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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — North Carolina’s environmental agency says it is merging two divisions that regulate water, concerning environmentalists.

The state Department of Environmental and Natural Resources announced Thursday it’s combining the divisions over water quality and quantity.

Agency spokesman Jamie Kritzer says it makes sense to put the similar programs together as part of Gov. Pat McCrory’s mission to make state government more responsive.

But environmental groups tell the News & Observer the consolidation will cut essential protections for the state’s waters.

The combined Division of Water Resources will regulate both water pollution and deal with water quantity issues, such as drinking water supplies and drought. Kritzer says the merger should be completed next year after a review of inefficient practices and overlapping duties. He says staff cuts are likely.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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