Hofmann Forest, which straddles the border between Onslow and Jones Counties, is now under contract to be sold. This sale will have significant regional impacts which have not been studied. The North Carolina Environmental Policy Act requires a review of environmental effects of activities that involve action by a State agency, public money or private use of public land, and that may have a potential negative effect on natural resources, public health and safety, natural beauty, or historical or cultural elements of the State. These studies have not been done because the seller, the Endowment Fund of the Board of Trustees of North Carolina State University, contends it is exempt from these requirements. They also contend that selling Hofmann is in the best interest of the University and its students. A majority of NCSU students, faculty, and alumni oppose this sale, not just because of the negative environmental impacts, but because it will be a tragic loss for NCSU, the State, and its citizens. The Onslow County Commissioners resolved to oppose this sale.
Hofmann Forest is large (about 80,000 acres) and it is a large percentage of the New, White Oak, and Trent River watersheds. These waterways already have challenges related to water quality, as evidenced by fish kills and closed shellfish waters. More intense land use reduces water quality and increases stormwater runoff. Stormwater runoff is the single largest source of water pollution. The contract for sale does not prevent significantly more intense land use on a large part of Hofmann Forest. This could include more intense forest production, conversion to agriculture, and development, all of which will increase stormwater runoff and reduce water quality. Because Hofmann is so large, even moderate increases in land use intensity will negatively impact all coastal waters and communities downstream, including the New , White Oak, Trent, and Neuse Rivers; the estuarine systems of all these rivers; Beaches from Topsail Island to Ocracoke Island; communities of, Jacksonville, Sneads Ferry, Camp Lejeune, New Bern, Swansboro, Oriental; and much more! Almost all drinking water in the area, including public water systems, comes from wells. To protect overused deeper aquifers, the state is requiring more withdrawals from near-surface aquifers. Near-surface aquifers have more connectivity to surface waters. If surface water quality suffers, so will groundwater quality. Hofmann Forest is unique and valuable as a research and teaching forest and is historically and culturally significant based on the time and means by which it was acquired. Hofmann Forest is a large and important habitat itself, but it is also a connecting link in the much larger ecosystem of Croatan-Hofmann-Camp Lejeune-Holly Shelter. When linked, these areas create an ecosystem that is greater than the sum of its parts.
This sale will have negative impacts which will be felt by those who work, live, and vacation in the region. Will history judge this sale as a great example of enlightened financial management by a public institution or will it be judged as one of the most profound blunders of an institution of higher learning and a failure of state government, political leaders, and citizens that let it happen? Please learn more about this sale and decide for yourself. There is not much time.
John L. Eddy, PE
BS Civil Engineering, MS Geotechnical and Water Resources Engineering, NCSU
Landowner Jones and Onslow Counties