Conflicting Goals and Priorities – Questions for the NC Supreme Court on the Sale of Hofmann Forest

In the NWQEP NOTES, The NCSU Water Quality Group Newsletter, Number 138 August 2013 ISSN 1062-9149, one recommendation is outstanding:

…The State water quality agency should consider
encouraging the state, local agencies, or land trusts to
purchase riparian properties in cases where watershed
cleanup efforts have failed to be achieved or failed to be
lasting. Environmental agencies should review their
programs for conflicting mandates and implementations.
Specific roles, reporting requirements, and priorities should
be consistent.

We couldn’t agree more!  Granted, the above recommendation has a much narrower contextual focus than presented by the prospective sale of Hofmann Forest, but  it is alarmingly apropos to the apparent divergent goals and implementations highlighted by this sale of public land by NCSU and concurrent efforts within NCSU and other state agencies.

Will the NC supreme Court find that North Carolina’s various agencies and programs have conflicting goals (broader than mandates) and implementations with regard to the sale of Hofmann Forest?  Will they find the sale of Hofmann Forest consistent with the intent of the NC Constitution, the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), and UNC System Policy?

Does the apparent internal inconsistency of NCSU rushing to the sale, while simultaneously promoting  vastly disparate public policy, reflect a lack of cogent leadership within the University?  Is the sale of Hofmann Forest representative of a broader inconsistency within state government that only action by the NC Supreme Court or legislation could remedy?

NWQEP NOTES, The NCSU Water Quality Group Newsletter, Number 138, August 2013 ISSN 1062-9149

NCSU Water Quality Group

The North Carolina State University (NCSU) Water Quality Group is a multidisciplinary team that analyzes and evaluates nonpoint source (NPS) pollution control technologies and water quality programs in North Carolina and nationwide. We are a component of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service (NC CES), Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department (Bio&Ag) at North Carolina State University and the N.C. State University’s Soil and Water Environmental Technology Center (SWETC).

via NCSU Water Quality Group.

What is the biggest source of pollution in the ocean?

According to NOAA:

Eighty percent of pollution to the marine environment comes from the land. One of the biggest sources is called nonpoint source pollution, which occurs as a result of runoff. Nonpoint source pollution includes many small sources, like septic tanks, cars, trucks, and boats, plus larger sources, such as farms, ranches, and forest areas. Millions of motor vehicle engines drop small amounts of oil each day onto roads and parking lots. Much of this, too, makes its way to the sea.

Some water pollution actually starts as air pollution, which settles into waterways and oceans. Dirt can be a pollutant. Top soil or silt from fields or construction sites can run off into waterways, harming fish and wildlife habitats.

Nonpoint source pollution can make river and ocean water unsafe for humans and wildlife. In some areas, this pollution is so bad that it causes beaches to be closed after rainstorms.

More than one-third of the shellfish-growing waters of the United States are adversely affected by coastal pollution.

via What is the biggest source of pollution in the ocean?

So,  it makes sense for North Carolina to sell 79,000 acres of coastal forest land into private ownership with the only real restriction on land-use being the highest and best use real estate development doctrine?  What else is wrong with the sale of Hofmann Forest?

More Signs not a Good Sign

North Carolina spends lots of money on signs.  They are everywhere, along our roads, on river and stream banks, in coastal waters, and on beaches.  The signs may be informational, educational, or regulatory, but they are all there ostensibly for our benefit as citizens.  Signs for the benefit of citizens – good, right?  More, better?  Not so fast!  After the sale of Hofmann Forest, we’ll get a whole new crop of signs that will say one thing, but will be symbolic of something else entirely.

NCSU, a public University,  is selling Hofmann Forest, public land, to private entities, with no significant long-term restrictions against development.  On the other hand, we have the significant positive accomplishments of other North Carolina government entities working to protect and preserve sources for future drinking water supplies and to reduce the extent of  surface water quality impairment.

It is well known that development, including agriculture,  is the main source of water quality degradation and resulting impaired surface waters.  Research and conclusions on this subject, much conducted at NCSU,  are abundant and clear.  Across a wide spectrum of North Carolina government, this simple, but true, educational message is repeated again, and again.  You cannot escape North Carolina’s watershed-awareness and impact-of-development messages as you go about your life in this state.  You find them as you visit our state’s websites, schools, museums, aquariums, estuarium, parks, and even when you drive on our highways!  Ever see an “Entering Neuse Basin” sign?  Those signs, and the worthy efforts of which they are symbolic, are your tax dollars at work!

NCSU Officials, the NCSU Endowment Fund Board, and Attorney General Roy Copper, who are promoting and facilitating the sale of Hofmann Forest, must have missed all of the NCSU subject matter research and North Carolina’s extensive and well-intentioned watershed-awareness and impact-of-development messages.  How else could they be promoting and facilitating the sale of  Hofmann Forest,  with no significant long-term restrictions against development?  Hofmann Forest is a significant percentage of  the undeveloped land in three already impaired river basins of this state.

Maybe dysfunctional state government just likes signs.  By selling Hofmann Forest, North Carolina will almost certainly get more opportunities to put up closed shellfish waters and swimming advisory signs!  How do I know?  The state says so, again, and again, and again.  I didn’t even have to come up with that one myself!

By the way, those swimming advisory and closed shellfish waters signs, and the worthy efforts of which they are symbolic, are your tax dollars at work, too!

See, we really can pay for it both ways!  After the destruction of Hofmann Forest at the hands of the state, we’ll get a whole new crop of signs.  All these signs, especially the new ones,  will become symbolic of the North Carolina’s worthy efforts to protect us from the consequences of the North Carolina’s, not so worthy, sale of Hofmann Forest!  The signs will cease to have any real meaning related to their words.  Instead, they will just be symbolic of dysfunctional state government.

N.C. Supreme Court RE: Cubbage, et al v The Board of Trustees Of The Endowment Fund Of NC State University, et al – 380A14-1

From N.C. Court of Appeals
( 14-311 )
From Wake
( 13CVS12884 )
10 October 2014
N.C. Supreme Court
RE: Cubbage, et al v The Board of Trustees Of The Endowment Fund Of NC State University, et al – 380A14-1
Dear Court:
The following Order was entered:
Pursuant to N.C.G.S. 7A-31(a) and (b)(2) and Rule 15(e)(2) of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate
Procedure, the Court on its own initiative hereby certifies for review prior to determination in the Court of Appeals
Cubbage, et al. v. Bd. of Tr. of N.C. State Univ. Endowment Fund, et al, COA14-311. The case shall be docketed
in this Court as of the date of this order. Briefs of the respective parties that have been submitted to the Court
of Appeals shall be considered by this Court. Any party may file a new brief in this Court consistent with the
North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure.

Order 380A14-1

State Supreme Court takes five controversial cases, bypassing the Court of Appeals | The Progressive Pulse

Cubbage v. N.C. State University Endowment Fund: This case concerns the pending sale of the Hofmann State Forest by the N.C. State Endowment Fund, which plaintiffs say was negotiated in secret and failed to comply with the N.C. Environmental Policy Act because the fund never obtained an Environmental Impact Statement. Wake County Superior Court Judge Shannon Joseph dismissed the case last November.

via State Supreme Court takes five controversial cases, bypassing the Court of Appeals | The Progressive Pulse.

SUPREME COURT DOCKET PAGE

ds-380A14-1

No. 380A14-1
SUPREME COURT OF NORTH CAROLINA
Docket Sheet
Cubbage, et al v The Board of Trustees Of The Endowment Fund Of NC State University, et al

FREDERICK W. CUBBAGE, RONALD W. SUTHERLAND, PHD, RICHARD BARNY BERNARD, JR., JAMES D. GREGORY, and
JOHN EDDY
v
THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE ENDOWMENT FUND OF NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY AT RALEIGH and
NC STATE NATURAL RESOURCES FOUNDATION, INC.

1 – CT_ORDER (Spec Order) – 10-09-2014
Filed: 10-10-2014 @ 12:06:23
FOR:
BY : N.C. Supreme Court

Party Name; Role
Cubbage, Frederick W.; Plaintiff-Appellant
Sutherland, Ronald W. (PhD); Plaintiff-Appellant
Bernard, Richard (Jr.) (Barny); Plaintiff-Appellant
Gregory, James D.; Plaintiff-Appellant
Eddy, John; Plaintiff-Appellant
The Board of Trustees Of The Endowment Fund Of North Carolina State University At Raleigh; Defendant-Appellee
NC State Natural Resources Foundation, Inc.; Defendant-Appellee
Cubbage, Frederick W., et al; Appellant

Attorney for Appellant – Cubbage, Frederick W., et al
Mr. James L. Conner, II [Primary Attorney]
Attorney at Law
jconner@rl-law.com
Ms. Amie C. Sivon
Attorney at Law
asivon@rl-law.com
RAGSDALE LIGGETT PLLC
P.O. Box 31507
Raleigh, NC 27622
(919) 881-2201

Attorney for Defendant-Appellee – The Board of Trustees Of The Endowment Fund Of North Carolina State University At Raleigh
Ms. Katherine A. Murphy [Primary Attorney]
Assistant Attorney General
kmurphy@ncdoj.gov
Ms. Catherine F. Jordan
Assistant Attorney General
cjordan@ncdoj.gov
N.C. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
P.O. Box 629
Raleigh, NC 27602
(919) 716-6920

Attorney for Defendant-Appellee – NC State Natural Resources Foundation, Inc.
Mr. Paul T. Flick [Primary Attorney]
Attorney at Law
pflick@jordanprice.com
Ms. Lori P. Jones
Attorney at Law
ljones@jordanprice.com
JORDAN PRICE WALL GRAY JONES & CARLTON
P.O. Box 10669
Raleigh, NC 27605
(919) 828-2501

RALEIGH: NC Supreme Court takes several cases from its own appeals court | State Politics | NewsObserver.com

RALEIGH — The N.C. Supreme Court surprised parties in several lawsuits Friday by snatching their cases away from the state Court of Appeals.

These include an appeal by environmentalists who want to block the sale of N.C. State University’s massive Hofmann Forest – a case in which the appellate court was believed to be close to a decision

via RALEIGH: NC Supreme Court takes several cases from its own appeals court | State Politics | NewsObserver.com.

Clean and Clear Waterways for All!