Keep working on it

Published 6:26 am Tuesday, June 24, 2008

By Staff
It appears the lobbying effort by 12 rural, eastern North Carolina counties at the North Carolina General Assembly is working. It’s too early to say if that effort will bring the results desired by those 12 counties.
Last week, it became evident that hopes for an acceptable compromise over proposed changes to existing stormwater-runoff regulations were evaporating when that lobbying effort reached an impasse. By the end of last week, that compromise was expected to be reached between the 12 counties, the N.C. Division of Water Quality and other stakeholders in the matter.
However, according to the lobbyist representing the 12 counties in Raleigh, “bad language” inserted in the most-recent draft of the bill has left officials in those 12 counties with concerns and worries. Those counties were successful in getting legislators to introduce 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.
Although there’s an impasse over language in the latest draft of the bill, the 12 counties may claim some measure of victory in just getting their bills introduced in the Legislature. Those counties have found plenty of support for their effort. They’ve also run into opposition from people, agencies and organizations who believe the proposed changes to the stormwater rules are needed.
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 at that time 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 take another look at 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. Those counties fear implementation of the proposed changes would result in adverse effects on development and their economies.
Those are not unfounded fears, and they are fears that need addressing. The 12 counties want implementation of the proposed changes delayed 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.
Although the 12 counties are making gains, their efforts are far from over.
Sounds like the 12 counties are in it for the long haul, especially when they are dealing with people who don’t realize or don’t care what will happen to the 12 counties if they are forced to implement rules that likely will harm development opportunities in their jurisdictions and their economies.
With a little compromise and common sense, the 12 counties and the bureaucrats should find the right balance between protecting the environment and the economic futures of the 12 counties.
All of North Carolina’s residents deserve nothing less.