Watauga could benefit from TVA settlement funds
by Anna Oakes
Watauga is among 17 Western North Carolina counties that
could benefit from millions of dollars from a 2011 settlement with the
Tennessee Valley Authority to address excessive air pollution from its
coal-fired power plants.
N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler last week outlined a plan for using $2.24 million in funds from the state’s settlement with the TVA 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.
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.
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 and 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.
The amount of money to be allocated to each of these
funding categories has not been determined, Troxler said in statement.
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.
A July report from the N.C. Division of Air Quality found that mercury accumulation occurs at a greater level in the mountains, as well as the coast, because these areas see greater amounts of precipitation and are located downwind of mercury emission sources.