EEP connects with federal rule stakeholders via webinar

Moments before the webinar began, EEP’s Eric Ellis reviewed last-minute instructions with Todd Tugwell of the Corps of Engineers (sitting, left), Kathy Matthews of EPA (sitting, right) and Suzanne Klimek of EEP (right). (photo by Tad Boggs)


In collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Ecosystem Enhancement Program hosted its first webinar on Dec. 16, 2009, carried live via the Web to more than 100 registrants in seven states and the District of Columbia.

The interactive seminar reviewed the proposed new draft instrument developed to meet the requirements of new federal mitigation rules enacted in June 2008, and allowed panelists Kathy Matthews of EPA, Todd Tugwell of the Corps and Suzanne Klimek of EEP to field participants’ questions on the presentation in real time.

A chat feature included in the software allowed registrants to submit questions to the panel during the webinar.  “We chose the chat method instead of verbal feedback because of the large number of participants in the webinar, and our desire to give every participant equal access to pose questions in a limited amount of time,” said Klimek.

EEP staffers were stationed in an adjacent room to field submitted questions, and reposted them verbatim on a spreadsheet that was projected into the webinar broadcast room.  This allowed the panelists to view questions as they were coming in, and to discuss answers during designated breaks.

The webinar elicited positive comments from several participants, including staff at the EPA Office of Water in Washington, D.C.  The draft instrument, the PowerPoint presentation and a summary of questions received during the webinar are posted on the EEP Web site at http://www.nceep.net/pages/webinar.html.

On Feb. 24, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the release of the draft instrument for public comment.  USACE posted the Request for Comments and the draft instrument the Corps’ Wilmington District Web site with a March 23 deadline.

EEP’s Brown appointed to Sediment Control Commission panel

Wyatt Brown (right) accepts congratulations from EEP Director Bill Gilmore (photo by Tad Boggs)

The Land Quality Section of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Division of Land Resources has named EEP Water Resources Engineer Wyatt Brown to serve on the Technical Advisory Committee of the N.C. Sedimentation Control Commission.  

The commission was created to administer the Sedimentation Control Program pursuant to the N.C. Sedimentation Pollution Control Act of 1973 by adopting rules, setting standards and providing guidance for implementation of the law. The composition of the commission is set by statute to encompass a broad range of perspectives and expertise in areas related to construction, industry, government and natural resource conservation and quality.

The Technical Advisory Committee assists the commission in developing the statewide erosion and sedimentation control program.  According to the commission, the Technical Advisory Committee’s immediate roles will include support in the development of draft rules regarding the Falls Lake Reservoir and Upper Neuse River water supply, as well as evaluating potential revisions to the state sediment and erosion control manual.

Brown is a graduate of N.C. State University and formerly served as an assistant regional engineer with the Land Quality Section.  He joined EEP in 2004.  Brown is a licensed soil scientist and a certified professional erosion and sedimentation control specialist.

SOG team, stakeholders study EEP procurement methods

At the request of NCDENR, an independent analysis of EEP’s outsourcing system is being conducted under the leadership of the widely respected School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill.

NCDENR commissioned the SOG team to provide a transparent analysis that includes stakeholder input on EEP business practices.  The first phase of the study, to be completed in May, has included facilitation sessions with private-sector contractors, program users, regulators and environmental agencies, and representatives of NCDENR and the Perdue administration.  The initial outreach seeks to identify performance measures to use in the second phase of the project, which will be an analysis of EEP procurement practices.  The final report is due in May.

EEP staff provided a summary of the two primary procurement methods used by the program – the full delivery and design-bid-build initiatives – assessing the pros and cons of each method and their relative usefulness.   More information on the study is available at a special SOG wiki page.

NCDENR reports to ERC on S.L. 2009-33

In July 2009 the General Assembly enacted Session Law 2009-337, which made amendments to 2008 legislation that promoted the use of private mitigation banks for the state's compensatory-mitigation needs (see Session Law 2008-152).

Section 5 of S.L. 2009-337 requires that NCDENR study and report to the General Assembly's Environmental Review Commission whether the law "creates the likelihood that the Ecosystem Enhancement Program will be unable to recoup investments made in riparian buffer mitigation and nutrient offset projects."  An initial analysis for the report concluded that that the recent passage of the law and the economic slowdown made conclusive findings premature.  NCDENR recommended to the ERC to give EEP an extension until October to continue monitoring the law's effects, and report back then on its conclusions.

Credit debate leads to DWQ outreach, legislative study

A 2008 decision to allow the purchase by EEP of nutrient-offset credits from an Environmental Banc and Exchange mitigation bank where other stream and wetland credits had been awarded led to a Dec. 9, 2009 stakeholder meeting to explore the issue of credit stacking.

The N.C. Division of Water Quality sponsored the December meeting to air the debate over its decision, which subsequently drew opposition from some private mitigation bankers and the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper.  EEP had no role in approving the transaction.   EEP staffers Jim Stanfill and Marc Recktenwald participated in the outreach session, designed to discuss when and how credit stacking may occur and overlap.

DWQ had decided in February 2009 to suspend the approval of mitigation banks involving similar circumstances in order to review mitigation-credit policy.  The General Assembly’s Program Evaluation Division issued an independent study on NCDENR mitigation-credit determinations on Dec. 16.

EEP returns to ‘Aqua Kids’ airwaves

EEP’s Zack Mondry (left) shares some mountain music with the Aqua Kids cast and EEP’s Greg Melia (right) at the Stone Mountain filming (photo by Ed Farr, Stone Mountain State Park superintendent).

EEP’s stream-restoration work in a Western North Carolina state park will be featured in an April broadcast of Aqua Kids, the internationally syndicated educational TV show that promotes environmental action by young people.

The Baltimore-based production company returned to North Carolina to film two shows last June.  The first, an examination of mountain-bog habitat featuring two NCDENR employees, aired in March.

The April show will feature Zack Mondry and Greg Melia of EEP to explore an EEP stream-restoration project at Stone Mountain State Park in Wilkes and Alleghany counties.  The episode will focus on the restoration, hydrology and water quality of the East Prong of Roaring River, a stream-restoration project jointly sponsored by EEP, Stone Mountain State Park and N.C. State University.  The project restored about two miles of stream within the park.  Prior to state’s buying the land for the state park in the 1960s, the stream had been straightened, and gravel mining was conducted in a downstream portion.

Aqua Kids first featured EEP in an episode filmed in Franklin, Person and Cumberland counties in June 2008.  The episode is posted on the EEP Web site video streaming page, where the Stone Mountain episode will be posted following its April broadcast.  The show is seen in the Triangle area at 7 a.m. Saturday mornings on WRAZ Fox 50, as well as on local cable systems around the state.

 

Annual report evolves into electronic document

In an effort to employ interactive applications using Web technologies that invite reader participation into EEP’s work, EEP designed its 2008-09 Annual Report primarily as an electronic document.

“The technical term for what we strove for in this report is ‘Web 2.0’,” said EEP Director Bill Gilmore.  “In layman’s terms, that means we aimed to facilitate creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users, and we’re proud of how it turned out.”

Features include video shorts of a tutorial on EEP's Web mapping system; highlights from a 2008 episode of Aqua Kids featuring EEP; an online feedback form; and a running table of contents to provide immediate jumps to any portion of the document.  The report also invites readers to provide input on the new format online.

The annual report’s new look was created by NCDENR’s Creative Services office in collaboration with EEP Reports Coordinator Eric Ellis.

EEP Western office relocates to Asheville

 EEP Western office staff meeting in new office (photo by Mike McDonald).

 

 

EEP’s Western office has relocated from Swannanoa to downtown Asheville. The old office was adjacent to the NCDENR Western Regional Office; however, the lease expired and could not be renewed.

The physical address of the office is 5 Ravenscroft Dr., Suite 102, Asheville, NC 28801.  The office’s new fax number is (828)232-4420.  Individual staff contact numbers may be found on the EEP staff directory Web page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments on EEP Undercurrents?

Please contact tad.boggs@ncdenr.gov.