildlife resources, our local well-being and the effect of our military installations on local and state economies, continued support of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund should be among the state’s highest priorities.

Published in Editorials on April 14, 2004 10:53 AM