|General Assembly Earmarks TVA Funds for Eastern NC, Not Western NC|
The Asheville Citizen Times has reported that the North Carolina General Assembly has earmarked the first $2.24 million of an $11.2 million settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority for Agricultural Development, with most of the initial funds to be spent in the eastern part of the state.
The settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority power plants was supposed to help increase energy efficiency and reduce pollution in western North Carolina. The agreement says that North Carolina should first look to spend the money in western North Carolina, which was the region hit hardest by omissions from the Tennessee Valley Authority plants. It is allowed, however, to be used elsewhere.
The Republican-controlled House approved the budget provisions that would give control of the first of five payments from the Tennessee Valley Authority to the Department of Agriculture, which is an independent agency headed by Republican Steve Troxler. It is foreseeable that the mountains would seek less of the money since agriculture in the eastern part of the state dwarfs that in the western part of the state.
A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture said that the agency did not ask for the responsibility and has little in-house expertise to direct the use of money.
"This is not something that we sought," said spokesman Brian Long.
As the state Senate has yet to complete its budget deliberations, it is possible that the final version of the budget will put the responsibility of allocating the money with the energy office, as was originally proposed.
For now, it is hard to see exactly where this money will wind up. The western part of the state, however small and agricultural, still has a tremendous interest in the settlement agreement and is the part of the state that has been directly affected by the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Updated: September 6, 2012
The General Assembly appropriated $2.24 million to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Steve Troxler outlined a plan urging the money only be used for Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey Counties.
A portion of the funds is set to go to the nonprofit WNC Communities for a grant program focusing on agriculture and forestry and to enhance the DuPont State Recreational Forest in Transylvania County. The rest of the money is going to the N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund for projects in the aforementioned counties. It would award grants that promote agricultural development and allow farmers to be more profitable, and support efforts to purchase conservation easements to preserve farmland.
A portion of the money is also set to acquire property that is part of an 8,000 acre tract along the headwaters of the French Broad River’s East Fork in a partnership with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy.
The General Assembly has yet to determine exactly how much will go where.