Herein find a letter (too long to print) in response to Steve Ford's March 22 column
"Scoopers, coveting the swamps," pointing out how PCS Phosphate would have to mitigate any effects its mining would have on North Carolina
At long last, The N&O has put its environmental advocacy on the Editorial Page where it belongs (“Scoopers, coveting the swamps,” Steve Ford column, March 22).
Ford employed the typical rhetoric about PCS Phosphate “ripping up another large chunk” of wetlands and said that the 3,900 acres of wetlands and 4.8 miles of streams impacted would entail the largest permitted destruction in state history. Any mention of the mitigation required by state and federal agencies has been dismissed out of hand as inconsequential, or, for Ford, sarcastically denigrated.
While your “news” stories and Ford’s column pay lip service to the economic benefits our state receives from Beaufort County’s largest employer, the implication remains that now is the time to draw a line in the sand (or swamp) and tell industry that jobs aren’t worth the environmental destruction.
The N&O has been irresponsible in not providing a better context for wetland impacts and the regulatory process. PCS agreed to agency requests for a “life-of-mine” permit application that covers 35 years of operations, rather than the shorter term permits for lesser impacts as acquired in the past. This agreement results in the appearance of unprecedented impacts, but such is not the case.
In its seven-year plan for 2004-2010, the N.C. DOT projected its impacts at over 5,300 acres of wetlands and 169 miles of streams, but since most road projects get separate permits the impacts don’t appear that big. If the restoration required for permitted impacts is worthy of Ford’s derision, why does the state spend tens of millions of dollars every year mitigating DOT impacts through the Ecosystem Enhancement Program?
It should also be noted that most of Beaufort County and a goodly portion of all Eastern North Carolina would meet the jurisdictional criteria for regulated resources had they not been ditched and drained for 300 years. The trees may look big now, but much of the forest is pine monoculture on bedded land.
Compensatory mitigation for permitted impacts is typically required at a 2:1 ratio, so twice as many historically degraded wetlands and streams will be returned to more natural conditions. When looking at the PCS mine we should be pleased that thousands of acres of historically degraded resources will be improved and restored at no cost to the taxpayer, and family incomes and the local tax base will be secure for many years to come.