John Frampton is officially retired from the state Department of Natural Resources, after nine years as director. He began there as a field biologist in 1974. Some Senate lawmakers say Frampton was forced out, and are still investigating. Frampton did not wish to comment on any of the issues around his stepping down.
He officially retired Friday, but South Carolina Radio Network spent some time with Frampton the last day he went to his DNR office, the morning he told a Senate budget panel they need to better support the agency that protects the state’s natural beauty.
“I think we’re very fortunate to have the agency we have, that has the staff that’s so dedicated and passionate about what they do, but, we’ve had significant budget cuts over the last few years, at almost 60 percent of our appropriated dollars. It’s tough to keep moving forward when you have had those kinds of cuts, and address the issues we need to in South Carolina.”
He told lawmakers that managing water as a resource is an issue that needs attention now: “The bottom line is water is going to be very much tied into the economic growth of South Carolina. We don’t have a good water management plan; we don’t control over the water in any of our rivers. They are all controlled basically outside of South Carolina, so we are basically at the mercy of some of these other states. We need to do a lot of work in terms of getting assessment data, monitoring data; those thing cost money.”
“Everybody that has an interest in it wants to control it,” says Frampton. “It’s going to be very difficult to but a less-biased team together.”
Drought conditions are making matters worse, he says. “We don’t have any real requirements on a statewide basis , there are no mandated programs in place that require the saving of water or adequate discharge.”
“This state has a lot of work to do with water…it’s something that we’ve taken for granted for a long time,” he says. “Those days are gone now.”
Frampton says natural resources need to be seen as an economic engine for SC.
“People come here because of our land-based and water based recreational activities, the quality of life that we have in South Carolina, and I think right now that’s threatened in the future if we don’t better address the natural resources in this state,” says Frampton. “It’s going to cost dollars, and when you look at the DNR’s budget, and you’re looking at a roughly fourteen million dollar appropriated budget, that just doesn’t do it.”
Frampton says even the two percent salary increase just OK’d by the House takes money out of the operating budget, “Which means I have to take money from revenue sources, I have to take money from federal grants and stuff like that to pay staff, which in effect reduces our operations by 700,000 dollars.”
But that is now new DNR head Alvin Taylor’s problem. He was the former law enforcement chief of the agency.