Two federal agencies are investigating whether managers at North Carolina State University’s 79,000 acre forest in Jones and Onslow Counties illegally drained wetlands. Jared Brumbaugh reports.
It’s estimated that 6,700 acres of the wetlands in Hoffman Forest were impacted. Project Manager for the US Army Corp of Engineers Wilmington Regulatory Field Office Mickey Sugg says it appears excavating equipment was used to create ditches for water to exit the property.
"It was discovered looking at aerial photos that some of these ditches were put in place within the last 5 to 10 years.”
Draining wetlands lets contaminants seep into nearby streams, creeks, rivers, and other bodies of water. Sugg says the Corps has been in contact with North Carolina State University officials about the draining.
“Their intention is to resolve this as quickly as they can I think and they want to do the right thing. So we’ve had ongoing conversations with them and we asked them to provide us with additional information and they’ve been very cooperative in terms of providing that information.”
The Environmental Protection Agency, which is also involved in the investigation, has certain exemptions that allow for ditching activities to take place without a permit being issued.
“We will be referring this action to EPA and they will be the ones to make a final determination whether this ditching activity meets the section 404 minor drainage exemption requirement.”
If it does, Sugg says that would mean the draining in the Hoffman Forest would not be illegal. A North Carolina State foundation is working to sell the land to an Illinois based agribusiness company. Foresters and conservation groups are trying to block the $150 million dollar sale in court. I’m Jared Brumbaugh.