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Ready for battle

By Staff
Strength in numbers. Twelve counties in northeastern North Carolina are putting that axiom to the test.
Managers from those 12 coastal counties met in Edenton last week to develop their plan of attack on proposed stormwater regulation changes the General Assembly will consider during its short session that begins May 13. There’s a reason the managers met in Edenton.
Joe McClees, the lobbyist hired by the 12 counties to lead their fight, said he chose Edenton as a meeting place because of the town’s revolutionary record. In 1774, Penelope Barker led about 50 other women in what is known as the Edenton Tea Party. Those women, not pleased with England’s tax on tea, dumped crates of tea into Edenton’s harbor — before the more famous Boston Tea Party occurred.
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. The new rules tighten triggers that require stormwater permits and mitigation measures for new and old development, which officials in rural coastal counties said could “stymie development” in their counties.
Officials from the 12 coastal counties are asking 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 to poor counties’ slowed economic development.
The 12 counties and McClees make sense.
They are calling for a delay in the implementation of the new rules until a more detailed study of those new regulations can be completed, a study that analyzes the effectiveness of the current rules. That’s a reasonable request, and one that should be granted by the state.
The General Assembly also should look at whether the proposed new rules are being applied fairly. As it stands now, the new rules would apply only to coastal counties that are affected by the Coastal Area Management Act.
If the protection of water quality is such a wonderful thing to do, why shouldn’t upstream counties abide by the same regulations?
Inland counties are contributing their stormwater runoff to waterways that make their way to the coast. Although they are part of the problem, they are not facing the stricter stormwater rules that coastal counties are facing.
There’s something wrong with that situation, and the coastal counties know it. That’s a key part of why they are fighting the proposed rule changes.
The 12 coastal counties — Beaufort, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden, Currituck, Gates, Washington, Chowan, Hyde, Tyrrell, Bertie and Hertford — are ready to take their cause to the General Assembly.
As McClees said last week, the battle is at hand.