NOTE: EEP Undercurrents is envisioned as a series of periodic newsletters to update readers on the issues and events affecting EEP, its customers and consultants. We welcome your feedback.

July 2009

EEP launches Web map application

The Ecosystem Enhancement Program launched the latest major improvement in its online publications on May 29, an interactive map that takes visitors to more than 500 stream- and wetland-restoration and enhancement projects in North Carolina.

Screen shot of EEP’s new Web map

The map is one of three major upgrades in the EEP Web site in the past year. Earlier in 2009, EEP posted a spreadsheet of tables with links to EEP projects. The links detail the progress of hundreds of projects statewide. Hyperlinks from the project documents eventually will be included in the mapping system for cross-referencing purposes. In 2008, EEP launched an updated listing of its local-watershed-planning initiatives in North Carolina that is searchable by county or river basin.

The current Web map is still not fully formed. EEP decided to move forward with publication anyway to test the application and provide a preview of the next release of the system.

Users should be advised that the system may tend to run slowly at times, but improvements are being sought on a continuous basis. The EEP Web map is best viewed using an Internet Explorer browser. Mozilla Firefox browsers also may be used, but problems may develop in certain screen resolutions. The maps will not work in Netscape Navigator browsers.

Comments on the map may be directed to EEP’s GIS Specialist Colleen Kiley at colleen.kiley@ncdenr.gov.

Aqua Kids, EEP in return engagement

Aqua Kids host Molly McKinney (left) joins with EEP staffers Greg Melia (center) and Zack Mondry to sample aquatic insects as indicators of water quality in the East Prong of the Roaring River at Stone Mountain State Park (photo by Ed Farr).

For the second consecutive year, the Ecosystem Enhancement Program hosted the internationally syndicated environmental TV show “Aqua Kids,” collaborating with other Department of Environment and Natural Resources divisions to film episodes at two locations in the North Carolina mountains.

The Baltimore-based production company, which produces the educational program for young teenagers, traveled to North Carolina on June 19-20 to shoot the episodes. The episode focused on EEP’s collaboration with the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation on a stream-restoration project on the Roaring River in Stone Mountain State Park in Alleghany County. EEP monitoring staffers Greg Melia and Zack Mondry appeared along with park Superintendent Ed Farr. The segment examines the health of the restoration project, and the geology and hydrology of a mountain stream. The show is expected to air on local cable systems in the late fall.

“Aqua Kids” also taped an episode at Sparta Bog, an N.C. Department of Transportation mitigation site. The episode features staffers from the N.C. Museum of Natural History and the state Natural Heritage Program exploring mountain bog ecosystems and the endangered bog turtle. EEP's previous filming with Aqua Kids can be found on the EEP Web site.

Stakeholder sessions pursue new Nutrient Offset funding formula

Pursuant to Session Law 2007-438, the N.C. Ecosystem Enhancement Program has collaborated with the N.C. Division of Water Quality to transition the Nutrient Offset Program

EEP Strategic Planning Director Jim Stanfill leads stakeholders in discussion of proposed Actual Cost Method (photo by Suzanne Klimek)

from a fee-based system to setting payment rates using actual-cost data. In order to incorporate the ideas and interests of multiple groups, a stakeholder team was formed in February to discuss how to establish an actual-cost method.

The team was made up of representatives from environmental organizations, private companies and local governments. The team has met four times to digest technical information and provide important input into the process. More information on the process and discussions can be found at the Web site of the Natural Resources Leadership Institute, facilitators of the workshops, at N.C. State University.

EEP and the N.C. Division of Water Quality are using the results of the stakeholder discussions to formulate a proposed rule and expect to present it to the Water Quality Committee of the Environmental Management Commission in September. The proposed rule will go through the traditional rulemaking process and will include opportunities for public input. For further information, please contact EEP’s Suzanne Klimek.


Biennial budget clears Board of Transportation

In June, the N.C. Board of Transportation approved EEP’s 2009-10 and 2010-11 budget proposal of $71.3 million, a 28-percent spending reduction in comparison to the previous budget.

The decrease responded to recent Transportation Improvement Program impact forecasts that moved projects farther into the future and reduced corresponding mitigation new starts during the two-year biennium. The budget also reflected a strategy to delay new restoration work as much as practical while the Department of Transportation hones its new five-year Transportation Improvement Program.

The budget also included administrative and operational expense reductions implemented last winter by EEP in response to the state’s budget crisis. The reductions were included in the new budget and held at no increase.

EEP, DWQ, stakeholders review watershed-assessment methods

EEP and the N.C. Division of Water Quality (DWQ) hosted a Watershed Assessment Forum on June 9-10 in Raleigh to review methods needed to assess watersheds and to discuss improvement opportunities related to EEP’s Local Watershed Plans (LWPs) and the siting of EEP’s mitigation opportunities.

LWP case studies in the White Oak and the Hiwassee River basins were reviewed to give background on watershed assessment techniques used by EEP. Additional speakers from DWQ, N.C. State University and East Carolina University presented approaches used to assess different functions of watersheds.

Other participants included representatives from the N.C. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Upper Neuse River Basin Association. The attendees worked in subgroups to review the different watershed assessment methods, consider their merits, and make recommendations on EEP’s LWP process.

Finally, participants discussed EEP’s Compensation Planning Framework currently in development to comply with new federal regulations governing compensatory mitigation (see May 2009 EEP UnderCurrents). Among the comments received, it was noted that EEP’s use of a watershed approach to provide mitigation is a model that should be encouraged for other in-lieu fee programs nationwide. The forum’s agenda and presentations can be found online at DWQ’s Web site.

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Please contact tad.boggs@ncdenr.gov.