Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory signed legislation Friday that will delay for three years regulations designed to clean up Jordan Lake.
Jordan Lake has been "impaired" by pollution, much of it nutrient-filled runoff that feeds algae, since it was constructed by the federal government decades ago.
The so-called Jordan Lakes Rules were put in place in 2009 after much debate to fix those problems. Jordan Lake provides drinking water and recreation in the Triangle, but much of the cost of cleaning up the lake was incurred by communities in Triad region, where streams that feed the lake originate.
Although communities in Alamance, Guilford and Rockingham counties have paid to upgrade sewage treatment plants, rules that would require other measures and potentially limit development in the lake's watershed haven't gone into effect yet. With McCrory's signature on Senate Bill 515, they are on hold until 2016.
In the meantime, the state is using $1.3 million to test technology for cleaning up the lake itself, and lawmakers and state regulators will look at other possible solutions to the pollution problem.
"We're not surprised, but we're still incredibly disappointed," Elizabeth Ouzts, executive director of Environment North Carolina, said of McCrory's decision to sign the bill.
Ouzts said she believes the new technology should be tested in conjunction with the Jordan Lake Rules, not replace them.
"We know what needs to be done to clean up the lake. We simply have to control the pollution from all the development upstream of the lake," she said. "Every year we wait to clean it up is another year of beach closings, another year of algae blooms, another year of pollution in the lake."
Sen. Tamara Barringer, R-Wake, said the pilot project and a comprehensive review of all regulations are in the best long-term interests of Jordan Lake.
"I am disappointed that environmental groups are standing up against new technology that will improve the water quality in Jordan Lake and against a comprehensive study to ensure the safety of our drinking water," Barringer said.
Despite the delay in implementing the 2009 set of regulations, the new law is less sweeping than a measure that originally passed the Senate that would have wiped out the Jordan Lake Rules altogether and created a committee to redraw them.