Tag Archives: mitigation

Norris Faces a Primary Challenger for the First Time

State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville is facing an opponent for his state legislative seat from within his own Republican Party for the first time ever, reports Richard Locker.
Woody Degan, 48, who operates a private airfield in Fayette County and produces charitable and musical events, said he’s in the race because he was encouraged to run by a coalition of tea party groups.
Degan is specifically upset about Norris’ sponsorship of a bill Degan says essentially allowed water polluters to buy their way out of liability by paying into a conservation mitigation fund. The bill failed but Degan says the issue grew out of a fight he waged with the state over flooding of his airport in 2011 from construction of the mammoth intermodal rail yard nearby.
While in Nashville fighting that bill, Degan said he met conservatives who were asking lawmakers to pass resolutions opposing “Agenda 21,” the nonbinding 1992 United Nations program for sustainable development that opponents argue infringes on property rights.
Norris, 57, a Memphis lawyer who lives on a farm north of Collierville, was elected to the state Senate in 2000 after six years in the Shelby County Commission. He faced no opposition, in either the Republican primary or the general election, that year and has faced only one opponent, a Democrat in 2004, in his two re-elections. He has been Republican majority leader for the last six years.
Degan said Norris would not see him when he visited Nashville.”I’ve been on the wrong end of one of these political deals and I’ve understood that being a public servant is about sitting on the other side of the desk and listening to a man or a woman or a group with a problem.,” Degan said.
As Republican leader, Norris handles Gov. Bill Haslam’s legislative agenda in the Senate, which included last year’s sweeping changes in civil liability law that, among other things, placed caps on noneconomic damages in liability lawsuits.

TDEC Critic Involved in Mitigation Melee

As part of a story on the controversy over the state’s mitigation program and related legislation, Anne Paine uses the example of a Sumner County creek that was apparently damaged by a development that was supposed to pay into the mitigation fund, but did not.
Halo Properties LLC had sought permission about four years ago to shorten and move the creek. It agreed to pay $140,000 to the Tennessee Stream Mitigation Program for the approval to do so. The company also contracted to pay $27,000 to fill in a 0.39-acre wetland elsewhere.
The money for wetlands was paid in 2008 to the Harpeth Wetland Bank, but documents show the $140,000 was not, despite the requirement.
“My understanding is it is being paid,” said Danny Hale of Halo Realty in Hendersonville. “Either it has or it will be,” he said.
He was a partner in Halo Properties but said that company is in receivership. He said the property was sold two years ago.
….A road was built across the property where the creek was shifted and the wetlands removed, but no development was built.
In January 2009, the state issued a notice of violation to Halo Properties, on grounds that included the failure to pay the $140,000. An official invoice to Halo from the stream mitigation program was not sent until November 2011, though Halo asked for one earlier.
One of two annual required monitoring reports of the site where the stream was shifted has not been received, TDEC officials said last week.
The issue is being assessed by the state’s water pollution control division, Meg Lockhart, TDEC spokeswoman, said Friday.
Sulkin’s group and the Tennessee Environmental Council, meanwhile, are taking action on a situation they say has only lingered.
They said they sent notice Friday that they intend to sue Danny Hale of Halo for polluting streams.
The company has failed to meet requirements, including not having paid the stream mitigation money, not planting enough trees and not establishing a 50-foot buffer on each side of the stream, they say in their letter.
…Hale is one of the businesspeople who blasted TDEC in round-table talks Gov. Bill Haslam held last year as comments were sought on how to make the state more business-friendly

Critics See ‘Wholesale Auction’ of Stream Quality Underway

A decade-old, multi-million dollar program for restoring degraded Tennessee streams has come under attack in the state Legislature even as Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration moves to give it new legal status.
Critics of the Tennessee Stream Mitigation Program, which is overseen by a non-profit foundation, characterized it as a “wholesale auction” of the state’s waterways to developers who can pay a fee for their pollution while leaving devastated downstream landowners in a lurch.
Testimony in a hearing before the House Conservation committee also raised questions about whether the non-profit Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation faces appropriate financial accountability under the present setup, which was put in place by a 2002 “memorandum of understanding” between state and federal agencies.

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