Stormwater compromise could be struck Thursday

Published 6:29 am Wednesday, June 25, 2008

By Staff
New rules could
take effect July 1
Staff Writer
Groups with a stake in the passage of new coastal-area stormwater regulations are expected to conclude their negotiations Thursday.
But in reaching an expected compromise, the environmental community has had to make a number of concessions to 12 coastal counties to secure their passage, according to one Beaufort County environmentalist.
The 12-county coalition, of which Beaufort, Washington and Hyde counties are members, formed to oppose the proposed rules. The counties contend the rules, in their original form, could stymie development in poor, rural areas of eastern North Carolina. The rules were approved by the Environmental Management Commission in January.
The counties, the N.C. Division of Water Quality, environmental groups and others have been discussing revisions of the original rules, revisions that would be palatable to all.
Tom Reeder, an environmental supervisor with DWQ, is confident the groups will agree on a draft of the rules Thursday. If that occurs, a new bill will be drafted and introduced to the House and Senate for consideration.
One of the concessions the environmental community has made in recent drafts is the exclusion of the use of stormwater-retention ponds within one-half mile of shellfish waters. While those ponds collect stormwater runoff, they can overflow during heavy-rain events and discharge large quantities of pollutants into nearby waters, according to Jacobs.
A June 16 draft of the rules offered by DWQ included language that would prohibit the use of retention ponds within one-half mile of shellfish waters, a change that caused the 12 counties concern, according to Beaufort County Manager Paul Spruill. Spruill has been tapped as a spokesman for the 12 counties. That draft also moved the effective date for the rules from Jan. 1, 2009, to July 1, 2008.
The counties agreed to endorse an earlier draft of the rules which included eight specific edits to the original rules which Spruill said were carried over to the June 16 draft. Though Spruill takes issue with the retention-pond prohibition and the new effective date, he agreed a compromise could be reached Thursday.
Spruill said he was “discouraged” by subsequent compromise drafts which would enact the rules one week from Tuesday.
Despite the concessions made by their agencies, Reeder and Jacobs were confident that the compromise draft of the rules will accomplish the goal of strengthening current stormwater regulations. The current rules were designed to protect coastal waters used by commercial fishermen and recreation from permanent closure caused by pollutants found in stormwater runoff. The current rules have failed to accomplish that goal, according to Jacobs.