In response to “Hofmann’s future is White Oak’s future,” Tideland News (Posted: Thursday, August 28, 2014 7:08 am | Updated: 10:18 am, Fri Aug 29, 2014):
The White Oak River is the poster child for the regional impacts that will be felt if the Sale of Hofmann Forest is consummated. Regionally, all coastal waters and communities downstream of Hofmann Forest would directly feel the impact of the proposed land use changes outlined in the Prospectus. This includes the New River, the White Oak River, the Trent River, the Neuse River, the estuarine systems of all these rivers, Pamlico Sound, Bogue Sound, Topsail Island, Bear Island, Emerald Isle, Atlantic Beach, Shackleford Banks, Portsmouth Island, Ocracoke Island, Jacksonville, Sneads Ferry, Camp Lejeune, New Bern, Swansboro, Oriental, the Atlantic Ocean, and beyond.
Development of the Forest itself will be felt regionally and there will be secondary impacts on lands and waters surrounding the Forest that will amplify and extend the negative impacts. Development pressure on adjacent land will increase, compounding the negative impact of development within Hofmann Forest itself. North Carolina will also lose a significant historical, cultural, and natural resource.
Hofmann Forest is unique and extremely valuable as a research forest. It is also a connecting link in a much larger ecosystem chain comprised of Croatan National Forest, Hofmann Forest, Camp Lejeune, and Holly Shelter Game Lands. When linked, they create an ecosystem that is greater than the sum of its parts. Many species depend on this large, regional ecosystem. Loss of Hofmann Forest will break this link and diminish the synergistic habitat value of all of these public lands.
Beyond the Forest, the increased quantity of polluted stormwater runoff will have the most obvious and immediate impact on the region. In 2007, the White Oak River Basinwide Water Quality Plan stated that 100 percent of the saltwater miles and 44 percent of the freshwater miles of the White Oak River are impaired. The main reason for the impairment – stormwater runoff from agriculture and development. The New River and Neuse River are also impaired and for the same reasons. Manifestations of these water quality issues are fish kills, reduced recreational and commercial catches, closed shellfish waters, and waters closed to swimming.
The are other less obvious and immediate impacts and costs associated with the loss of Hofmann Forest. Regional availability of drinking water and the quality of that water will be diminished. Due to salt water intrusion into high quality Cretaceous aquifers from over use, the near-surface aquifer system is increasingly being tapped for public water supplies. Water from the near-surface aquifer system already requires more treatment than that drawn from Cretaceous aquifers. Hofmann Forest is the source of much of the region’s near-surface groundwater. If this huge area is converted to agriculture, residential and commercial development, and other uses, as outlined in the Prospectus, more rainfall will be converted to runoff instead of being available for infiltration. This will reduce the near-surface aquifer system recharge rate, reducing the water available for sustainable use. Rainfall runoff and infiltrating rainfall both carry all of the agricultural and landscaping chemicals and fertilizers, hydrocarbons, and other pollutants associated with such development. Increased rainfall runoff results in surface water quality impairment, but what happens to the infiltrated water and pollutants carried by it?
Some infiltrating pollutants will be filtered by soil or treated by biological processes in soil. Those pollutants that are not filtered or treated by soil will end up in the near-surface aquifer system. It is well established that there is connectivity between surface waters and the near-surface aquifer system in the region (CDC Study of Contaminated Wells at Camp Lejeune).
Development will necessarily create a huge increase in water demand with a commensurate increase in sewage discharge. Taxpayers will have to foot the bill for developing and treating the increasingly polluted water of the near-surface aquifer system. Taxpayers will also have to pay for sewage treatment and disposal for the sewage generated by that development. Of course, not all sewage will be treated by municipal systems. A large percentage, if not the majority, of sewage generated will be leached, via private septic systems, into the same near-surface aquifer system from which regional drinking water will be increasingly drawn.
The sale of Hofmann Forest should be stopped because it is wrong on many fronts. It it bad public policy (not transparent and stakeholders given no real voice), it makes a mockery of North Carolina’s substantial and successful efforts to protect water quality through multiple state agencies and public campaigns (ever seen an “Entering X Basin sign?), it contravenes the intent of the North Carolina Constitution, it is being conducted in a manner inconsistent with the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and the UNC System Policy created for compliance with SEPA, and, above all else, it is not what the citizens of North Carolina want!
Setting all that aside, the sale should be stopped on the basis of the following known negative regional impacts alone. Development as presented in the Prospectus will cause:
– An increase in the area of Impaired Surface Waters in three basins
– A decrease of critical habitat area and a reduction of the value of remaining habitat areas
– A decrease in recreational and commercial catches
– An increase in closed shellfish waters
– More frequent closures of waters for swimming
– A lower sustainable withdrawal rate from the near-surface aquifer system
– A decrease in groundwater quality in the near-surface aquifer system
– Higher taxes and/or higher cost of services for water and sewer
Please join in the public outcry against this sale! This is your backyard after all!
NCSU officials need to hear from you if you think this sale is just plain wrong and they should be ashamed for violating the genius of Julius Hofmann when he worked to establish Hofmann Forest. They also need to hear from you if you think they should practice what they preach — ethics, sustainability, and conservation.
Attorney General Roy Cooper needs to hear from you if think that spending your tax dollars defending the sale is wrong when it is going to do you direct harm. Also, Roy Cooper needs to hear from you if you don’t think it is OK for NCSU to claim the Forest is public to avoid paying property taxes and then turn around and claim it is private when conducting the sale. If it is private, shouldn’t they have paid property taxes just like you and I?