Stormwater compromise yet to be reached

Published 5:49 am Saturday, June 21, 2008

By Staff
Stakeholders continue reconciliation process
Staff Writer
Officials working to reach a compromise on the implementation of more-stringent stormwater rules for eastern North Carolina reached an impasse this week.
A compromise between 12 inland coastal counties, the N.C. Division of Water Quality and other stakeholders was expected to be struck by week’s end, but “bad language” inserted in the most-recent draft of the bill has left officials in those eastern counties with concerns, according to a lobbyist representing their interests in Raleigh.
The 12-county coalition was successful in introducing bills in the state House and state Senate in May that, if passed, would halt the Aug. 1 implementation of new stormwater rules that would govern counties under the umbrella of the Coastal Area Management Act. Washington, Beaufort and Hyde counties are all CAMA counties and would be affected by the rule changes.
McClees and managers and elected officials from the 12 coastal counties have been meeting regularly with DWQ and environmental groups, including the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, to reach a compromise on the new rules.
The counties claim the new rules, which tighten triggers that require stormwater permits and mitigation measures for new and old development, could stymie development in already poor, rural areas in eastern North Carolina. Environmental groups and DWQ insist that existing rules do not effectively protect coastal water from pollution carried by stormwater runoff.
Beaufort County Manager Paul Spruill, who is spearheading the 12-county coalition that opposes the new rules, has been directly involved in the stakeholder process. He said the 12 counties were prepared to endorse a draft of the new regulations drawn up at a June 9 stakeholders meeting.
That draft included eight specific edits to the original rules including specifications on how the rules would be applied to lots which included wetland acreage and permitted activities within a proposed 50-foot buffer for construction near waterways. The June 9 draft also exempted certain cities already identified by the Environmental Management Commission as subject to Phase II stormwater rules regarding “post-construction stormwater management regulations,” he said. Those cities include Washington, Morehead City and Atlantic Beach, among others.
But a subsequent draft of the rules presented by DWQ at a June 16 stakeholders meeting did not include those specific edits the 12 counties had agreed to, Spruill said.
Until he is given further direction from the eleven other counties with which Beaufort County is partnered, Spruill said the coalition will continue to endorse the June 9 draft that includes the eight specific edits. Another stakeholders meeting is scheduled for June 26.