After much debate, a compromise has finally been reached about the storm water runoff problem in coastal North Carolina. The new legislation is now sitting on the governor's desk. The new bill limits the amount of runoff reaching our waterways by limiting the amount of hard surfaces like concrete and asphalt in new construction projects. Mike Giles, NC Coastal Federation, said, "The new rule is going to enact what we already have in New Hanover, Brunswick and Onslow counties already the phase 2. It will enact this phase 2 rule over the remaining 17 counties." This means projects in rapidly-growing Pender County will now have the same restrictions as its neighbors. So what does this mean for future development? Giles said, "If you exceed 12 percent impervious surface cover -- this is asphalt, roofs and sidewalks -- you have to have engineered storm water, which controls the 24 hour 1 year storm, which in Wilmington is about 3.5 inches of water." A buffer zone of grass or vegetation can help filter the runoff before it gets to our waterways. Development less than a half a mile from shellfish waters has to be able to filter 3 and a half inches of water. Beyond that, an inch and a half of rainwater must be controlled. Another way the rules will improve coastal water quality, is by extending the buffer zone between development, and our waterways. Right now that buffer is 30 feet of vegetation. It is being extended to 50. If your lot is not that large, there are other ways to filter the rainwater. Giles said, "If they disturb more than 10,000 square feet, we are going to allow them to control that storm water with rain gardens, cisterns and rain barrels and innovative storm water controls that don't take a lot of engineering." While this new rule will help in the future, current development is still taking its toll on the environment. Next on the to-do list for the NC Coastal Federation and other federal agencies is to introduce legislation requiring areas with no storm water controls in place, to be retro-fitted to provide better filtration. The bill is expected to be signed by governor Easley in two to three weeks. It will then go in effect on October 1st.
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