Environment

Firefighters from around the world meet Monday in Raleigh to discuss how to improve the way they battle wildfires.  The International Association of Wildland Fire hosts a conference this week that focuses on better communication and learning the behavior of wildfires as a few ways to contain them.  Organization spokeswoman Paula Nelson says those techniques can vary in North Carolina, where the landscape can shift rapidly from dense forest to peat bog.

"Each of those takes specific skills, so the local people are the ones you really turn to," Nelson says.

wind turbines
Board of Ocean Energy Management

The Kitty Hawk town council has adopted a resolution to keep any proposed offshore wind energy turbines out of sight.  Council members forwarded the resolution to federal regulators as a plea to protect the natural beauty of the Outer Banks. 

Acacia is expecting a baby in early summer
Tom Gillespie, N.C. Zoo

    

On Valentine’s Day, the North Carolina Zoo announced that one of its three female gorillas is expecting a baby. If the pregnancy is successful, this will be the third baby gorilla born at the State Zoo in less than a year.  The two other female gorillas both gave birth last August.

Loggerhead sea turtle
Wendell Reed, via Flickr, Creative Commons

The Network for Endangered Sea Turtles, or "NEST", is running out of money. The group relies on donations to rescue sea turtles along  the North Carolina coast, and they are struggling to deal with a large number of turtles that became hypothermic when a cold snap cooled shallow water quickly.

The first of three City Council subcommittee meetings takes place Monday morning as lawmakers begin drafting a new tree ordinance for the city. Strong turnout is expected from residents, many of who were outraged last month after Duke Energy cut down dozens of trees in residential neighborhoods.

Bahama Pintail Duck
Snowman radio via Flickr, Creative commons

In 2009, Sylvan Heights Bird Park received a call from the US Embassy in Trinidad, asking them to help restore two species of nearly-extinct native ducks, the White-Faced Whistling Duck and the Bahama Pintail. Four years later, they are celebrating the successful introduction of individuals of both species back into Trinidad, a promising sign for the health of native populations.

NC DOT

Triangle areas are experiencing sleet, freezing rain and -- in some parts snow -- as part of a winter weather system quickly passing through.  While the falling precipitation is expected to end this evening, the slick conditions it will leave behind may cause issues for drivers into tomorrow morning.  NC DOT spokeswoman Jennifer Garifo says maintenance employees are planning for long shifts today.

Slushy Day Ahead

Jan 25, 2013
noaa.gov
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for much of central and western North Carolina.  Meteorologist Phil Badgett says snow and sleet could cause slippery road conditions Friday afternoon.

A cougar at the NC Zoo
Jeff Owen

Keepers  at the North Carolina Zoo used a snow-making machine to fill a cougar's habitat with snow on Tuesday. With temperatures not expected to get out of the 30's, zoo visitors can expect to see the exhibit snow for several days.

On Tuesday night in Greensboro the temperature is expected to drop into the teens and shelters are expecting to be at or near capacity. Four years ago there was a significant rise in the number of people seeking shelter during the winter months. Greensboro didn’t have enough beds and on many cold nights dozens of people had to sleep on floors. The city responded by opening a half dozen winter emergency shelters for frigid nights like tonight. Reverend Mike Aiken says those facilities opened December 1st and will be packed this week.

Credit Jeff Tiberii

Many residents in Greensboro are upset with Duke Energy over the company's practice of pruning, and in some cases cutting, neighborhood trees. Frustrated citizens started two Facebook groups, collected 15-hundred signatures for a petition and demanded that local leaders step in and help.

Ten Years ago sub contractors for Duke Energy made the rounds in several Greensboro neighborhoods, trimming and cutting trees that were too close to power lines. It sent residents who felt the pruning was too aggressive into an uproar. They complained to elected officials and Duke eventually heard about it, but nothing really changed. In fact nothing really happened at all. Last month crews returned to some neighborhoods for the first time in a decade.

Raleigh utilities officials hope to outpace city growth by unveiling a new phase in wastewater treatment expansion.

City leaders say new residential development and yearly threats of drought warrant a new upgrade at the Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant.  Over the years, the plant's capacity has doubled from 30 million gallons of treated water daily to 60 million. 

Lawmakers in Greensboro will create a new ordinance following public outcry over trees being cut down by Duke Energy.

Dozens of residents turned out to a City Council meeting this week to share their frustration over what they describe as unnecessary and aggressive tree cutting measures by Duke Energy. The utility company completely cut down about 150 trees in the last few months, prompting public response.  City Council woman Marikay Abuzuaiter:

The North Carolina Ferry Division says service remains spotty between Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands.
NCDOT

The North Carolina Ferry Division says service remains spotty between Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. State transportation officials have been suspending service on a daily basis since a series of storms in November. Ferry Division spokeswoman Lucy Wallace says the channel routinely experiences shallow waters after high winds and heavy rain:

Boat builders on the Outer Banks say they're losing millions of dollars worth of business as the Oregon Inlet remains closed. The water there has been too shallow to allow vessels through since November. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it can not afford the $17 million it needs to dredge the inlet. Some business owners told Dare County Commissioners this week they might relocate if the inlet remains impassible. John Bayliss owns a boat building company in Wanchese.

Dredging crews are set to survey the Oregon Inlet again this morning after they suspended operations due to shallow waters. Officials with the U-S Army Corps of Engineers say strong winds brought more sand into the inlet last week. That prevents crews from using their side-casting dredge. Bob Sattin is the cheif operator for the Army Corps of Engineers in Wilmington:

In Greensboro, a day-long conference today will look at developing and improving new kinds of fuel. The Biofuels Center is bringing together a collection of small business owners, educators and environmentalists. A series of panel discussions will share ideas about forms of sustainable energy, bio fuels and the advantages to local economies. Leif Forer is manager of the Civic and Small-Scale Biofuels Center.

Leif Forer:  "The big picture goal is to get a lot of new biofuels produced in North Carolina and enrich our communities and or environment while doing so."

North Carolinians are remembering a paralyzing ice storm that happened 10 years ago today.

About 1-point-8 million people were without power at the storm's height. Residents, businesses and first responders were all at the storm's mercy. Many of them have learned lessons a decade later. Barry Porter of the American Red Cross says mobilizing before any storm is important

Barry Porter: "We have to get our materials and supplies so we partner with government agencies to know which shelters can be opened. Which ones have power ability on their own."

A new program in Greensboro aims to keep old mattresses from being sent to the dump.

In what is believed to be the first initiative of its kind in the country the City is partnering with Mattress Go Round. The Greensboro company recycles old mattresses and box springs by repairing, sanitizing and rebuilding them for resale. President and Founder of the company Robert Savino says keeping the bulky mattresses out of landfills will save space and money.

North Carolina is seeking to regulate emissions from a big egg-producing facility, using the Clean Water Act. Today the department of Environment and Natural Resources will be in Hyde County Superior Court, where Rose Acre Farms will argue the state can't use water regulations to control air emissions. At issue are pollutants being released through ventilation fans in Rose Acre's hen houses, which contain more than 3 million chickens.

 An organization in Durham that set out to help locals save on their energy bills is expanding its reach.    Clean Energy Durham is five years old.  The small non-profit developed a creative energy-saving model that trains organizations and neighborhood groups and encourages them to tell a neighbor.

Judy Kincaid:  "It builds community within neighborhoods, between neighborhoods and it saves people money."

Judy Kincaid is Executive Director of Clean Energy Durham.

North Carolina Department of Transportation officials will find out this morning if the Nor'easter that skirted the Outer Banks yesterday added to the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. NC 12 was washed out in several places and covered with sand in others. There was also damage to the tension cables on Bonner Bridge. Dara Demi works for the DOT. She says repairs could take several weeks.

The Coast Guard is continuing its search for the missing captain of the tall ship that sank off North Carolina's coast. The replica ship HMS Bounty went down in wind and waves stirred up by Hurricane Sandy. 63-year-old Robin Walbridge has not been seen since Monday. Searchers rescued 14 of the ship's crew. One crew member died. Petty Officer Brandyn Hill is a Coast Guard spokesman. He says they look at several factors before opting to continue a search.

North Carolinians are stepping up to help people in the mid-Atlantic and New England states affected by the storm. Duke Energy is sending crews to help restore power. Dave Scanzoni is a spokesman for the utility.

Dave Scanzoni:" Duke Energy has committed to send about 12-hundred line workers to the Northeast and impacted areas from Hurricane Sandy. These crews will mostly be contractors that work full time for Duke Energy largely in Florida and some from our territories in Indiana as well."

Residents along North Carolina's coast are watching to see what Hurricane Sandy does in the Atlantic.

Officials with the City of Raleigh may ask for some changes to be made to how much water they can use from Falls Lake Reservoir. The request may delay plans for a new reservoir in eastern Wake County.

Leaders from across the country will speak tomorrow at a conference on the health effects of natural gas fracking. The Research Triangle Environmental Health Collaborative is a non-profit group that holds an annual conference every year on health issues. Martin Armes is the executive director of the collaborative. He said,  "We certainly recognize that we identify some hot button issues but we're going to try to conduct these meetings in a manner to be as productive as we can to make some recommendations. And we try to depoliticize the process as much as we can."

Conservatives will discuss the environment today at Duke University. Politicians, academics and business leaders are among those attending and speaking at the event, entitled Conservative Visions of our Environmental Future. Jessalee Landfried is one of the organizers of the event and a Duke law student who's also pursuing a degree at Duke-Nicholas School of the Environment. She says these issues have become deeply partisan.

At this hydroelectric damn water passes through the penstocks, as Alcoa employees observe
Jeff Tiberii

Nearly 100 years ago Alcoa Incorporated began generating electricity by using dams along the Yadkin River about 60 miles South of the Triad. For decades that electricity was used to power Alcoa’s aluminum plant in Badin. The factory has long since closed, however, and today the electricity is sold on the open market. Alcoa owns the hyrdoelectric dams and is seeking another 50-year federal license to operate them – and continue selling power. Opponents of this effort are concerned about water quality and whether the damns should be more beneficial to the local and state economy.

Department of Transportation officials want coastal residents to be aware that the rainy, windy weather could delay the ferry from Ocracoke Island to Hatteras Island. The Army Corps of Engineers dredged Hatteras Inlet back in May. But DOT spokeswoman Lucy Wallace says shoaling in Hatteras Inlet means it will have to be dredged again. In the meantime, she says passengers should keep an eye on the ferry schedule.

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