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Clean Water Trust Fund Faces Budget Squeeze

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The Triangle's rapid growth rate means more stress on area water systems.

Communities are dealing with water runoff and treatment issues -- and asking the state for big bucks.

But now, a clean-water program is facing a 75-percent cut by the General Assembly.

Yates Mill Pond in Raleigh is flowing strong, thanks to a $1 million restoration project. The same can not be said for the state's spigot.

Lots of state programs are being cut off.

One of the biggest cuts: the clean-water trust fund.

Trust fund director Bill Holman said the fund asked for $100 million. But a house budget will give only $25 million.

"We estimate that over 10 and a half billion dollars is needed to protect water quality in North Carolina," Holman said.

"The goal of the trust fund is to buy land around waterways and preserve it. Imagine if some of the land (where Yates Mill Pond sits) were a big housing development or maybe a shopping mall. All that water runoff would go right here. A lot of critical land acquistion projects, waste-water treatment projects, stormwater projects wouldn't be funded."

Right now, the clean-water trust fund can't fill the requests from cities and counties. But in a tight budget year, legislative leaders say education, then human services, are tops on the agenda.

According to Holman, if the cash flow slows, "our water quality and economy would suffer."

The state Senate is considering spending more on the program. Supporters hope it's more than a drop in the bucket.

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