Some believe water quality projects could play a key role.
North Carolina's largest military installations are looking to surrounding communities for extra protection against the possibility of future base closures.
"There's no more important economic development tool that we have in Wayne County than Seymour Johnson," said Phil Baddour, a trustee of the
Clean Water Management Trust Fund
The group distributes grant money for water quality improvements projects.
This year, there are nine requests from cities and counties who want to buy and preserve undeveloped land around the state's military installations, including Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune.
With talk of Base Realignment and Closure lists, or BRAC, military communities want to eliminate any possible problems.
"I think what the BRAC process has made us realize is that it's not just this BRAC process. We have to protect the base not just for this year or next year, but for our children and our grandchildren," Baddour said.
For example, some worry development too close to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base could hamper pilot training.
"You can look throughout the United States and see other Air Force bases where this has really been a big detriment to the mission," Baddour said.
Executive Director Bill Holman said the military projects would also help protect many important wetlands.
"A lot of the land around our military bases has important water quality values and other environmental values, so its a good way for us to both protect the environment and sustain a key part of the state's economy," Holman said
Those applying for nearly $37 million in grants said it is a small price to pay to keep the military here.
The Clean Water Management Trust Fund Board will begin discussing more than 100 proposed water quality projects next month.
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