Full Legal Name: Katie Lyn Locklier
Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Katie Locklier
Office Sought/District: Durham County Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor
Date of Birth: November 14, 1989
Home Address: 2714 Sarah Avenue
Mailing Address (if different from home):
Campaign Web Site: https://www.facebook.com/KatieForSupervisor2014
Occupation & Employer: Research and Policy Assistant at Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University
Home Phone: n/a, cell: (270) 705-4051
Work Phone: (919) 613-4362
1. Why are you seeking the office of Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor?
My primary interest for seeking the office of Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) Supervisor is to motivate change and generate interest on the Board of Supervisors to support female, first time, and minority landowners and farmers. I want to push for diversity in policy and agriculture because out of around 500 District supervisors statewide, there are less than 40 females, less than 5 that are 40 or under, and zero that identify as LGBTQ. The Durham County District has not even had more than one female supervisor serving on the board since the 1970s. These statistics do not reflect the valuable diversity of our state, and I hope to begin to change the face of Soil & Water from that of old white men to one that reflect the diversity of Durham County.
Furthermore, I would like to help the Soil & Water Conservation District staff to stay up to date with the latest technology, and continue to help them implement the new Geospatial Analysis software that I encouraged them to acquire as a graduate school intern. I truly believe that SWCDs have a place in our modern environmental movement, and I want to use my experience with social media and other technology to continue move the district beyond the status quo. The Durham County District has consistently set a high performance bar for other SWCDs in North Carolina, and I will continue to encourage the board and staff to strive for excellence. I hope to join the efforts of other young female supervisors Danielle Adams and Jenna Wadsworth, fighting at every level beyond our districts to develop good policies statewide. I am passionate about the environment and people of Durham County, and I hope to effectively balance the two interests as a supervisor.
2. What are the most pressing natural resources issues in the county?
I believe the most pressing natural resource issues for Durham County revolve around water supply and water quality. Situated between and contributing to the two most contested and reservoirs in the entire state, Durham has a unique responsibility to conserve and protect the shared water resources of Jordan and Falls Lakes. It is not enough for the county to protect and conserve the water in Lake Michie, the primary resource for Durham, but it also must seize the opportunity to be a steward to resources shared between Durham, Wake, and Orange Counties.
3. How do you plan to address these issues? Please be specific.
The Durham County SWCD staff and board have the ability to influence behavior changes inside the city and out in the county. As a supervisor, I would continue to support the staff in their development and implementation of cost-share and voluntary conservation programs. Through the Soil and Water Commission and the assistance of the Division of Soil and Water, the district is able to provide cost share assistance through the Agricultural Cost Share Program (Ag CostShare), the Community Conservation Assistance Program (CCAP), and the Agricultural Water Resource Assistance Program (AgWrap). These programs allow agricultural and urban best management practices (BMPs) such as stream restorations and front yard rain gardens to be installed on landowners’ property for a very small cost, increasing the number of residents actively involved in protecting water quality in Durham County. This year, for the first time, the SWCD staff was awarded over $80,000 from the Section 319 Grant fund, offering another cost-share funding avenue for interested residents. As a supervisor, I would encourage and support the staff to seek out new funding opportunities that increase the number of people involved in water protection measures.
Other programs such as the Voluntary Nutrient Reduction Program (VNRP) have been increasingly successful in involving suburban communities in water protection and conservation by reducing the amount of lawn fertilizers running into local streams. While this program has suffered from lack of funding, I believe that new efforts like the educational video I developed as an intern will continue to generate interest and help spread the word to local homeowners when funds are lacking. Building on an historically successful relationship with Duke, I hope to help the District continue to bring in talented and interested student interns to help fill gaps when necessary and increase the involvement of young people. To help ensure that the efforts of the DCSWCD board and staff continue to thrive in the future, I will support the expansion of existing educational programs such as BETC (Bionomic Education Training Center) at Southern High School. The award-winning BETC program has not only taught students valuable occupational skills such as growing trees to sell in the landscaping industry, but has also cultivated an environmental interest in a group of students that may have otherwise never had any interest in these issues. This program would be a great addition to other local high schools, and perhaps even some middle school programs.
Lastly, I hope to increase the visibility and viability of all of the district’s programs in communities and neighborhoods with low-income, young, and minority residents. I will encourage the staff to pursue more projects like the one completed last year with Self-Help, which allowed rain gardens to be installed in local residents’ yards with no cost to them. These projects can improve quality of life, and not only contribute to the environmental health of Durham County, but to the spiritual and emotional health, as well.
4. Identify examples of how the district can best balance agricultural/rural and urban interests in regards to soil and water conservation.
I believe the best way for the district to balance agricultural/rural and urban interests in regards to soil and water conservation is to continue to implement and expand the programs discussed above, among many others. Already, Durham County SWCD is considered to be a statewide leader in urban conservation programs. Through popular cost-share programs such as CCAP and increased involvement in activities such as Big Sweep, the district has substantially increased its visibility to city residents. A new partnership with the City of Durham Stormwater Services will allow for an additional $10,000 worth of urban stormwater BMPs to be installed in 2014, with hopes for expansion in the near future. This new agreement and recent award from the federal 310 Grant Fund will allow the district to put more urban BMPs on the ground than any other district in the state.
Being an urban leader has not prevented the Durham County SWCD from maintaining its deep historical ties with the rural part of Durham County. By serving on important committees, board members have helped the staff support local agricultural producers understand and comply with new watershed rules. Through its multiple cost-share programs, the staff has helped farmers overcome financial challenges of bringing their farms into compliance with new environmental regulations. The district has also encouraged and supported local farmers in developing lifetime easements on their land, preserving farmland for generations to come.
5. How should economic incentives be used to protect the area’s natural resources? What are the financial resources for these incentives?
As previously mentioned, the Durham County SWCD sets an incredible example for other districts by fully utilizing government cost-share funds and seeking out new and innovative grants to put conservation projects on the ground. The ranking systems used to allocate funds for these programs ensure that projects are installed in the most environmentally sensitive areas, such as impaired streams for example, offering a larger return on investment. These local, state, and federal grant programs allow residents to save anywhere from 50-90% on great projects such as cisterns and rain gardens. Every year, these cost-shared projects reduce thousands of pounds of pollutants running into local streams and conserve thousands of gallons of water.
6. Land use policy impacts the quality and quantity of our natural resources. How should the conservation district work with planning and zoning departments to protect the area’s soil and water from urban runoff?
Currently, the DCSWCD staff must approve soil and erosion plans submitted by developers inside and outside of the city limits. By ensuring that their plans comply with relevant environmental regulations, the board only votes to approve plans that will not compromise soil and water conservation goals. Similarly, the district consistently submits comments and participates in conversations regarding larger development projects that affect rural and urban areas of the county. Overall, I think the district should be allowed to be more involved in planning and zoning decisions. For example, a landowner that seeks to rezone a forested residential lot to build a commercial parking lot should be encouraged by the city to work with the DCSWCD to include soil and water conservation methods in the planning of the project. While not legally necessary, it could save a significant amount of time and money in the long run as local residents will likely mount less of an opposition to a project that has incorporated neighbors’ environmental concerns.
7. What are the pros and cons of voluntary and mandatory conservation programs? Which do you think is more effective and why?
The most positive aspect of mandatory conservation programs can also be the most negative. Sure, participation is typically larger in mandatory programs because folks have to participate. Unfortunately, mandatory programs typically come along when there is already a serious problem, such as the Jordan and Falls Lakes rules required by the EPA to address chronic water quality impairment issues. On the other hand, voluntary programs typically suffer from lack of interest or funding, since no one is legally required to participate. While these programs have the ability to prevent major environmental problems, they are often stymied before they thrive.
I believe that when structured appropriately and strategically, voluntary conservation programs can be vastly more effective than mandatory programs. While this is not currently happening in Durham County, some soil and water districts across the country have become involved in administering water quality trading programs. Recently, a voluntary program was established in the Great Miami Watershed in Ohio where farmers can install BMPs (the same ones currently being installed through cost-share programs) and sell credits for the associated nutrient reductions. This program has generated nearly 2 million dollars in revenue for farmers and tens of thousands of pounds of pollution reduction in local waterbodies. As a result of this program, strict environmental regulations may not have to be implemented in the watershed. This is a great example of a voluntary program precluding a mandatory/regulatory one, and I believe it could be just as successful in the state of North Carolina. As previously discussed, economic incentives for conservation are incredibly powerful, and sometimes make solutions possible where they seemed impossible before. When regulations are already in place, farmers and regulators alike have less flexibility, and there can be little room for innovative economic incentive programs as farmers are already using existing ones to achieve compliance rather than generate income.
8. What, if any, permanent water conservation measures should be implemented in Durham County? What usage goal, in gallons per day, should be set for residential customers? Industrial/ commercial customers? How can the county achieve these reduction goals?
According to the US Geological Society (USGS), the average American uses about 80-100 gallons of water per day. The USGS also estimates that the average per capita water use for Durham County is about 169 gallons of water per day. While this statistic includes both residential and industrial/commercial customers, it is a relatively high use rate. This is not uncommon for counties along the Atlantic coast, as water supply has never historically been an issue. I believe Durham County should set a long-term goal for per capita residential use that is much closer to the national average, and continue to encourage the City of Durham’s Department of Water Management to push for participation in conservation activities like installing rain barrels and water-efficient plumbing fixtures. History has shown that early participation in these programs makes it easier to adjust water systems in times of emergency, like a statewide drought.
Disasters such as droughts and hurricanes can leave local municipalities stressed to provide water to residents. It is important that future commercial/industrial water supply goals reflect the amount of water available now and into the uncertain future. I believe it is especially important that water supply and demand studies for Durham County consider such issues as Climate Change when determining appropriate use amounts for different sectors, and it is essential that the water system’s rate structure is designed to encourage desired use and discourage undesired or improper use.
9. Many Durham County residents rely on groundwater and domestic wells for their drinking water. How should the county address the quantity and quality needs of those customers? What is the district’s role in protecting the quality in Falls Lake and Jordan Lake?
Since groundwater is not legally regulated, the county cannot do much to affect the management of these resources. However, the district can encourage the county to reach out to groundwater users to share relevant water saving advice and technology. Similarly, the district can help groundwater users understand what types of pollution issues may be affecting their wells. For example, with the help of City & County GIS, the district staff developed a map of areas highly susceptible to nutrient pollution (mostly through lawn fertilizer and irrigation) and reached out to landowners in those areas to help address these issues.
As discussed earlier, the district has an extremely important role in protecting the quality of water in Jordan and Falls Lakes. Both reservoirs are subject to some of the harshest environmental rules that can be applied to waterbodies in the US due to their extensive nutrient pollution. Studies have shown that the vast majority of this pollution comes from nonpoint sources in both watersheds. Essentially, this means that farms and urban/suburban settings contribute more pollution than wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities. This means that the DCSWCD can significantly influence the success of these lakes by continuing to engage urban and rural residents in water conservation and pollution reduction programs. Science has proven time and time again that pollution prevention efforts are always more cost-effective than costly cleanup measures that cost all of us money.
10. What is your stance on fracking? If fracking does happen in Durham County, what is the district’s role in protecting farmland, water quality and other natural resources? What is the district’s relationship with DENR on this point?
I am neither overwhelmingly for nor against fracking (hydraulic fracturing) in North Carolina. I do, however, have a number of concerns regarding the relatively new and under-studied nature of the industry and its history with private landowners. First and foremost, if fracking does come to Durham County, it is the district’s responsibility to help private home/landowner’s access important resources to protect their property from any possible damages caused by fracking activities. I believe that the district should advocate for proper baseline monitoring and compliance monitoring activities in order to protect the county’s valuable natural resources. In parts of the country where fracking is already occurring, scientists are struggling to explicitly connect fracking to undesirable consequences due to a lack of baseline data. It is crucial that North Carolina does not make the same mistake as other states in this regard.
Recently, Durham County SWCD staff was invited to submit comments to the Mining and Energy Commission (MEC) on the proposed state fracking rules. I support the staff’s concerns over minimum buffer distances from fracking activities to streams and compliance and monitoring reporting. I believe the staff and board should remain involved with the MEC as rules are developed, but they have no special role in the development or the implementation of these rules. It is still a little early to tell exactly what the relationship between the DCSWCD and DENR will be if fracking begins, but I would push for the staff to have some sort of oversight on fracking decisions with major environmental concerns.
Lastly, I believe it is hugely important for the DCSWCD not to participate in nor encourage overly emotional debate on the issue of fracking, but instead focus on the latest scientific understanding of fracking concerns. The two best studies on fracking (out of Duke) have established that leaky gas wells are the primary concern for communities in the Marcellus Gas Shale in Pennsylvania, and have found no evidence of migrating fracking chemicals, a substance that many fear due to the proprietary nature of its compounds. While testing and studying the chemicals in fracking fluids is important (and hopefully will someday happen), it would be more important for the district to educate and support residents near gas wells so that they can protect their land and water and have legal recourse if damaged by the activities of gas companies.
11. Evaluate the effectiveness of the Farm Protection Program. What are the successes and challenges of that program? How do you suggest that it be improved?
Over the past several years, Durham County has made large strides in farmland preservation to help counteract the tremendous loss of farms over the past century. Since 2004, the number of farms and number farmland acres has been increasing. Thanks to the district, the farmland advisory board, and the open space committee, there has been an emphasis on permanent easements and voluntary agricultural districts. Due to a combination of federal and local funding opportunities, generational and first time farmers are able to make a sustainable living as agricultural producers. While this program seems to be more beneficial to larger farms, local and hobby farms have seen a lot of increased urban and suburban interest, with local markets flourishing more than ever before. I think the new regional food hub in Durham can also help local farmers.
12. What funding issues are facing the Soil and Water District? How do you propose to ensure the district receives full funding? Are there alternative funding sources the district could explore? If so, what are they?
It is my understanding that one of the largest funding issues facing the Durham County Soil & Water Conservation District is primarily related to staffing. The district implements more cost-share money than any other in the state, yet still sometimes struggles to get all of the projects on the ground as there are only two staff members administering the programs. Additionally, the staff struggles to implement programs related to the Jordan and Falls Lakes rules as they are already stretched thin with important cost-share programs. Other county departments involved in the watershed rules were awarded new staff positions once the rules were in place, but the DCSWCD was not. As a supervisor, I would prompt the board to continue to support the DCSWCD Director in acquiring a new position in the next fiscal year.
If properly staffed, the DCSWCD could indeed seek out new or increased funding opportunities through programs like the 319 Grant Fund. Currently, there are funding sources available for the district to explore, but not enough staff to apply, receive, and implement the funds. To account for this gap, the district could continue to seek out grant funds that allow for contracted services while still lobbying for a new permanent position on staff.