Sept. 30 boat rally a reminder to ‘Save Blounts Creek’

Published 5:24 pm Thursday, September 21, 2017

Owners of boats, Jet Skis, kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards and more are invited to a boat rally on Blounts Creek.

The Save Blounts Creek organization — a consortium of Blounts Creek residents, business owners, environmentalists, fishermen and other water-lovers — has scheduled the rally for Sept. 30 at 1 p.m.

It’s the second such event: the first was held in 2013 after the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality issued a permit that would allow limestone mining company Martin Marietta Materials Inc. to potentially discharge up to 12 million gallons of freshwater per day into the brackish waters of Blounts Creek. Shortly after, environmental organizations Sound Rivers and North Carolina Coastal Federation challenged the permit in court, citing there were other options for the discharge that should be explored before potentially harming the ecosystem of Blounts Creek. Since, the case has bounced back and forth from the Office of Administrative Hearings, where the organizations were told twice by OAH Judge Phil Berger Jr. they had no standing to challenge the permit unless damage has already been done, to Superior Court, where Berger’s first decision was overturned.

“We will have our last court date coming up in mid-October to win or lose our battle to Save Blounts Creek. We want to let MM Mining and some non-environmental-thinking politicians know that we are still here and just as angered as we ever were,” wrote Bob Daw, one of Save Blounts Creek’s founders, in an email.

Of concern is that the continuous discharge of fresh water into the headwaters of Blounts Creek will change the pH of brackish waters designated by the state as a “nursery” for many aquatic species. The change could potentially impact both recreational and commercial fishing and the many businesses they support, according to Save Blounts Creek business owners. Residents in the area who source water from wells are concerned 12 million gallons of water per day being pumped out of the Castle Hayne aquifer will make wells go dry.

Part of the deal for the mine includes assisting those whose wells are impacted. Lawyers for Martin Marietta and DEQ have argued in court that any pH change to Blounts Creek may impact some species but will allow others to thrive.

In October, it will be decided in Superior Court again, but now, Daw and others are organizing a rally they hope to will bring awareness to the issue, as well as bring to Blounts Creek twice the number of vessels that were on the water in 2013.

“We want to double that number of boats with a convoy of 200 boats in parade fashion from Cotton Patch Marina to the mouth of Blounts Creek,” Daw said.

Participants are asked to gather early on the northwest side of Blounts Creek bridge and to keep the channel clear while waiting. Roving boat music will be provided on the water by Beaufort County Traditional Music Association founders Rob Cuthrell and Linda Boyer, and Sound Rivers Executive Director Heather Deck will give opening remarks before the Pamlico-Tar riverkeeper boat will lead the parade of vessels on a slow cruise from the bridge to Cotton Patch Marina and back. Participants are encouraged to bring signs, Daw said.

“Yes, it will be organized chaos. Yes, it will be a cluster madness of craziness,” Daw wrote. “But it could very well be a record of all records ever set, to have 200 boats in a parade protest against a terrible wrong that has been allowed by our state D.E.Q. and politicians that picked their staff.”