Coastal counties fighting runoff rules gain an ally

Published 1:27 pm Friday, March 21, 2008

By Staff
Washington supports their fight with state
Contributing Editor
Coastal counties in North Carolina have an ally in their fight against new stormwater-runoff rules — The City of Washington.
During the City Council’s meeting Monday, the council endorsed the counties’ battle with state officials over the new rules. It also instructed City Manager James C. Smith and Mayor Pro Tempore Doug Mercer to “stay in the loop” in regard to the fight against the new stormwater rules.
Changes to the stormwater rules are the result of a 2005 study by the N.C. Division of Water Quality. That study determined the stormwater regulations in place then were not protecting water quality in the state’s coastal areas. Officials in coastal counties want the General Assembly to re-examine the science used to develop that study and make sure that environmental benefits of the new rules would offset the potential cost of “stymied development.” Coastal counties contend the new stormwater rules will slow down development in coastal areas.
Mercer, who serves as chairman of Beaufort County’s Planning Board, said waters in the coastal areas should be protected. If protecting water quality is such a good thing, counties, cities and towns upstream should abide by the same regulations, Mercer said. The new rules should apply to all counties that affect waterways, he said.
Mercer credited the coastal counties with bringing attention to the matter.
Councilman Archie Jennings said the city “needs to be a part of that,” referring to the coastal counties’ fight against the new rules. Jennings also said coastal counties should not be the only counties handed the responsibility of protecting the state’s coastal waters.
Jennings said someone could argue that upstream entities have more effects on coastal water quality than downstream entities.
In February, the council decided the city must convince state officials they should not, as Jennings put it then, “make coastal counties take out what others put in” those waterways.
After all, council members have said, by the time the Pamlico River and other waterways reach the coastal areas, upstream counties, cities and towns have added their stormwater runoff to those waterways. They are contributing to the problem, but they don’t face the strict stormwater regulations imposed on the coastal counties, council members noted.