RALEIGH — Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler today outlined a plan for using $2.24 million in funds from the state’s settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority to benefit Western North Carolina.
The General Assembly appropriated the money to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for the current fiscal year. At Troxler’s suggestion, legislators restricted use of the money to 17 western counties.
Under the department’s plan, a portion of the money would go to the nonprofit WNC Communities to operate a competitive grant program focused on projects in the agricultural and forestry sector.
Money allocated to WNC Communities also would be used to enhance DuPont State Recreational Forest in Transylvania County. Possible uses for the money include completion of a strategic plan and visitor education center for the forest.
The department would allocate the remainder of its TVA funds to the N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, which the department operates. These funds would be maintained separately from the trust fund’s regular legislative appropriation. They would be earmarked for projects within the 17 counties.
The trust fund would award grants for projects that promote agricultural development and allow farmers to be more profitable, and support efforts to purchase conservation easements to preserve farmland.
In addition, the trust fund would use a sizable portion of its share of the settlement money to acquire property that is part of an 8,000-acre tract along the headwaters of the French Broad River’s East Fork. The department would partner with the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy on this project and attempt to leverage other dollars if possible.
The amount of money to be allocated to each of these funding categories has not been determined, Troxler said.
The department’s plan awaits approval by the state Attorney General’s Office.
The following counties are eligible for funding: Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey.
About the settlement agreement
In June 2011, the Tennessee Valley Authority reached a negotiated settlement with North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee to address excessive air pollution from its coal-fired power plants.
This settlement requires that TVA spend $350 million on environmental mitigation projects to address the impacts of past emissions. Communities near TVA’s facilities will directly benefit from $350 million in environmental projects designed to reduce harmful air pollution and advance the Environmental Protection Agency’s goals in addressing environmental justice issues. TVA will distribute a subset of the $350 million, a total of $60 million, to Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee for these states to implement projects of their choosing from a list of categories in the consent decree.
The settlement allows North Carolina to direct its allocation, $11.2 million, over the next five years. (Source: Environmental Protection Agency)