CRC stops short of endorsing stormwater rules

Published 12:47 am Saturday, May 24, 2008

By Staff
Reaffirms 2006 resolution
Staff Writer
The Coastal Resources Commission, meeting Friday in Washington, stopped short of endorsing proposed changes to coastal stormwater rules that could go into effect Aug. 1.
Instead, the commission voted unanimously to reaffirm a stance it took two years ago to simply “support the Environmental Management Commission’s effort to strengthen the Coastal Stormwater Rules.” The EMC in January approved changes to the stormwater rules governing the coastal counties under the Coastal Area Management Act.
That resolution acknowledges that about “60,000 acres of highly productive oyster-harvest area is permanently closed to shellfish harvest, temporary shellfishing closures encompassing the southern coastal area of the state now restrict shellfish harvest on a regular basis and permanent shellfishing closures are increasing and spreading into previously unaffected areas.”
The resolution also acknowledges the EMC’s conclusion that closures of shellfish waters are directly related to stormwater runoff in the vicinity of the polluted areas.
It states that bacterial contamination of shellfishing waters by stormwater runoff from land development near those waters has been identified as the primary cause for recent harvest closures in North Carolina’s shellfishing waters.”
The resolution supports the implementation of Phase II stormwater rules in the 17 remaining coastal counties that were not then beholden the Phase II standards of stormwater mitigation — a goal the EMC charged the N.C. Division of Water Quality with accomplishing.
Officials in inland coastal counties feel the rules that were subsequently drafted by DWQ were more restrictive to coastal development than even Phase II rules. Washington County Manager David Peoples, speaking to the CRC Friday, said that he felt Phase II rules were “sufficient” for his county.
Peoples’ suggestion did not go unheard. The CRC approved the 2006 resolution instead of one supporting the rule changes that are before the General Assembly.
The proposed rule changes in question tighten triggers that require stormwater permits and mitigation measures for new and old developments. Managers of 12 coastal counties contend the new rules would have adverse economic impacts by hindering development on an already-struggling region. Though the rules are more restrictive for areas within a half-mile of shellfish waters, they tighten restrictions to a lesser degree in all areas of counties under the Coastal Area Management Act.
If state legislators do not pass a bill that stops or alters the rules within the first 30 days of their short session that began May 13, they rules will automatically go into effect Aug. 1. A group of 12 inland coastal counties, including Beaufort County, have been successful in getting just such a bill introduced in both the state House and Senate.
Pamlico County Commissioner Christine Mele, who attended Fridays meeting, said she was “very pleased” with the CRC’s action. Pamlico County is in league with Beaufort and Washington counties in lobbying against the implementation of the new rules.