YouTube video

Name as it appears on the ballot: Ian McMillan

Campaign website:

Phone number: 919-608-3156


Years lived in the district:16

1. Why are you running for the position of soil and water conservation district supervisor? In your answer, please explain your understanding of the role and why it is important.

I am an environmental scientist and a public servant. I take great pride in both. This is the only technical position on the Wake County ballot this November 6, and I am the only candidate in the race with education, training and more than 23 years’ experience in the environment and natural resources in both the private and public sector. I have taught wetland classes, stream identification classes, and reviewed proposed and completed stream restorations, written buffer authorizations and helped with 401 stormwater reviews.  I intend to bring my robust training and experience to the district to help solve Wake County’s environment and natural resources issues. From Soil and Water Conservation literature, “The role of the district board of supervisors is to establish local soil and water conservation priorities and oversee implementation of programs based on the needs of the district.” This role is important because the board of “supervisors meet regularly (generally monthly) to address priorities through the installation and implementation of program and best management practices that protect and improve the natural resources within the district.”  Districts work closely with county, state and federal governments and both public and private organizations in a non-regulatory capacity to carry out a comprehensive conservation program that protects and improves the county’s natural resources while assisting private landowners in using conservation practices. This partnership has been the backbone of successful efforts over the past 81 years to address serious problems across the state including soil erosion, flood damage and water quality problems. These three issues apply to Wake County.

2. What are the three most pressing natural resources issues in the county? How do you plan to address these issues? Please be specific.

In my professional opinion, the three most important environmental issues facing Wake County are as follows:

  1. My number one issue is developing new and sustainable water supplies – This is an extremely important issue as some areas of Wake County, based on public records, will need to identify future, secure, and reliable water supplies to meet projected water demand. I am of the opinion, and it is shared by others, that the most reliable, “ready now” source is the available water supply in Kerr Lake. In fact, I wrote the STUDY REALLOCATION OF WATER SUPPLY IN KERR LAKE report per North Carolina General Assembly Session Law. I look forward to participating with federal, state, county, municipal staff and citizens to work on solutions for this issue.   
  2. Second Issue: Stormwater Runoff. This is the number one pollutant in the state. Wake County is no exception. I believe the only way to adequately address this issue is to fully enforce existing regulations and work with municipal, county and state government to possibly add additional regulations to properly abate this pollution. Wake County Soil and Water Conservation addresses this issue on a daily basis.
  3. My third issue is maintaining, and ideally expanding, the number of Wake County farms. It would be a shame for Wake County to completely build-out as an urban/suburban county. There is an effort in the works to explore paths for young people who want to farm small farms that provide a farm-to-table experience to the citizens of Wake County. Granted, I understand this type of effort would require some type of subsidy from government, but I am of the opinion it would be money well spent.   

3. Identify examples of how the district can best balance agricultural/rural and urban interests in regards to soil and water conservation.

It will take balanced, intentional and visionary planning to make these communities compatible. I would also add a suburban perspective to the equation. Sadly, as Wake County continues to grow, farms are sold to developers who of course then start “growing houses.” From talking with voters, I understand there is some concern with how the larger municipalities with their large tax bases are more inclined these days toward more measured growth, while smaller towns are more open to more expansive growth. With these competing interests in the county, I believe that an open, constructive listening session with all parties included should be scheduled.  This arena is where I know my education, training and experience will be especially valuable to the district. The farmer’s need a voice in this dialogue and I intend to be that voice. I will be an advocate for the Wake County agricultural community and fight to help preserve Wake County farms. As noted before, my body of work and opinions are respected throughout federal, state, county, municipal and citizen organizations.

4. What funding issues are facing the Soil and Water Conservation District? How would you ensure the district receives full funding? Are there alternative funding sources the district could explore? If so, what are they?

From Soil and Water Conservation District literature, “Local districts receive funding from federal, state and local governments and independent fund-raising efforts. Funding sources include:

  • Local – most districts receive funding from their county government that may include appropriations that fund office space, personnel and equipment, as well as specific conservation programs and projects.
  • State – North Carolina provides technical and administrative assistance and some equipment through the Division of Soil and Water Conservation. Financial assistance is also provided by the state and administered by the NC Soil and Water Conservation Commission with staff assistance from the division. Funding is available through:
  • matching funds to districts
  • Agriculture Cost Share Program
  • Community Conservation Assistance Program
  • grants
  • special project funds
  • Federal – the Natural Resource Conservation Service provides personnel, technical assistance and equipment in support of district conservation programs, and may also provide financial assistance through federally initiated conservation programs implemented through local districts.
  • Independent Fund-Raising – many districts raise money through grant-writing or activities such as selling tree saplings and conservation materials, or renting equipment such as no-till drills.

Note: all funds received by a district are public monies. As a governmental body, each district must properly administer and account for all funds.”

Currently, the district is solvent, however, much like the “publish or perish” college professor, the district must remain vigilant in its pursuit of potential funding sources. These include, but are in no way limited to, the 319 and 205J federal grants that my River Basin Planning branch with the state reviews. Bottom of Form

5. 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?

As I have been campaigning, I am frequently asked “What does a NC Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor do?” Well, from June 2016, NC Division of Soil and Water Conservation, NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the NC Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, literature, here is the answer to your question:

(Soil and Water Conservation) “Districts work closely with county, state and federal governments and public/private organizations to carry out conservation programs that protect and improve the county’s natural resources while assisting private landowners in using conservation practices. In North Carolina, some districts have taken on regulatory responsibilities, in which district law gives the board authority to pass and enforce local ordinances.”

“In the case of soil and water conservation, the district is the board, which has the authority to hire district conservation employees if they choose to help them with implementing the state’s soil and water conservation programs.”

“The role of the district board of supervisors is to establish local soil and water conservation priorities and oversee implementation of programs based on the needs of the district.” Boards of supervisors meet regularly (generally monthly) to address priorities through the installation and implementation of program and best management practices that protect and improve the natural resources within the district. The work is accomplished by partnering with local, state and federal agencies: businesses; and non-profit organizations for technical and financial assistance. The board is also responsible for reviewing and approving contracts for four key programs administered by the NC Division of Soil and Water Conservation. These include the Agriculture Cost Share Program (ACSP), Agriculture Water Resources Assistance Program AgWRAP), the Community Conservation Assistance Program (CCAP), and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP).”

The river basin plans that my branch (within the NC Division of Water Resources) develops include reporting on the ASCP, AgWRAP, CCAP and CREP activities within each of the state’s 17 river basins.

I would make an effort to attend County Commission meetings, municipal council meetings, and General Assembly meetings, to disseminate Soil and Water Conservation District literature and engage in dialogue, as well as attending events such as the State Fair, and posting on social media outlets on a regular basis.

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?

This district’s role in making sure resident’s water—including those who use wells—is safe to drink is indirect. The programs the district implements do directly impact the quality of surface water and therefore, indirectly groundwater, but other departments within the county and state are more directly involved with public water supply and wells. The district does play a role in safeguarding the local water supply from emerging contaminants. Agricultural operations (poultry, swine, dairy, and cattle operations) waste sources may be a source of some emerging contaminants.

Wake County does not have concerns of contaminants at this time.

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 have spent many years working on large projects such as this, however, for this project, since the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has been completed and the Record of Decision (ROD) recorded, effectively, the “cow is out of the barn”. I have not read the EIS, but EIS reviews include the effects of the proposed activities on the environment, and in this case “environment” is defined as the natural and physical environment and the relationship of people with that environment. This means that the “environment” considered in an EIS includes land, water, air, structures, living organisms, environmental values at the site, and the social, cultural, and economic aspects.

In theory, and usually in practice, since the EIS is reviewed by multiple federal, state, county, municipal staff, as well as the public, “conservation and protection of natural resources” has been addressed prior to the ROD being issued.