“We want unannounced reviews and inspections by DENR. It’s like a drug test. You tell them they’re going to be drug tested? They’re clean. So we want unannounced inspections, number one. We want records kept for a minimum of 50 years, not 5 years. We want no wide-range variances on regulations. We don’t want favors given out to criminals that are fracking our land.”

— Louise Heath, Cherokee tribal member

fr frackingIt didn’t take but a glance around the lawn of the Liston B. Ramsey Center at Western Carolina University to see that Sept. 12 was going to be an eventful evening.

Western North Carolina is no longer on State Geologist Ken Taylor’s schedule for this fall’s tour de hydrocarbons in North Carolina. Taylor had planned to come to WNC in September to collect rock samples from road rights-of-way to test their carbon content. That initial test would have determined whether there was any point in pursuing shale gas exploration in the region any further.

The North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission has scheduled a public hearing on fracking for Western North Carolina. The hearing is slated for Sept. 12 on the Western Carolina University campus in Cullowhee.

fr circleshopeMonty Williams didn’t know a whole lot about the Circles of Hope program when he sat down to his first training four years ago. All he knew was that he wanted to do something to help people in poverty escape it, and the program had the full endorsement of Mountain Projects Community Action Agency Executive Director Patsy Dowling. 

fr frackingCandice Caldwell Day and her husband Shayne recently went to Andrews Airport in Cherokee County.

“To hold up a really big sign,” she said. 

Though the Corridor K debate was the impetus for the Opportunity Initiative Study, Opt-In wasn’t all about transportation. The results of the year-long regional visioning study has been enlightening, unifying and awash with great ideas to improve the area’s economic and cultural landscape, said Ryan Sherby, executive director of the Southwestern Commission Council of Governments. 

A stalemate in the debate over Corridor K boils down to a central issue: can upgrades to the existing two-lane road do the job, or is a new four-lane highway the only solution?

coverAfter a year-long study capping off years of debate, the verdict is in on what’s next for the controversial Corridor K road project — sort of.

SEE ALSO: Dueling studies | Beyond the road

There were high hopes for the $2 million Opportunity Initiative Study at the outset: to find a clear answer for whether a four-lane highway through the remote mountains of Graham County is worth the enormous price tag and environmental damage, whether it is in fact wanted by the majority of people, and whether it will indeed be a magic bullet to bring the rural county into the 21st century economy.

out frIt’s no secret that an accurate weather forecast is hard to come by in the Smokies. But after two months of intense measurements at more than 100 stations around the region, scientists working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are crunching data that could change that. 

“I think we’ve made an important contribution to understand the hydrology and the water cycle of the Smokies,” said Ana Barros, professor of earth and ocean science at Duke University and principal investigator on the Smokies project. 

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