@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Rollbacks of Jordan Lake Rules, jetty cap on deck

Posted May 14, 2013
Updated May 15, 2013

The Oregon Inlet is often too shallow for commercial fishermen to navigate due to sand that has filled the channel.

— Two bills that would repeal major state environmental laws are headed for the Senate floor after passing the Senate Agriculture Committee Tuesday morning. 

They could win Senate approval as soon as Wednesday. 

Jordan Lake Rules repealed

Senate Bill 515 would repeal the Jordan Lake Rules, a regional water quality management plan that has long been a source of contention between environmentalists and local governments and developers.

The rules were put in place in 2004 to improve water quality in Jordan Lake, a major source of Triangle drinking water, by restricting upstream discharges and runoffs.  

Sponsor Rep. Rick Gunn, R-Alamance, said that, after eight years of study by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, there's no evidence that the rules have improved the water quality in Jordan Lake. 

Gunn said the current rules "have been a tremendous burden on municipalities, a tremendous burden on developers – and we have got nothing to show for it, folks."

"There is simply no sense in us continuing upstream to do mitigation efforts that are not showing any results," he said. "Let’s stop throwing good money after bad."  

Republican leaders took action in 2011 and 2012 to stay major portions of the rules. The current bill would repeal all remaining state rules for Jordan Lake. Federal environmental rules would remain in effect. 

In the meantime, a legislative research committee would be created to come up with a new approach that would use new technology, Gunn said, to improve the lake's water quality by focusing on the lake itself, not its sources.

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, said that approach isn't likely to work. “It’s a law of nature. What happens upstream – what you put in the water – ends up downstream," she said.

Gunn said the Environmental Protection Agency had not signed off on the proposal.

"We’re going to repeal the rules,” he said. "We’ll have that dialog with them at that time."

Cap removed on terminal groins

Senate Bill 151, "Coastal Policy Reform," would do away with the state's restrictions on the use of "terminal groins" – they're also known as hardened structures or jetties – to protect inlets and property along the coast.

For years, North Carolina disallowed the structures. Scientists warned lawmakers and policymakers that groins interrupt the natural movement of sand up and down beaches and dunes. While that might protect one piece of property, it can damage others, especially on North Carolina'a coast, where storms shift thousands of tons of sand several times a year. 

In 2011, state lawmakers agreed to allow four groins on the coast, with a long list of approvals, checks and safeguards required along the way. At the time, they said it was a sort of pilot program to see how the structures fared.

None of the four have been built yet, but Senate Bill 151 would remove the cap anyway, along with nearly every required safeguard as well.

In granting permits for groins, the Coastal Resources Commission would be instructed to give more weight to the benefits of the structures. Management plans would have to be "reasonable," and the CRC could not require such plans to address “speculative matters.” Federally required environmental impact studies would suffice. Applicants wouldn't have to prove financial ability to build and maintain the structures. 

Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, said all 14 inlets could be sites for groins. He said it would help protect the inlets and could save money on dredging.  

"For years, we fought off the groins," Kinnaird said. "We have a beautiful coast. I don’t think it’ll be beautiful after this. You may put a groin in, but your neighbor may suffer greatly." 

The Coastal Federation's Rob Lamme warned that allowing cities to use special indebtedness to pay for the groins could leave taxpayers with the bill without any say in the matter.

Mary McLean Asbill with the Southern Environmental Law Center urged lawmakers to wait to see how the first groins perform before opening the door to more.

Rabon rejected that plea: "We're moving forward." 

"When your inlet is filling and when your front yard is washing away, you don’t have a lot of time," Rabon said. "I live where houses wash away. I see the need."

11 Comments

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  • kdawg May 15, 2013

    Catering to the developer lobby, instead of protecting the environmental interests of the people. Why am I not surprised. And the legislature sells the people out once again. What else is new?

  • jgilchr May 15, 2013

    This is a move to protect polluters once fracking occurs.

  • GravyPig May 15, 2013

    "Isn't it ironic that both Republican and reverse start with R. Their transmission only has one gear R."

    I would find that extremely funny.... if it weren't so doggone true.

  • jlp May 15, 2013

    Killing the strategy now would be a step backward for the state's efforts to clean up Lake Jordan. - mikeherrmann2

    Isn't it ironic that both Republican and reverse start with R. Their transmission only has one gear R.

  • mikeherrmann2 May 15, 2013

    Implementation of the state's strategy to clean-up Jordan Lake has been delayed five times by the Legislature. No wonder Jordan Lake hasn't seen much improvement. Only a few measures have been allowed to be put in place (e.g., protection of existing streamside forests). Killing the strategy now would be a step backward for the state's efforts to clean up Lake Jordan.

  • jttm69 May 15, 2013

    You know, North Carolina is just a beautiful state. That's one of the reasons I moved here. From Raleigh, it's a day drive to either the beach or mountains. At this rate, you can kiss all of this goodbye.

    Conservatives should be outraged, this damages the environment which in terms harms hunting. Evironmentalists will be outraged for the obvious. Even those of you against Obamacare should be mad. The more we lower the standard of the air we breathe, cost we protect, water we drink, it's only going to raise health care costs.

  • GravyPig May 15, 2013

    My folks live at the coast on the ICW and a neighbor has installed a groin. The sands shift throughout the seasons. Most of the time the neighbors end up with all the sand and my folks get the errosion.

    To remove these restrictions without even using data from the three test groins (that havn't even been built yet) is just stupid.

    ""Let’s stop throwing good money after bad."" - Rep. Rick Gunn, R-Alamance.

    While Rep. Gunn is talking about Jordan lake, I think his statement is rather valid to the groin issue. How can you give Ok to a project that experts say will cause more harm than good without actually doing some research?

    "Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, said all 14 inlets could be sites for groins. He said it would help protect the inlets and could save money on dredging."

    Really Sen. Rabon? So it would help protect inlets and save money on dredging. And what research do you base this statement on? The data wasn't from NC, what are you basing your decision on?

  • Teacher-Scientist May 15, 2013

    In college, my extremely liberal, extremely environmental American Government professor used to complain about how Republicans often ignored/removed environmental regulations in favor of business interests. I thought he was biased and inaccurate. I still think he is biased, but it seems he was right about some of it. Removing the caps and reporting requirements for artificial geological features such as groins- before the first one has even been built- makes absolutely NO sense.

  • jttm69 May 15, 2013

    Come On, it's about personal responsibility. The rest of us should be responsible for the 1%. And, I can't wait to drink the polluted water. That's exactly what I was hoping for.

  • Come On_Seriously May 14, 2013

    "When your inlet is filling and when your front yard is washing away, you don’t have a lot of time," Rabon said. "I live where houses wash away. I see the need."

    So the rest of the state should pay to maintain his front yard?

    So much for the conservative mantra of personal responsibility (in picking a place to live that doesn't require a subsidy from the 99.99% of NC residents who don't live on the beach).

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