Thanks for the effort

Published 1:16 pm Thursday, November 22, 2007

By Staff
When it comes to living in the area that’s home to the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary, there are lots of things for which we should be thankful.
One of those things turned 20 years old this week. The Washington Daily News was there when it was born. The “birth” took place at Beaufort County Community College.
We are talking about the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program. It succeeds the original program, the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuarine Study, formed in 1987.
In the past 20 years, the program has done much to put into place policies, programs and practices aimed at improving the health of the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary, the second largest estuary in the United States behind the Chesapeake Bay. There’s still much to do.
Johnson’s statement notes that more than one million acres of coastal habitat have been restored and protected during the National Estuary Program’s existence.
To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Program held a meeting of its policy and advisory boards at the EPA campus in the Research Triangle Park on Tuesday. At that meeting, APNEP unveiled a strategy for updating its Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary.
That plan is a common sense guide for the environmental stewardship of the estuary, according to the APNEP Web site. The plan contains five management plans — water quality, vital habitats, fisheries, stewardship and implementation.
APNEP critics, since the program’s inception, have said APNEP is not doing enough to improve the estuary. Many of those critics want more restrictive rules and tougher policies in place. They may have a point.
But at least APNEP is doing something to make the estuary healthier other than just talking about it. APNEP is trying to balance the need for economic growth in eastern North Carolina with the need to secure the environmental future of the region, according to the APNEP Web site.
That’s a commendable, but difficult, thing to do.
With its river herring restoration program, APNEP is working with the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Defense and others to identify, prioritize and remove impediments to the river herring’s spawning and nursery habitats in the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary. The program is trying to reverse, or at least halt, the collapse of the river herring population in eastern North Carolina rivers.
That effort, if successful will do more than restore the river herring population. It will help restore a way of life and preserve part of North Carolina’s history. It wasn’t that long ago when commercial fishing for river herring was practiced by many watermen.
Let’s be thankful for 20 years of APNEP — and let’s hope for another 20 years of efforts to protect the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary.