Storm water compromise reached

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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There was a stronger bill proposed to help correct this major threat to our waterways by development. Developers killed the stronger measures. It is wonderful to live on the water, but it is also a privilege that comes with responsibilities. Common fertilizers, household chemicals, and pet debris, coming from these properties, are devastating to our shared waterways. Are rain barrels and rain gardens a real solution?
Environmental concerns must be balanced against economic reality. We can't "turn off the existing economy" locally, regionally, nationally, or globally. For example, destroying agriculture in Central California to help wild salmon populations is not good policy. You have to compromise so that both farmers and salmon survive. Destroying the logging business over tens of thousands of square miles for the sake of a bird that is only locally endangered and thrives in other locations is not good policy. It causes large local unemployment, renders millions of acres basically worthless when they can't be logged, and deprives the government of much needed revenue. In the case at hand, the ICW and ocean would greatly benefit if we outlawed any development within one-hundred yards of any body of water and made paved parking lots and driveways a thing of the past, but people are simply not willing to accept those conditions. The requirements contained in the original bill meant that if you put up an average sized house with an average sized driveway on an average sized lot, you had to include engineered storm water runoff controls. It wasn't only developers who said that that was too much. People rejected it. Everyone, to include developers, wants to preserve our environment, but there are two basic facts that environmentalists need to comprehend: * No one is going to support environmental controls that cost them large amounts of money or radically alter their lifestyle. * You are naive if you belive that man can eventually exist on this planet without having any effect on the environment and other species around him. So you do what you can. You educate people about fertilizer and pesticide use, about dumping oil down storm drains, about cleaning up after their basically warn them that "What you dump here is eventually going to wind up out there." It's all about compromise and balance, and it always will be. Man is just as much a part of nature as any other species, and as time moves forward we will adapt and evolve in the environment we have influenced or we will become extinct as a species. It really is that simple. In the meantime, few people are willing to see their million-dollar ICW-facing lot rendered worthless with the stroke of a pen, or leave behind the life that they know for the lifestyle of Jeremiah Johnson or Ted Kaczynski.
I still see the developers as the vocal and stringent opposition of this storm water bill, not the average citizen. This bill will replace a 20 year old bill, that all studies showed to be outdated and ineffectual. Up to 90% of contamination that closes shellfish waters (this is an important indicator), are caused by developmental run off. I still believe that it is a responsibility, as well as a privilege, to live directly on the waterways. If you can afford to build/buy a home on the waterfront in these times, then you can afford to protect these same waters, home to thousands of species. And who wants to live on a sewer?