02/10/04 — Clean Water Grant to aid base

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Clean Water Grant to aid base

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on February 10, 2004 2:02 PM

The N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund gave preliminary approval Monday to a $2.3 million project to restore wetlands near Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

The proposal is to buy 500 undeveloped acres, nearly all of which is in the area with the highest potential for accidents. This zone extends nearly a mile off the runway and includes land on both sides of U.S. 70.

The Board of Trustees gave the Goldsboro project one of its highest rankings among projects reviewed at its meeting this week in Moore County, said board member Phil Baddour of Goldsboro.

"It has a lot of support among the trustees, who have been big supporters of the military," Baddour said, adding he feels confident that the project will get final funding in May.

If it does, the trust fund would pay $1.7 million for the restoration of wetlands near the northern end of Seymour Johnson's runway. The Goldsboro City Council and the Wayne County Board of Commissioners have each agreed to a $300,000 match for the project.

The property includes 31 parcels and 25 landowners.

Most of the land was ditched and drained and is currently being farmed or in timber production. The area drains into Stoney Creek, a tributary of the Neuse River.

Baddour, who has spearheaded this project, said the goal would be to restore the wetlands, but it would have to be done carefully to avoid conflict with the base's air traffic.

"We will have to work closely with Seymour Johnson to avoid problems with birds," he said.

The project may not be able to acquire timber rights for some of the tracts, which are due to be harvested in 2005. If that land is cut, it would be replanted.

Buildings in the accident potential zone would not be affected and would be allowed to remain.

In response to public concerns about water quality problems across the state, the General Assembly established the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund in 1996. Local governments, conservation non-profits and state agencies are the only eligible applicants for the fund's grants, which are to be used to finance projects to protect or, where necessary, restore water quality in the state's 17 river systems.