The Tar River Land Conservancy expects to preserve about 150 acres of land in Franklin and Granville counties with help from a recently reconfigured state fund.
By keeping the land free from development, the conservancy hopes to protect water quality in those communities as well as downstream in places such as Raleigh.
The state’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund last month gave $7.6 million to land conservation organizations and other agencies around the state for water protection projects.
The Tar River Land Conservancy received grants of $165,000 for a 117-acre tract in Granville County and $48,150 for a 34-acre tract in Franklin County, as well as grants for projects in Halifax County.
The grants will help pay for about half the purchase price of the Granville and Franklin land, and municipalities and donors will help make up the difference.
“It’s great news for us, but we’ve got a few more pieces of the puzzle to figure out before we can march to closing,” said Derek Halberg, executive director of the Tar River Conservancy.
The Haynes Tract in Granville County sits on Robertson Creek, which is a tributary of Falls Lake, the main source of drinking water for Raleigh.
Not only will the group prevent development on the land, it also plans to clean up an abandoned hog waste lagoon that operated in the late 1970s and 1980s.
Halberg said that only a few hundred hogs lived on the property, so the lagoon is not considered large. But, it still represents a risk because it will eventually deteriorate and could discharge into the water supply.
“It’s a two-for on the project, preserving the land but also taking away the water quality threat,” he said.
The second piece of land, the Southerland Tract, sits on the Tar River about three miles downstream from Louisburg and features bottomland oaks.
The trust fund that made the grants has undergone numerous changes in recent years, including budget reductions and the formation of a new, smaller board.
The fund also no longer awards grants for wastewater management projects, but did absorb the responsibilities of the Natural Heritage Trust Fund, which provides grants for land with ecological, cultural or historic significance to the state.
The December grants were the first the reconfigured board has given – and environmental groups were anxious to see what would happen given all of the changes.
“Because of all that uncertainty, we were really pleased with how things went,” said Will Morgan, director of government relations at the state’s chapter of the Nature Conservancy.
The trust fund also gave $8.6 million to National Heritage Trust Fund projects in December.