Legislative Update from Representative Frank Iler – August 22, 2017

The two weeks since my last column have been active for me, although I haven’t had to travel to Raleigh.  I have been able to meet with so many interesting groups around the district, and have been involved in several ongoing issues.  In our region we have held a ground-breaking Teacher Academy, we have learned about the safety status of our drinking water, we have seen legal threats to our beach and inlet projects, and I have met with several community groups.

The week of August 7th through the 11th, Brunswick County Schools held a Teacher Academy, the first of its kind, thanks to a generous grant from the Brunswick County Board of Education.  I was fortunate to attend and visit some of the groups who were meeting on Thursday of that week, and then return Friday morning for the ribbon-cutting to open the new school year.  Our teachers were well into their lesson plans for the semester, and were sharing best ideas from all the schools at their grade level and subject (like all the fourth grade math teachers, for example). It struck me that the new teachers would be starting class on their first day with much more information and confidence that they know what they and other teachers are doing. Also, they would have lesson plans done that would otherwise take most of their family time at night. I believe that this pioneering effort will give more confidence, professionalism, and enthusiasm to all the dedicated teachers we have in Brunswick County. There were many enthusiastic volunteers that helped with the academy, but special thanks go to leaders Jessica Swencki, Paige Garza, Antoinette Barnhill, and Kathy Oliver, as well as great support from Supt. Les Tubb and his staff.

Over the past two months, a lot of concern and conversation has been raised about our drinking water coming from the Cape Fear River.  While the urgency of the GenX controversy is being met by stopping the outflow from Chemours and our expert water treatment engineers in the area, there is much we need to know about the safety of our drinking water in the Cape Fear region and in the state.  The Environmental Review Commission has been reappointed by the legislature and advisory members have been added.  I was just notified that I am one of the advisory members, and our first meeting is in Wilmington this Wednesday, August 23nd.  We hope to get to the bottom of why this can happen, given the resources that have been given to the concerned departments over the years.  I also wonder why we allow dumping of chemicals before we know their safety, rather than after.

We learned last week that the Southern Environmental Law Center is suing the Army Corps of Engineers over their issuing the permit to Ocean Isle Beach for their terminal groin project at the east end of the island.  After two years of public input, including input from the Audubon Society whom the SELC represents, they waited until the week that OIB is opening bids to file suit.  This is the way the SELC operates, delaying projects like the Bonner Bridge and the Monroe Bypass for up to 20 years.  One can only guess how many lives and injuries have resulted from the delays in these improvements.  The multi-millions in taxpayer dollars wasted on increased construction costs and legal fees is well known.  This project is needed to protect the beach and create turtle habitat. One can hope the court sees through this quickly. Wonder why they didn’t sue over the similar Bald Head Island project, which was built almost two years ago?

Additional actions the past week have included a lunch meeting with the Southport town council and Sen. Rabon to discuss the waterfront and other issues.  Also, on Friday, I met with a Brunswick Plantation HOA group in the Calabash area to discuss a project of concern on Highway 17 near their entrance.  Commissioner Randy Thompson and DOT engineers were also involved in the meeting.

This week I am involved in the Environmental Review Commission meeting on Wednesday.  Then we return to Raleigh Thursday to draw new districts and override vetoes.