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Monday, April 6, 2015

Dear Lunz Group Members,

Consciousness raising can be a profoundly difficult task. The traditional Sierra Club method involves getting boots on the ground/paddles in the water. In this model, a club outing is not just a fun hike in a gorgeous place but a subtle bit of activist incitement that basically boils down to "familiarity breeds ownership and concern." When you join us on one of our outings, we'll take you to some mighty beautiful places, but we will be trying to point out the fragility, if you will, of the environment we visit. There were once 78-80 million acres of Longleaf pine that stretched from Virginia to Texas across the southern tier of states. Almost all of that is gone now due to ill-informed and non-sustainable harvest. In the early 2000s, I planted 7 or 8 Longleaf pine saplings in my yard. Most were just 12-18 inches tall. All are out of the "grass" stage and have entered into the rocket phase of growth; some are close to 30 feet tall now. One of my Longleaf pines has produced male pollen cones for the very first time. My trees are "on the way" but they won't be mature for the next 70 years or more. It takes a modern logging operation mere seconds to fell trees. I have seen--almost literally in my own back yard--such a modern clearing operation and acres of 25- to 40-year-old trees can be cut and stacked in hours.

The point I am making is that our actions do have consequences that will require decades if not centuries to resolve. We can walk in the few Longleaf pine forests that remain because 50-100 years ago those forested regions were not destroyed. You can walk beneath my longleaf pines now but they are a LONG ways from being a forest. We must as citizens have a view that reaches out many decades when we wish to take actions. Typically, our most far-reaching planning goes out the length of a 30-year mortgage (or a Municipal Bond). A Longleaf forest matures on a 100-150 year time frame, i.e., five times the length of a conventional mortgage. Harvesting a forest leaves a legacy many years longer than one of our mortgages.

The nature writer Wallace Stegner and his son Page planted a grove of pines when Page was a boy. When Page had grown to be a mature man, some of these same trees were cut to construct a log cabin. Sitting inside this newly constructed cabin, Wallace reportedly quipped to his son "we grew this house." I probably have some of the details wrong in that anecdote but it is an example of long-term planning. Here's another one: Lincoln Cathedral (northeast of London) was first begun in the medieval era (1100-1200) and oak beams for the building were cut at that time (and again for later construction epochs).

Fast forward to 2012. Many of the massive old beams had begun to show signs of failure. Where to find trees large enough to provide the replacement beams? As it turned out, the original builders has anticipated a need 1000 years later for replacement beams and had planted and continue to plant groves of oaks for that purpose. That's anticipation and planning. 

Now another class of our outings is the service outing where we participate in one form or another of beach/river sweep. We meet and physically pick up trash at a boat landing, along a trail, etc. These service outings are frankly very hard work. It would be FAR better for the refuse to have never been deposited in the first place. The planning horizon of the people who discarded the trash was on the order of a fifteen minute fast meal or a diaper change and nowhere near 1000 years. It would be quite useful if we could make some headway toward extending the per diem time frame into a per century time frame.

Join us as we ponder how to raise the consciousness of our politicians and citizens about the time frame of the consequences of our actions. Among other things, how long would it take to restore our coasts to the current state AFTER a major oil spill. Do we want to take the risk?

 --Starr Hazard

Chair, Robert Lunz Group

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Loss of faith

Loss of faith

So what does a “good-faith effort” to compensate landowners within 1,000 feet of the proposed I-526 extension really mean to Charleston County Council members?
When they used those actual words in an amendment last December passing a resolution to extend the expressway, did they then do so in “bad faith”?
Some of us at that meeting certainly thought County Council meant monetary compensation to landowners (actual amounts to be determined later) and the SCDOT must have thought so too, or it wouldn’t be balking at signing off on this project.
Perhaps county residents should have “no faith” in council promises and refuse to vote for those council members coming up for re-election who passed a resolution with their fingers crossed behind their backs.
Angela Jones
Executive Committee
Robert Lunz Group
S.C. Chapter, Sierra Club
High Grove Road

This letter was also signed by members of the executive committee of the Robert Lunz Group: Starr Hazard, Christine von Kolnitz Cooley, Pat Luck, Kim McGhee and Laura Moses

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Justin Jay of the Drill Project Has an Update on the upcoming "Living Lowcountry" film

Living Lowcountry
Project Update October 1st 2013

Video Production:
The project has been securing principal photography (video) on the flora and fauna of the lowcountry for a number of episodes before the seasons change.  Our shoots have ranged all over the lower coastal plane from Beaufort to Conway.  Most of the shoots require transportation to sites, including boats, coordination with local project leaders and field work associated with wildlife filming.

Production personnel include; Justin Jay – Director of photography, editor and producer, Austin Fitzhenry – camera assistant and Kristy Bishop – production assistant.

Things to be included in invoices for video production are time spent filming, time spent editing and transportation.  All other costs incurred or the supply of video gear used has been covered by Drill Films.

 Post Production has begun for the first two episodes and includes editing, data management, writing, music, voice overs, sound engineering, titles and credits. 

Listed below are the locations and subjects that have been shot to date for the project.
·       Goose Creek reservoir – Alligators, Anhingas, Ospreys, Cormorants, Ibis and other birds
·       West Ashley – Glass snake, five lined skink, ribbon snake and other backyard creatures
·       Kiawah Island – Sea turtle volunteers conducting nest monitoring and hatchling loggerhead sea turtle
·       Seabrook Island – bottlenose dolphin strand feeding
·       Botany Island – Sea turtle nesting at night
·       Deveaux Island – Researchers from Fish and Wildlife service and DNR banding piping plovers
·       Otter Island – Black skimmers, royal terns, Wilson’s plovers and fish creek tidal creek
·       Seewee Shell mounds – Fiddler crabs,  marsh system, Swallow Tail Kite
·       Francis Marion National Forest – Longleaf pine forest, pitcher plants
·       Santee wildlife management area – Wetland ecosystem, wildflowers
·       Lewis Ocean Bay heritage preserve – Venus Fly traps
·       Isle of Palms – South Carolina Aquarium rescued sea turtle release
·       Folly beach – fishing pier, beach goers, surfers, wood stork
·       Shem Creek – shrimp boats, paddle boarders, people enjoying the creek

                  The website is currently under construction and will be launched with the first episode in late October.  Aspects of this portion of the project involve branding, graphic design, social media networking, web design, and database management.  It is important to have all graphic design and branding (logos, themes and tone) finalized before launch to create a cohesive and appealing delivery platform for our video and outreach efforts.  The website structure is a wordpress design allowing for multiple users to add or edit content with a user friendly interface.  This will allow for Sierra Club interns to play an integral part in the writing and dissemination of outreach content.

Thank You

Thank you Sierra Club for the interest and support in providing this opportunity.  With this project we will be able to reach the people of the lowcountry and bring attention to the beauty of the natural world surrounding us as well as shed some light on the environmental issues that may affect it.  By taking a multimedia approach utilizing short videos on the web and social media we hope to reach as many people as possible using these modern tools.

Thank you again for your time and consideration.

Justin Jay
Drill Films

Letter To Mark Sanford

Peter Silveston
51 Crested Flycatcher Lane
Kiawah Island, SC  29455

Congressman Mark Sanford                                            51 Crested Flycatcher Lane
322 Cannon House Office Building                                 Kiawah Island, SC, 29455
Washington, DC , 20515
                                                                                                August 19th, 2013

Dear Congressman Sanford,

I am disappointed that your staff has been unable to arrange a meeting between you and the Executive Committee of the Robert Lunz Group of the South Carolina Sierra Club Chapter before I leave on a trip out west. I hope that a meeting can be arranged during a later visit to your constituency. This letter is a poor substitute for such a meeting.
 My intent in this letter is to set out the position of the local Sierra Club group on conservation and energy policy issues facing South Carolina’s 1st Congressional  District.
On Conservation:
1)    We wish to see legislation protecting public land, such as Parks, Monuments and National Forests. Namely that there should be no net encroachment of such property. Diversion of any such land in the public interest must be replaced by equal or greater replacement in a contiguous way (sSimilar to regulations now governing wet lands).
2)    Federal funding of agencies charged with protecting and administering public lands ( as numerated above) should be protected in deficit reduction actions of the government in as much asso that agency budgets are reduced to no greater extent than the average reduction and certainly no more than the budgets of the military forces.
3)    We wish to see lLegislation protecting environmentally sensitive land from commercial development, or at least, a prohibition of the use of public money to restore such land after environmental catastrophes, such as a hurricane. I refer specifically to the proposed development of Capt’n Sam’s Spit on Kiawah Island and the recent landfill operations at Wild Dunes on the Isle of Palms.
4)    We support a Ffederal grant or perhaps a loan for the purpose of creating a park on properties surrounding Angel Oak on Johns Island.
5)    We are also concerned about littering and waste dumping on public land, such as in the Francis Marion National Forest or , indeed, on our highways, but we have no ideas of what federal action might be undertaken to eliminate this problem.
On Energy Policy Issues:
1)    We fully endorse the National Sierra Club position that that global warming is a paramount national problem and that vigorous federal action is necessary. The issue is particularly important for the 1st Congressional District. The mean annual sea level has already risen by over an inch in the last decade. Although this is negligible with respect to daily life and commerce, it has a large impact on property and perhaps life during storm events.
2)    To limit global warming, the federal government should promote the adoption of practical renewable energy, such as solar energy, wind power, use of agricultural and forest wastes, while discouraging employment of fossil fuels.
3)    To enact 2) above:
a)    End federal subsidies of all types to the giant and wealthy oil corporations.
b)    Enact a carbon tax on automotive as well as power sales of oil and coal products
c)    Enact or aurthorize EPA to set and enforce emission standards on mercury, sulfur dioxide and other toxics in power plant stack emissions
d)    Require Federal review of fracking proposals to limit water and air pollution by those operations.
4)    Further to 2) above
a)    Legislate the construction and finance of a national electric power grid to move power across the country so as to balance generation capacity and power demand (This could be modeled after the National Highway system created in the 1960”s). Such a grid is essential in order to exploit intermittent power sources.
b)    Enact legislation that will allow public and private property owners to rent out space or rent solar collectors and require utilities to buy such power for distribution to its customers. Such legislation should include allowing utilities to charge a standby charge on power supplied to a local solar generator. There is currently a problem in South. Carolina where utilities have a power supply monopoly in areas they serve.
c)    Continue tax breaks for capital expenditures on solar energy capture and other power conservation expenditures
d)    Enact a program of federal guaranteed low interest rate loans for construction of wind turbine farms and for bringing power on shore in the case of “farms” off the Carolina coast.
The Sierra Club has supported you in several of your past political campaigns, so you are well aware of our influence on your constituents. The Lunz Group of the South Carolina Sierra Club Chapter has close to 1,000 members and our positions are often adopted by young people and college graduates in our area.
As Political Chair for the Lunz Group, I receive the “Project Vote Smart” record of congressional votes and speeches which I report on to the Group Executive. Of course, I want to receive your newsletter and other reports that your office issues.


Peter Silveston

Friday, May 3, 2013

Special Election May 7 SOUTH CAROLINA 1st CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT Lunz Group Questions

Prepared by Pete Silveston and the Robert Lunz Group Executive committee

PREFACE:               The Robert Lunz Group of the South Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club with almost a thousand members is a major group in this constituency concerned with conservation of our natural resources, outdoor recreation and the health of the environment. Your answers to the questions which follow will be distributed to Group members via our newsletter. Copies will also be sent to the Post & Courier and to the local weekly papers. If you wish, you may attach a statement to your reply to our questions.
QUESTION 1:   The Savannah River site of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency continues to receive atomic wastes from across the nation and appears to have become a de facto disposal site for the country. What are your views of this issue ?  Should the State welcome the jobs created or should disposal be controlled for just wastes generated in the State or for wastes generated from nearby States through State-to-State negotiations ?  Should the Federal Government regulate location of disposal sites and interstate transport of wastes ?
 QUESTION 2:   Some counties in the State propose opening or expanding landfill sites to accept wastes from other States or other South Carolina counties. Recognising that transport on roadways of other counties may be involved, and odor and runoff problem that may cross county borders can occur, should control of landfill, or, indeed, other waste processing operations, occur at the county level or at the State level ?  Does the Federal Government have a role to play in devising rules for waste disposal decisions ?  How can we promote recycle over landfill/waste disposal ?
 QUESTION 3:    It is widely agreed that this Congressional District will experience a large influx of people, probably retirees, in the coming decades. How should the District prepare for this influx ?  The questions which follow address this question of population growth.
 QUESTION 4:    Should we create green space as parks or nature reserves in the District to preserve native flora and fauna and for recreational purposes such as hiking, camping, hunting and fishing ?  Should land preservation be done with public funds  ?  If so, how should the funds be raised ?  State or local taxes  ?  Bond issue ?  Does private initiative (business) have a role to play  ?
 QUESTION 5:    Cap’n Sams Spit, on the western end of Kiawah island, has been proposed for a large housing development by the property owner (a private company). The spit is now undergoing erosion by a tidal river and has been washed over by the ocean several times in recent history. Future flooding and destruction will require certainly large expenditures of public funds. Attempts to halt development through ligation have failed. What are your views on this issue ?  Should the State or the Federal Governments acquire the land for green space or recreation ?  Is this a federal  issue ?  How do you balance the rights of developers versus the risks of bailouts using public funds for developments on environmentally risky land ?
 QUESTION 6:    Road building and roadway expansion consumes public land and increases air pollution, run-off and noise. Should local or State government promote public transport, such as buses ( preferably electric) or light rail to reduce reliance on roads  ?
 QUESTION 7:     Extension of the Rte. 526, the Mark Clark Highway, to Johns Island is proposed to reduce congestion, improve mobility and facilitate evacuation from the Sea Islands. Do you favor completion ?
 QUESTION 8:     Use of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gs) destroys the environment through mining or fracking, contributes to air pollution and to global warming. How can we in this District promote alternative energy use  ?  What can the Federal government do  ?  The next questions deal with promotion of alternative energy use.
 QUESTION 9:   Permitting solar leasing in South Carolina is currently stalled in the Legislature because of monopolies granted to utilities on the sale of electricity. This type of leasing allows businesses and public bodies, such as schools, to reduce their electricity costs and could substantially expand the use of solar energy.  What is your position on solar leasing ?  Does the Federal  Government have a role in this issue ?  What could be done ?
 QUESTION 10:    South Carolina, unlike many other states, does not have an alternative energy mandate.  Should one be created by the Legislature ?  Should there be a Federal alternative energy mandate ?
 QUESTION 11:    South Carolinians delight in rich, delicious chocolate.  To promote the consumption of quality grade chocolate, do you favor reducing the import duty on Swiss Choccalate ?  (Question submitted by my Swiss son-in-law)

Excerpts from Mark Sanford’s response by letter were:
“Your questionnaire was most comprehensive and would require thoughts and detail and I think further explanation rather then yes/no to many questions such that I would like to come back to it. It deserves time.
All I can say is to call Dana Beach at the Coastal Conservation League as to get a glimpse of how I've approached conservation and environmental issues both during my previous time in Congress and the you may know I was the only Republican Governor to receive the endorsement of your organization, which was the case during my second run for Governorship of South Carolina.
………during my Governorship we were very aggressive in trying to preserve land and more land was set aside and protected in my eight years, more then any other time period during South Carolina history. Additionally, we worked with Senator Chip Campsen and others in funding the conservation bank which contributed to that effort.”

Excerpts from Eugene Platt's response by letter were:
Question 1:  ”……The Federal Government  should regulate and, ultimately, be responsible for proper disposal , as well as interstate transportation, of all nuclear waste produced in our country.”
Question 2:  “Proper transportation and disposal of (non-nuclear) waste should be handled by the individual counties affected---but regulated by the State. Yes, the Federal Government has a role when such waste impacts on interstate commerce. Educating the public on its advantages may be the best way to promote recycling over landfill/waste disposal. Also, recycling centers (including drop-off sites) should be as convenient to as many people as feasible.”
Question 3: “……..the First Congressional District should prepare for the expected influx by having in place legislation and regulations to protect sensitive environmental areas, especially the beaches, marshes, wetlands in general.”
Question 4: “Yes, we should designate and protect as much green space as possible. Such land preservation is best accomplished with public funds to preclude involvement by individuals or entities with ulterior goals not in the best interests of the public and/or the environment. The State income tax (and certainly not additional sales taxes) would be the best way to pay for this. The role of “private initiative” should be limited---and carefully monitored.”
Question 5: “……. Irresponsible developers dro not consider him their friend. His feelings are reflected in this prayer from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer: ‘For the Conservation of Natural Resources”
Question 6: “Yes, government at all levels (local, State, Federal) should promote public transportation. The advantages of “commuter rail” over “light rail” should not be dismissed.”
Question 7: “No elected official in South Carolina has been more vocally, consistently opposed to the proposed extension of I-526 than Eugene Platt.”
Question 8: “…….We in the First Congressional District can lobby elected officials and speak out in favor of alternative energy use on all appropriate occasions.”
Question 9: “I support the leasing of solar panels. Although this is more of a State issue than a Federal one, the Federal Government could allow income tax deductions for solar leasing just as it does for other energy-enhancement costs.”
Question 10: “Yes, there should  be alternative energy mandates at both the state and federal levels.”

There was no reply from Elizabeth Colbert-Busch.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Urge Charleston County Council to Say No to TIF

Urge Charleston County Council to Say No to TIF

The Beach Company, a huge Charleston real estate and development firm, has proposed the creation of a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district to help fund their "Kiawah River Plantation" (KRP) resort project on Johns Island, which will include over 1,200 resort homes, a golf course and commercial uses on the Mullet Hall Plantation property. TIF’s raise funding for development by borrowing against the project’s future revenue, meaning that property tax revenues are diverted away from community needs like schools to paying off a private development project lucrative for backers.
Traditionally, TIF’s are meant to be used as incentives to redevelop blighted areas. To use them instead to fund a luxury resort sets a dangerous precedent. If the Beach Company is granted the TIF, many more developers will follow hard on their footsteps, diverting tax dollars away from important community needs like schools and fire stations to bankrolling the projects of wealthy developers.
Ever since the approval of the I-526 extension, the assaults by developers on Johns Island have been relentless, from challenging the urban growth boundary meant to protect the rural character of Johns Island for the benefit of a developer (Vic Rawls, also a Charleston County Council members who will have the opportunity to vote on the TIF) to reopening of the discussion of a Sea Island Expressway to the TIF for the Beach Company.
The losers in this rush to high-end development and the building of the infrastructure necessary to sustain it are the rural, indigenous populations of Johns Island, its agricultural communities, its wildlife, and all those who enjoy its as yet unspoiled beauty. To then ask taxpayers to foot the bill for the projects of wealthy developers, sacrificing in the process public funds needed for schools and other essential public services is ludicrous.
If the TIF is passed, the Charleston County School District will lose at least $63 million in tax revenue over 45 years, Charleston County will lose almost $12 million, Charleston County Parks & Recreation will lose over $5 million, and St. Johns Fire District will lose $4.5 million

Take a moment to write the Charleston County Council (some members of which oppose TIF and a number of which are undecided) before their May 2 meeting and respectfully ask them to vote against the TIF. If you can, attend the May 2 Finance Committee Meeting and, if the TIF is passed by the committee, the County Council meeting on May 7 at the Lonnie Hamilton Building on Leeds Avenue in North Charleston.

Charleston County Council Members 

Herbert Ravenel Sass, III--- against the TIF, voted for 526 ext

Dickie Schweers---against the TIF, voted against 526 ext

J. Elliott Summey--Led effort to approve 526 extension

Henry Darby--Possible swing vote on TIF/Voted against 526 ext

Teddy Pryor, Sr. --voted for 526 ext

A. Victor Rawl- Voted for 526 extension, recently successfully challenged Urban Growth Boundary on Johns Island so he could pursue a large development on Johns Island
(843) 766-7334 (H)

Colleen T. Condon --
Voted Against 526 extension

Anna Johnson--
Possible swing vote on TIF/Was swing vote that allowed approval of 526 ext after initially oppsing

Joseph K. Qualey-- Against the TIF, Voted against 526 ext
(843) 693-3434 

Suggested Text of Email:

I am writing to ask that you vote against the TIF. I do not think that taxpayer dollars should fund a development that will be profitable to a local developer while taking much-needed education money from our children. This also sets a dangerous precedent for future development and gives the illusion that the developers and not the citizens are the first priority of our legislators. It will also speed the hasty development of Johns Island with little or no real thought on how to encourage smart growth that respects the environmental significance, the beauty, the rich history, and the rights of the citizens of Johns Island.

This is a voting issue for me. I need to see some leadership and forward thinking from my representatives and believe that they represent all citizens and not just the best interest of developers.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lose-Lose Decision

Last evening (December 13, 2012)  Charleston County Council made a Lose-Lose choice when they breathed new life into a transportation option that they had unanimously rejected over a year ago.  After a strong push by the business community and the City of Charleston to complete I-526, the interstate that currently extends ¾ of the way around the Charleston Metro area, the Council caved in a 5 to 4 vote to approve Alternative G which, if built, will be a low-speed parkway with 6 intersections, running through a corner of James Island County Park and through the heart of James and Johns islands.  Most people, if they are honest, will tell you they prefer to see I-526 completed as a high-speed expressway.  Alternative G is a compromise plan with the selling points being that it is the lowest- cost alternative to complete the interstate and the easiest for which to obtain acquisition rights because it will directly impact the fewest property owners.

With the inclusion of last- minute amendments to the proposal that add fly-overs at two intersections and double the distance from the parkway from 500 feet to 1,000 feet for property owners to make diminution in value claims, an undetermined increase in cost and number of acquisition rights has been added to the project, diluting the arguable merits of the option. The Council added other band-aids such as green buffers, all without studying the feasibility of the amendments.  This came after refusing to study claims from the Nix 526 folks that there are engineering solutions to resolve traffic congestion on the sea islands that would be less expensive than Alternative G and would impact area residents to a far lesser degree. As it was, many on the Council had not seen some of the amendments ahead of time. Voting on the measure in a Committee Meeting and a Council Meeting on the same night got the deed done in time to lock up the promised funds before the composition of the SIB board changes in January but did not allow time for thoughtful review. The question of whether the amendments materially change the whole proposal may be an issue of concern.

We credit the Council with good intentions, long-suffering patience, and compassion.  We hold the State Infrastructure Bank (SIB) accountable for their carrot and stick approach, first promising revenues that may exist far in the future for a project that is rated  15th in priority in the state, and then threatening to require Charleston County to repay the $11 million tab already spent for multiple engineering studies.  On top of committing taxpayers to a very expensive parkway, the County still needs to bond multiple smaller projects to alleviate traffic congestion at already designated choke points so that residents of the sea islands can even get to the parkway. It has been suggested that these smaller, less expensive projects that needed to be undertaken anyway may have been enough to relieve traffic congestion.

Much attention was given to what the direct effects to property owners nearest the proposed parkway will be, but the indirect effect of a roadway that is projected to increase development on Johns Island between 20% and 40%, thus threatening its rural character and thereby affecting all the residents, did not seem to really make an impact.  Other indirect effects include rising property values that come with denser development.  That may sound good to many, but apparently not to a large number of existing home owners on fixed or limited incomes that would be hard-pressed to pay the resultant higher property taxes. This proposal also increases the vulnerability of heirs’  property and the whole Gullah culture along with the working farms that supply the Charleston metro area with fresh produce.  Increased development brings with it more traffic congestion, thus a vicious cycle is promoted rather than thoughtfully mitigated.

When will we learn that what we build, where and how we build it, determines the quality of a place far more than any Comprehensive Plan or Zoning and Development Ordinances?  Where we place infrastructure shapes future growth patterns.   Simply sighing and saying that an area is growing and we can’t do anything about it except accommodate it shows regrettable short-sightedness.

Angela T. Jones, Conservation Chair
The Robert Lunz Group of the SC Sierra Club Chapter