Bill Blurb

I just happened across the short but welcome blurb below (not the cartoon above) in yesterday’s Raleigh News and Observer concerning the new state mitigation law, Senate Bill 425.  Good to see the paper keeping up with the changes at the NC Ecosystem Enhancement Program as a result of the new law and their series, “Washed Away.”

Unfortunately for journalism, I am not sure that people are following this case quite as closely as the Anthony trial in Orlando.  But the state capital’s paper of record is, thank goodness, an indispensable watch-dog for obscure, kudzu-like, government programs like the NCEEP. For what it is worth, people in the surprisingly wide world of environmental mitigation are watching.

As an aside, I do wish they would stop headlining mitigation articles “Streams” this and “Streams” that, since the new law effects the mitigation of Wetlands, Streams, Riparian Buffers and Nutrient Off-sets.  In a word: All things “Water.”

Streams law signed

Rob Christensen and Dane Kane

Raleigh News and Observer, July 6, 2011

Gov. Bev Perdue has signed into law changes to the state program that produces stream and wetland restorations to counter the environmental damage caused by road building and development.

Senate Bill 425 requires the state Ecosystem Enhancement Program to first contract with businesses known as mitigation bankers that identify, design and build the restored streams and wetlands. The program still has the option to oversee the design and construction, but only as a last resort.

The provision comes in response to The N&O’s series “Washed Away,” which found roughly a third of the stream restorations overseen by the program didn’t hold up, resulting in repairs that in some cases cost several hundred thousand dollars. In those cases, the program often ended up footing the repair bill.

By using mitigation bankers, the state is shifting the repair responsibility to the businesses. If the restorations are poorly done or fail, the bankers are on the hook to fix them.

The legislation also requires local governments to use mitigation bankers for their restoration needs.

The legislation is one of several changes to the program that began after we started asking questions about how it was operating. Another change introduced this month is a website ( http:// welcome ) that is much cleaner and easier to navigate than the old site. It includes a map that shows every site, with links to basic information and key documents.

The site needs work. Some restoration projects lack links to progress reports, and cost information is incomplete. Program spokesman Tad Boggs, in response to questions about the information gaps, said the site is a “work in progress.”

Also this week, Bill Gilmore, the program’s longtime director, is retiring.