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Changes proposed to stormwater rules

By Staff
Commissioners unanimously oppose regulation revamp
By NIKIE MAYO
News Editor
Beaufort County commissioners will be out in full force tonight to contest proposed changes to stormwater-permit rules that govern the state’s coast.
The N.C. Division of Water Quality has proposed changes that would lower the thresholds for when stormwater permits are needed and when stormwater controls are required. DWQ leaders say the changes will protect sensitive coastal waters, but county commissioners say the agency has gone overboard. There will be a public hearing on the matter today at Beaufort County Community College’s auditorium, beginning at 7 p.m.
Under current regulations, a stormwater permit is needed for coastal development that disturbs an acre or more. The draft rules would require a permit for development that disturbs 10,000 square feet, or a quarter-acre.
Reeder said the proposed changes are based on physical evidence that what’s in place isn’t working. The new rules would help protect waters that support oysters and clams. Classified as “SA waters” by the state, these waters are said to be particularly sensitive to bacteria from stormwater runoff.
The draft rules also seek to reduce the amount of acceptable “impervious cover” on a lot. That figure is derived by comparing the area for houses, roads and impervious surfaces to the total land available. The proposed rules would allow only 12 percent of impervious cover on any lot within a half-mile of protected waters, roughly half the amount of cover the current regulations allow.
The county commissioners unanimously agreed last week to draft a resolution against the proposed changes. The language of that resolution will be submitted to the state, possibly at tonight’s hearing.
Richardson and Commissioner Robert Cayton are often sparring partners, but Cayton made a point to say that he agrees with his colleague on this issue. Cayton said the same rules — whatever they be — should apply statewide.
Tonight’s hearing is the first of four scheduled on the proposed regulatory changes. It is the only meeting to be held in the Daily News coverage area.
Written comments on the proposals will be accepted until Oct. 15. The Environmental Management Commission wil consider the comments in January 2008, and that group’s recommendations will likely be considered during the General Assembly’s short session.
If the proposed rule changes are passed, all coastal counties would fall under the stormwater requirements already in place for Onslow, Brunswick and New Hanover counties. The new regulations would take effect around August 2008.