In defense of NC's dispersed wetlands

Small land feature, big water quality effect:

The legislature is planning to remove protections for vitally important features of North Carolina that help reduce the effect of drought, provide habitat for endangered or threatened amphibians and help prevent flooding during storms by storing water.

The most recent version of legislation pending in the General Assembly raises the threshold beyond which a permit is required to fill these wetlands from the existing 10th of an acre in the Piedmont and mountains and the existing third of an acre in the coastal plain to a proposed one-acre threshold statewide.

In light of our already impaired fresh water resources, this is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing. We should be forcing developers to actually create topographical features that slow stormwater down, causing it to infiltrate the soil or form surface water impoundments. If you're interested in creating your own, here are some designs to consider. And for those who automatically blanch when discussing anything remotely related to the Jordan Lake Rules, consider this:

Wetlands and riparian areas typically occur as natural buffers between uplands and adjacent water bodies. They act as natural filters of nonpoint source pollutants, including sediment, nutrients, pathogens, and metals, to waterbodies, such as rivers, streams, lakes, and coastal waters. It is important to preserve and restore damage to wetlands and riparian areas because these areas can play a significant role in managing adverse water quality impacts. Wetlands and riparian areas help decrease the need for costly stormwater and flood protection facilities.

You get it yet? Housing developers have been fighting against best practices for decades, because landscaping to control stormwater runoff is a pain in the ass for them, and it cuts into their profits. Plus, they know when their behavior eventually forces municipalities to upgrade their water treatment facilities, the cost is borne by the taxpayers, not the home ticks.

So the next time somebody whines about how costly complying with the Jordan Lake Rules (or other Federally-mandated water quality steps) is going to be, make sure you let them know who is responsible for acting irresponsibly.

Comments

I imagine the Army Corps of Engineers

will have something to say about this.

NC is broaching the boundary of irresponsibility. It's time for the Feds to step in and take over DENR and all regulatory actions required to preserve our natural resources.

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“Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value.”
― Joe Biden

Unfortunately, I believe their mandate

only covers "navigable" waters, and maybe water resources that feed directly into such. Just as the EPA's oversight/authority over these isolated small wetlands is dubious, at best. While the Clean Water Act does directly affect water quality for specific lakes/rivers, their recommendations on "how" to fix the problem are classified as guidance as opposed to directives.

All that said, a strong argument could be made in civil court that filling in all these smaller wetlands is in direct opposition to provisions of the Clean Water Act. Enough of an argument to tie this piece of crap legislation up in court for a few years, anyway.