Name as it appears on the ballot: Heather Main
Campaign website: www.hmainnc.com
I am running for the Soil and Water Board of Supervisors in Orange County because I am concerned about the future of water quality and the availability of clean water in Orange County. Conservation of our natural resources such as water, forests and soil, will become increasingly important as we face the challenges of development and climate change. I want to work to improve and protect water quality as it affects our quality of life in our Orange County.
I feel privileged to live along Cane Creek, an important tributary our watershed. For years I have observed the rise and fall of the water levels as it responds to rainfall events. When it floods there is debris and runoff. I know it heads downstream and eventually into the ocean but along the way communities are drinking and using this water. What contaminants are in the water we drink?
Being witnesses to Hurricane Florence and its devastating flooding and damage in North Carolina, I think we can all relate to the importance of clean water and taking a look at better protection of our land in the watersheds.
I am a long time resident or Orange County and a native North Carolinian. I have been interested in protecting the environment most of my life. I am an avid bird watcher and have created a sanctuary for birds and animals on our small farm in Orange County. I work as a consultant in the field of environmental health and safety.
1. Why are you running for the position of soil and water conservation district supervisor?
I want to make citizens more aware of the watersheds for Orange County, how runoff affects our water and how we can improve water quality in our county. I also want to make more people aware of small farms and farmers markets and how we can support these farmers and young people interested in farming.
2. What are the three most pressing natural resources issues in the county?
- Orange County water comes from the watersheds of Cane Creek, the Eno River and the northern Neuse and Cape Fear watersheds. We need to protect these watersheds from pollution, run-off and irresponsible development practices.
- Providing larger buffer zones along streams and watersheds will improve and maintain the quality of our water. We need to consider much larger buffer zone than the 65-85 foot buffer used in the “Method A” equation for determining buffers along streams and watersheds, especially for new housing and business developments. We need to protect the forests and ecosystems along the streams are the filters for our water.
- Support for small and midsized farms in Orange County with more local marketing and consideration of how the county can purchase some of the larger farms that families want to sell to preserve them for small farm development instead of housing tract development.
3. Identify examples of how the district can best balance agricultural/rural and urban interests in regards to soil and water conservation.
There is development pressure in Orange County. We need to consider financially based farmland protection efforts instead of turning farms into housing developments. Once farmland is developed, it cannot be farmed again.
We need to determine how many households our watersheds can support instead of looking at increased tax based development for our county. We also need to consider more responsible development clearing practices to prevent runoff and preserve our water quality.
4. What funding issues are facing the Soil and Water Conservation District?
Our local city and county taxes support our three soil conservationists and we also have a USDA-NRCS District Conservationist. USDA funding may face a 21% funding cut from the 2018 Senate Farm Bill. USDA working lands conservation programs are particularly important for natural resource challenges such as reducing nutrient losses from productive farm fields. This cut may affect our USDA District Conservationist position and farm conservation funding. The USDA provides federal farm conservation programs, such as CSP (Conservation Stewardship Program) and the EQIP (environmental quality investment program) are funded by the Senate Farm Bill. We will need to ask the NC legislature to add more funding for farm conservation issues.
The NC legislature, NC Department of Natural Resources and our federal government want to reduce environmental protection funding and research. We need to consider how to negotiate more environmental protection, not less, given impending impacts from climate change.
How would you ensure the district receives full funding? We need to ask the NC legislature for more funding for clean water and soil conservation issues facing our county.
I think Orange County could raise monies for farm and water and soil conservation in our county with a 5 cent charge each plastic bag used for bagging merchandise, such as groceries. This would also help reduce plastic waste going in our landfills and start a fund for supporting small farmers and for clean up of the environment. This money could be used to purchase a few medium sized farms from retiring farmers to preserve farmland in OC and provide small acreage 1-2 acre tracts to new farmers who do not have the capital to purchase a large farm. We need to preserve farmland in our county.
- Many residents don’t know what the Soil and Water Conservation District actually does. In what ways would you reach out to residents to educate them on the issues facing the county and the district’s efforts?
- I would like to increase awareness of the water quality in Orange County. I would like to increase testing of our water for per-flurocarbons PFC’s and PFOS chemicals, like Gen-X, in the Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough water treatment facilities and publish these results online.
- I would like to encourage citizens to test their water with a water test kits we can provide for a minimal fee but make it easy to access.
- I would like to encourage citizens to recycle and provide more information about what to recycle in our wonderful growing county wide recycling bin pick up with printed flyers. I think a lot of citizens do not know what to recycle.
- I would also promote support for local farm food produced in Orange County and where our citizens can find it more easily by developing a mobile app for farms to be listed by location, types of food available and days available at their farm or at a farmers market. Perhaps a mobile telephone app could be developed for this purpose.
6. What is the district’s role in making sure residents’ water–including those people who use wells―is safe to drink? What role, if any, should the district play in safeguarding the local water supply from emerging contaminants?
Water testing kits should be available to all citizens in the county for a one time free test and then subsequently for a nominal fee of $5.00 to $10.00. Citizens could have the opportunity to order subsequent tests from a vendor for a total of $10 for shipping and testing.
Our district water treatment plants should be testing for new contaminants, like perfluorocarbons (PFC’s) and perfluorooctanesulfonates (PFOS) chemicals similar to GenX and found in fire retardant sprays used by firemen and in Scotchgard, as found in the Cape Fear River and asking companies to stop discharging any chemical pollutants into sediment ponds near our waterways. We need to investigate moving companies and farms out of the flood plain in our county.
7. From a standpoint of conservation and the protection of natural resources, what steps should be taken in developing the Durham-Orange Light Rail line and Wake commuter rail?
I am totally in favor of light rail between Orange, Durham and Wake counties to decrease the traffic and pollution in our counties, especially along I-85 and I-40. I would like to propose that it would take less state and federal highway dollars to build and maintain a light rail system corridor between these three counties than it takes to make and maintain (re-pave) two extra lanes on I-40, I-85 or for the beltlines around Durham or Wake County. We need to have light rail to reduce traffic on these highways for safety and pollution reduction reasons.
Perhaps we need to consider if we could have built the light rail system instead of constantly adding lanes and repaving I-85 and I-40 between the three counties and could have saved millions of dollars with the light rail system and improved air quality.
How much money does it take to repave 1 mile of a four-lane road?
To mill and resurface a 4-lane road, it costs an average of $1.25 million per mile. Then, if you want to expand said road from four lanes to six, you can expect to pay roughly $4 million.
How much money does it take to build 1 mile of a four-lane road? To build a new 4-lane highway: the cost per mile will run between $4 and $6 million in rural or suburban areas, and between $8 to $10 million in urban areas. (The actual estimates can rise beyond these numbers.)