Cape Fear Chapter

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October 8, 2013

Wrightsville Beach Candidates Respond to Environmental Questionnaire

1.Do you support or oppose Titan America’s plan to open a cement plant on the NE Cape Fear River?

Lisa Weeks

I recognize the importance of attracting new employers to the area, but I am concerned about the potential impact the plant will have on our air and water quality.

Bill Sisson

Oppose:  Our county is already one of the most heavily polluted in the state and I can see no gain to be had from locating an industrial operation that will deposit much more pollution into our environment.  The impact on the health of our citizens and our local waters will be very damaging.  In addition, all platitudes aside, we cannot depend on the regulatory agencies to protect us.  Simply witness the recent decision of the Division of Air Quality to expand Titan’s air quality permit to permit even more pollutants to be discharged from their proposed operation.

Hank Miller

As with all business and industry that wishes to locate in New Hanover County, I welcome them if – and only if — they meet all of the local, state and federal regulations in place to ensure the health and wellbeing of our residents, the environment and our community. New Hanover County needs a diverse mix of business and industry to sustain a healthy economy. As a resident of New Hanover County I support Titan America’s right to proceed through its regulatory process, just as I support and respect individuals’ right to voice their opposition to the proposed cement plant.

Bill Blair; Mayor Unopposed

No response.

Andy Hall

No Response.

2.Do you support or oppose the opening of the Mid-Atlantic Ocean region to seismic air-gun testing for the exploration of off-shore oil & gas? 

Lisa Weeks

Energy independence is important for our future. However, tourism generates almost a half a billion dollars into our community. Visitors come to the area because we have some of the cleanest waters in the country and our beaches are pristine and renourished. I am particularly concerned about the possibility of fracking fluid waste being shipped to our community and injected into our deep water wells from not only the middle of the state where shale gas is potentially located but other states as well. I applaud Rep. Catlin for uncovering this issue and hope we  can prevent it. We live in a fragile environment along the coastline, so I would be hesitate to support any new energy collection without some assurance that the benefits outway the risks..

Bill Sisson

Oppose:  Such technology can only have a negative impact on our aquatic environment.  The risks far outweigh the potential benefits.

Hank Miller

This is a complex issue that the federal government and regulators have been grappling with since 2010, and I look forward to learning more about the issue and its potential impact on the waters and marine life off our coast.

Billy Blair; Mayor Unopposed

No response.

Andy Hall

No Response.

3.Do you support or oppose offshore oil & gas production off the coast of NC? 

Lisa Weeks

See #2 above

Bill Sisson

Oppose: I believe the purported benefits that would accrue to the state from the deposits have been overblown.  I do not think the total amount of deposits that reside off our coast justify the risk of blowouts and the destabilization of the sea bed that might result from such an enterprise, not to mention the impact of rigs on the sea life.

Hank Miller

Offshore oil and gas production is regulated at the federal level and would not fall within my oversight as an alderman. My focus is – and should be – on our local community and what I can do to strengthen and preserve it. My three main priorities for the Wrightsville Beach community are (1) the Biggert Flood Insurance Reform Act and its impact on property values; (2) a long-term solution to beach re-nourishment, and (3) the refurbishment of our community’s aging infrastructure.

Billy Blair; Mayor Unopposed

No response.

Andy Hall

No Response.

4.Do you support or oppose lifting the moratorium on Hydraulic Fracking in NC?

 Lisa Weeks

See #2 above.

Bill Sisson

Oppose – I do not yet see the scientific evidence that Fracking will not cause more harm than good.  In addition the issue of how to deal with the waste water and chemicals from the process has yet to be defined.  We know for sure that the aquifers in the eastern part of the state are permeable and totally unsuited for storage and until testing of other areas can be done and deemed secure I cannot support initiating the process.

Hank Miller

The primary duty of an Alderman is to focus his or her efforts on the numerous local issues that impact our community on a daily basis and not allow ourselves to be distracted by state and federally regulated issues that, although very important, do not fall within our area of governance. 100% of my focus as an Alderman is to work on behalf our local residents to meet the needs of our community.

Billy Blair; Mayor Unopposed

No Response

Andy Hall

No response

5. As an elected leader, what are some of your ideas for improving stormwater management?

Lisa Weeks

On Wrightsville Beach, we have an aging water and sewer infrastructure. As alderman, I would work to help implement an effective repair/replacement program. A resident education program about the benefits of drought resistance landscapes may be helpful in reducing the amount of runoff in our storm drains and waterways, and implementation of bike paths could help reduce traffic around the island. Also, I am interested in learning the results of the town’s investigation, in collaboration with UNC-CH Marine Science program, of water contamination in Banks Channel. The possibility of “regrowth” of E.coli and enterococcus from the sediment in the stormwater pipes could explain the high number of swim advisories in Banks Channel after a storm.

Bill Sisson

Wrightsville Beach has been a leader in researching the causes of storm water pollution.  We have partnered with UNC Chapel Hill and UNCW to determine the causes of bacterial pollution using DNA technology.  I would continue this process until we have identified the sources (right now it appears that biofilm in the pipes is a major issue) and once we have we can formulate policies to address it.  We also need to do more to encourage the use of more permeable surfaces in construction and landscaping as well as providing incentives for installing rain gardens, rain barrels and using swails along roadsides and sidewalks.

Hank Miller

Long-term solutions come from long-term planning and research. I advocate that the board works with staff to initiate a long-term stormwater management plan that explores best practices and alternative solutions to better manage the stormwater runoff in our community. There are some intriguing new low tech, low cost filtering systems in place in other coastal communities that are yielding great results. These systems warrant a closer look and could possibly provide Wrightsville Beach with a viable solution for our own stormwater issues.

Billy Blair; Mayor Unopposed

No response.

Andy Hall

No response

 6. Do you support or oppose efforts to reduce single-use plastics? As an elected official what steps would you support or oppose, a check out register Plastic Bag Ban, Fee, or Bag Return Incentive?

 Lisa Weeks

This initiative would have to occur at the county level as there are very few businesses in Wrightsville Beach who provide single use bags. I would support a way to encourage/incent folks to use reusable bags. Also, I believe Wrightsville Beach could improve our sanitation program. The New Hanover County Commissioners are struggling with how to extend the life of the landfill, and increased recycling would reduce the number of trips our trucks take to the landfill while saving the town money.

Bill Sisson

I oppose the use of single use plastics.  As chairman of the Cleaner Greener Committee I supported the Town’s conversion to using recyclable coffee cups instead of Styrofoam.  We talked about a plastic bag ban with the County Commission two years ago but nothing developed.  I would support such a ban on Wrightsville Beach but acknowledge that most of our plastic waste comes from across the bridge.  I think that a fee for plastic bags combined with a bag return incentive are workable and should be used as first steps in this process.

Hank Miller

Litter in our community and on the beach is a problem that we need to address. We need to ensure that there are adequate trash receptacles in our community and that our solid waste management plan best meets the needs of the community. I am not a fan of over-regulation, but if the majority of the voters in Wrightsville Beach support a more aggressive solution to plastics disposal, I would strongly consider it.

Billy Blair; Mayor Unopposed

No response.

Andy Hall

No response.

7.Do you support or oppose policy to allow the use of more hardened structures (terminal groins, jetties, seawalls, etc) to stabilize beach erosion and inlet stabilization?

Lisa Weeks

When I served as Wrightsville Beach Alderman from 2008-2011, I voted for a resolution to oppose terminal groins, etc. Although they may protect the beach directly in front of the structure, the unintended consequences are erosion to structures a couple of miles on each side of the groins. I would prefer to work hard to ensure future beach renourshment programs are funded.

Bill Sisson

I oppose the use of terminal groins because I think that they will result in a net loss of sand through the transfer of erosion.  I do not think that hardened structures will work for shallow draft inlets for the same reason.  However the jetty (weir) on the deeper Masonboro Inlet performs as advertised by allowing sand through slowly that can then be put back on the beach to stabilize it without creating offshore destabilization.

Hank Miller

Beach erosion and beach re-nourishment are two of the most pressing challenges that face our beach community. A long-term solution to beach re-nourishment is one of my campaign’s top priorities, so I am committed to seeking out the counsel of experts in engineering and coastal management to determine the most prudent solution that will protect our community but not compromise the long-term health of our ecosystem.

Billy Blair; Mayor Unopposed

No response.

Andy Hall

No response.

8.Do you support or oppose the regulation of smoking on publicly held land including parks and beaches?

 Lisa Weeks

I support the democratic process and the majority of Wrightsville Beach voters supported the current ban on the beach.

Bill Sisson

I was one of the originators of the smoking ban on Wrightsville Beach.  I support these policies because they address the major public health issue of second hand smoke and the source of the most frequent source of litter on our beaches.  I supported the policy for Wrightsville Beach Parks as well.

Hank Miller

I support a clean and healthy beach environment that all people can enjoy. Litter, whether in the form of a cigarette butt, plastic cup or plastic bag, not only mars the beauty of our beach, but poses a health hazard for wildlife.

Billy Blair; Mayor Unopposed

No response.

Andy Hall

No reponse.

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