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Closing Gap In NC Water Protection

Tennessee River

Tennessee River

For more than a decade, 20 million wetland acres and 2 million miles of streams – including many in North Carolina – were left unprotected, despite the federal Clean Water Act. Experts say the gap in coverage was the unintended result of two Supreme Court decisions. On Tuesday, the Obama administration proposed a new rule to clarify which types of water have Clean Water Act protection. ”This protects us moving forward,” said Tim Gestwicki, chief executive of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, “and certainly as North Carolina grows, this is going to be really important to protect the overall quality of life in North Carolina.” According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the rate of wetlands loss accelerated by 140 percent from 2004 to 2009, the years immediately following the Supreme Court rulings. A public comment period is expected to begin in a few weeks on the proposed rule. Jan Goldman-Carter, senior manager of wetlands and water resources for the National Wildlife Federation, said the the 2001 and 2006 Supreme Court decisions have confused and limited the scope of the Clean Water Act, making it much more difficult to maintain and restore the state’s streams, headwaters and freshwater wetlands. ”A lot of the really important trout streams, headwater systems and their adjacent wetlands under this rule are now clearly covered,” she said. “That will be a huge improvement in fish and wildlife habitat and clean water for North Carolina waters.” Gestwicki said the clarification this rule would provide extends beyond benefits to the land.  ”For mountain trout anglers to Piedmont bass enthusiasts and duck hunters in eastern North Carolina, this is a real important, critical step towards protecting our sporting heritage and our outdoor future in North Carolina,” he said. More than 242,000 miles of rivers and streams in North Carolina, and related recreation activities produce more than $3 billion a year in economic activity for the state.
Information about the new rule is online at www2.epa.gov/uswaters.

Culvert Work At SCC Continues

mapWork on a Culvert continues on at Southwestern Community College’s campus in front of the National Guard Armory as part of R-5000, a new road segment that will link N.C. 107 with N.C. 116 through the SCC campus.Within the next couple of weeks the contractor will remove the dike to turn the water back into the culvert, back-fill the culvert and stabilize the inlet and outlet slopes, NCDOT says Once the sides have been back-filled, a new sewer line will be laid over the culvert and the temporary aerial crossing, above, will be removed. The area will then be back-filled and the driveway paved.

Precinct Change For Sylva

voteVoters in Sylva’s South Ward precinct will now go to the new Skyland Service Center to cast their ballots in the primary elections and not the Community Service Center as they have previously. The Jackson County Board of Elections sent postcards to each of the precinct’s 2,719 registered voters notifying them of the change. The election board moved to Skyland Service Center (previously Southern Lumber) early this year. That means a One-Stop Absentee Voting station also will be set-up there; state law requires early voting take place where a county election board’s offices are located. For the Tuesday, May 6, primary, one-stop stations will be open in the Cullowhee and Cashiers communities, too. A fourth station, in Cherokee, will probably will be added for the Nov. 4 general election. The deadline to register to vote in North Carolina is 25 days before Election Day.

Booze It & Lose It

NC Highway Patrol

NC Highway Patrol

The North Carolina Highway Patrol along with other local and state agencies have released numbers for their 2014 St. Patricks Day “Booze It & Lose It” Campaign. Jackson County had a total of 18 checkpoints and patrols with a total of 130 traffic stops with some nature of violation. Haywood County had 162 and Macon County with 108 citations.

Candidates Forum Held Thursday

Thursday's Candidates Forum

Thursday’s Candidates Forum

The six democrat candidates for sheriff of Jackson county appeared before a packed room of voters on Thursday evening in the community room at the Jackson County Public Library Complex in Sylva. They were joined by the Ron Robinson and Jane Hipps who are competing for the opportunity to take on incumbent State Senator Jim Davis. Also present were Democrat candidates for commissioner, clerk of court, register of deeds, district attorney, and NC House District 119. The forum was coordinated and moderated by the Democratic women of Jackson County.

Debnam Gets GOP Support

Jack Debnam

Jack Debnam

The Jackson County Republican Party will back incumbent county Commission Chairman Jack Debnam, an unaffiliated candidate, in this Novembers general election against former chairman and Democrat Brian McMahan. Debnam unseated McMahan in 2010 by 68 votes; he had the GOP’s support in the last election. The endorsement does not include financial help, according to local Republican Party Chairman Ralph Slaughter; nor did it during the election four-years ago. Debnam said he appreciated the GOP’s endorsement. Voter registration records show Debnam has voted in both Republican and Democrat primaries in past elections. Four years ago, Debnam gathered the signatures necessary for unaffiliated candidates to get their names on the ballot. He must do the same again, needing 1,008 signatures by June 27.

Stolen Puppy Recovered

Fish & More Pet Store

Fish & More Pet Store

Police have recovered a puppy that was stolen from a Sylva pet store safe and sound. They also picked up two juveniles in the case. The owner says they are still considering whether they will file charges in the case. Surveillance video at Fish and More Pet Store shows one of the juveniles putting the all black pomeranian/chihuahua puppy in her purse and then walking out of the store. One of the co-owners says the theft happened at the close of business Monday. The puppy would have cost $250. Sylva Police are investigating.

Local Salary Supplements For JCPS

jcpsJackson County school leaders are pushing for teachers and other employees to get local salary supplements this upcoming year. And to help with recruitment, new talent would be offered $1,000 signing bonuses. In North Carolina, commissioners approve education budgets and raise revenues for school systems, making local educators fiscally dependent on the county. Jackson County commissioners, for the most part, have given local school leaders what they’ve asked for, with the exception of School Resource Officers. Across the state local officials are caught in the same feud over school funding. State law allows school boards to demand mediation to resolve financing arguments, and if talking fails, school systems can sue. School system Finance Officer Gwen Edwards has calculated that about 19 percent of the projected $35 million school budget in 2014-2015 would be funded through local tax dollars. School leaders plan to pay for the salary supplements and a  3-percent state salary increase by pulling $860,000 from the school system fund balance, leaving $1.6 million.

State Troopers Contract Lawsuit

NC Highway Patrol

NC Highway Patrol

Some attorneys say North Carolina State Highway Patrol troopers are facing severe financial hardships because the state has broken a promise to give them pay raises. A breach of contract lawsuit was filed Monday in Cherokee County, with nearly 40 state troopers as plaintiffs. Attorney David Wijewickrama says troopers were promised graduated or step pay raises when they completed training at the academy. But he says that hasn’t happened in years. He says that has created financial hardship for some troopers who are having trouble making ends meet. A beginning trooper makes about 35,000 a year.

WCU’s Online Programs Receives High Marks

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University’s online master’s degree programs in human resources and project management have received high national rankings in affordability and “Best Buy” designations from the distance education information clearinghouse GetEducated.com. WCU’s human resources program was ranked No. 3 in affordability following a national survey of 37 regionally accredited higher education institutions that offer online master’s degrees in that academic field, said Melissa Eubank, director of information services for GetEducated.com. The survey showed that the average cost of an online master’s degree in human resources nationwide is about $23,500. The cost of WCU’s program is $9,339 for North Carolina residents. Earlier this year, GetEducated.com gave WCU’s online bachelor’s degree program in entrepreneurship a No. 2 national ranking in affordability. Other WCU online master’s programs that have received high rankings from the clearinghouse in recent years are nurse educator, nurse administration and health sciences.

DMV Plate Agency Second Call

dmv_vehicle_plates_replace_headerThe North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles is making a second call for applications for a Canton area license plate agency since a February posting did not yield qualified applicants. The current agency operates under a contract that will expire in July. The policy of the Division is to open applications to operate a license plate agency whenever a contract expires or ends. The current agency, located at 478 Champion Dr., will continue to operate during the application process and its contractor may reapply to operate the business. Routinely, it takes about four months to complete the application process. Plate agency applications are located on the Connect NCDOT website. Interested applicants are invited to download an application online. Visit www.connect.ncdot.gov

NC Broadcast Pioneer Dies

James B. Childress

James B. Childress

Long time North Carolina broadcasting pioneer James B. Childress died unexpectedly Friday at Mission Hospital. Childress was instrumental in starting numerous radio stations during the 1950′s including the Sylva and Murphy radio stations in 1957. Childress had a practice of naming his radio stations after his family such as WMSJ which stood for is wife Mickey, daughter Susanne and himself. The station was also referred to as Wonderful Macon, Swain and Jackson. After the death of Childress’ oldest son the call letters were changed to WRGC. Childress was an active member of the Sylva Rotary Club and supported Southwestern Community College’s New Century Scholars program, along with the Western North Carolina University Foundation. Childress would have been ninety on his next birthday in June. The WRGC Family extends our condolences to the family. He will be missed.

DENR Duke Energy Lawsuit

de_logoInternal emails between staff at North Carolina’s environmental agency show state regulators were coordinating with Duke Energy before intervening in efforts by citizens groups trying to sue the company over pollution leeching from its coal ash dumps. In February, DENR Secretary John Skvarla refuted reports the department intervened. The emails show a Duke lobbyist contacted the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, where staff exchanged messages discussing “how Duke wants to be sued.” The emails were provided Thursday to The Associated Press by the Southern Environmental Law Center, which had filed notice in January 2013 of its intent to sue Duke under the Clean Water Act. The agency used its authority to intervene in the lawsuit, quickly negotiating a proposed settlement where the billion company would pay a ,100 fine but be under no requirement to stop its pollution. This information comes on the same day Democrats at the North Carolina legislature say Duke Energy should be forced to move all of its coal ash to lined landfills away from water and make shareholders – not customers – pay for the cleanup. House and Senate Democrats unveiled Thursday the framework of a bill they intend to introduce when the General Assembly reconvenes in May. They want Republicans in charge of the legislature to join them given last month’s coal ash pond rupture along the Dan River. Durham Democratic Representative Paul Luebke says the spill is Duke’s responsibility.

Key Appointed To Crime Commission

800px-Eastern_Band_CherokeeCalling it an “important milestone,” Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Principal Chief Michell Hicks applauded Gov. Pat McCrory’s appointment of tribal member Iva Key to the N.C. Governor’s Crime Commission. She is the first member of the tribe to serve on the commission that advises the governor’s office on crime and public safety policy ”Ms. Key has made great strides on behalf of our tribe as manager of the EBCI Domestic Violence program and we are gratified to know she will take her exceptional talent and experience to Raleigh,” Hicks said. Chief Hicks went on to say that appointment also “signals a commitment by our state to address the issue of violence against women which has long been a pressing problem for Native people in America.” He cited data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting violence against women in Native American tribes is the highest among any group in the nation. Ms. Key’s appointment follows sweeping expansion of the national Violence Against Women Act in 2013 that gave Indian courts greater jurisdiction in domestic violence cases.”It is gratifying that Ms. Key can now expand her commitment to saving lives and improving the ways we treat victims of abuse on a statewide level,” Hicks said.

Thick Smoke In Sylva

NC-Forest-LogoWRGC received numerous phone calls on Tuesday from citizens expressing concerns over the thickening smoke settling over Sylva and surrounding area. According to North Carolina Forest Service Spokesman Ron Hollifield, there were several sources of smoke including a controlled burn in the Big Laurel area of Swain County. Additionally, there were loose fires on the Qualla Boundary along with Controlled and Uncontrolled fires in Upstate South Carolina which fed additional smoke into our area. The Forest Service reminds everyone to exercise caution due to the rapidly drying conditions even after the rain.

Jackson County Tourism Development

SCC-JessicaWaldronThe Jackson County Tourism Development met Tuesday in a planning session to consider several actions for moving the work plan of the Authority forward. One of the most discussed topics was whether the authority needed to hire an executive director. Chairman Robert Jumper stated he sensed a desire by elected officials that an executive director be hired. Several members of the authority stated that volunteer members had given a significant amount of time in marketing and other essential areas. Some members also indicated an executive director could be vital to budgeting strategic planning and general administration. Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Julie Spirio reported that several neighboring counties had similar positions in addition to two or three active Chamber of Commerce in those counties. A committee will be appointed at the next regular meeting of the authority to study the issue further.

Duke Energy Coal Ash Ruling

de_logoA North Carolina judge says Duke Energy must take immediate action to eliminate the source of groundwater pollution at its coal ash dumps. The ruling stems from legal action taken by the Southern Environmental Law Center in 2012. Frank Holleman, with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said “there is no way the current status will protect the environment”. A statement issued from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said “these interpretations were made under the Perdue administration”. Wake County Judge Paul Ridgeway says state regulators failed to properly apply the law.  The group asked the Environmental Management Commission to force Duke to take immediate corrective action when groundwater problems were discovered at the state’s 32 ash dumps. But the commission ruled against the environmental group in December 2012 and they appealed the ruling. The judge’s ruling comes a month after a massive coal ash spill from a Duke facility in Eden coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic gray sludge.

Sen. Nesbitt Funeral Scheduled Tuesday

Mark Nesbitt

Mark Nesbitt

Members of the General Assembly are pausing to remember Sen. Martin Nesbitt who died Thursday after being diagnosed last week with stomach cancer. Wake County Sen. Josh Stein says “Nesbitt was one of the kind”. Funeral services are scheduled in Buncombe County. Nesbitt died just three days after he relinquished his post as Senate Minority Leader due to the illness. Wake County Sen. Josh Stein says “Nesbitt was an advocate for the environment”. Nesbitt’s funeral will be held Tuesday afternoon at Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden, with a private burial to follow. A visitation will be held before the service at the church.

Franklin Stabbing

21 Kirkland Road, Franklin, NC 28734

21 Kirkland Road, Franklin, NC 28734

31-year-old Adam Lee Hensley of Franklin has been charged with first degree murder. Macon County Sheriff’s deputies responded Sunday afternoon to a 911 call and found victim Larry Nelson Wilt laying face down on a porch with multiple stab wounds. Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland said emergency responders tried to revive Wilt, but he was pronounced dead after being taken to the hospital. Sheriff Holland said the suspect was covered in blood and had his hands raised above his head when deputies arrived and took him from the scene. Both men have past records with Macon County Sheriff’s Department. We’ll bring you more details as they become available.

Mustangs Advance to Second Round

m130612The Smoky Mountain Mustang Boys won against Hunter Huss, 85-84 in their match last evening in Greensboro. The Mustangs will play either East Rutherford or North Rowan at 4 pm Saturday for the regional championship at UNC-Greensboro. WRGC will carry this game along with tonight’s Cherokee girls game here on 540am and streaming online as well.