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Published 2:14 am Friday, January 25, 2008

By Staff
Heather Jacobs is the
Riverkeeper for the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation.
Stormwater rules will help us all
Our misinformed county leaders are spreading the message that protecting the Pamlico River and estuary by supporting improved stormwater regulations is not in the best interest of the county.
Their misinformation campaign fabricates cost figures so that they can panic voters into believing that no one will be able to afford a moderate size home in Beaufort County. They wrongly contend that no other region in the state must adhere to stormwater regulation, when in fact they do. They place blame for any local water quality problem on anyone but themselves. If you believe all of these myths, then future generations will pay a great price.
The stormwater regulations passed by the N.C. Environmental Management Commission two weeks ago are in response to the rapid degradation of our coastal water quality. Public comments from the scientific community contain over 100 pages of research and analysis that support the improved rules.
If you will look at the latest draft Division of Water Quality report on impaired waters, the extent of the problem will be clear. Even Bath Creek, once considered pristine waters, is to be listed as an impaired waterway as is the entire Pamlico River from Washington to the Pungo River.
A coastal system that supported a $10 million to $15 million shellfishing industry in the late 1980’s now provides only $5 million to the North Carolina economy because over 56,000 acres of shellfishing waters have been permanently closed to commercial shellfish harvesting due to pollution.
The $10,000 figure quoted in the WDN article for a rain garden is absurd. Even with a large home (3,600 square feet) the cost of a rain garden is on the order of $3,000. Most moderate size homes (approximately 2,500 square feet) may be able to build a backyard rain garden for $1,000 or less. Controlling and treating your stormwater onsite is not “prohibitively expensive.” In fact, many of the conservation practices that you can use will save you money in the long run.
By installing a cistern to harvest the rainwater from your roof, you can save on your water bill and recoup the installation cost in a few years. Approximately 30 percent of our potable drinking water supply is wasted on irrigation. This is not sustainable, especially during periods of drought. With North Carolina projected to increase its population by 4 million over the next 25 years, water quantity and quality will be a fundamental concern for North Carolina and Beaufort County.
Contending that the required 2-feet of separation from the water table would make “40 percent of the 20 coastal counties undevelopable” is a major distortion. The 2-feet of separation from the groundwater is an existing requirement. This requirement is for stormwater control practices only, not the construction of the home or building. Stormwater controls work by allowing the ground to naturally filter rainwater and remove pollutants. Effective filtration requires at least 24 inches of soil between the bottom of the basin and the groundwater.
The bottom line is that we all need to do more to reduce our impact on the rivers and streams in our backyards. The improved coastal stormwater regulations are a step in the right direction.