Rollbacks of Jordan Lake Rules, jetty cap on deck
Posted May 14, 2013
Updated May 15, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — 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Jordan Lake Rules repealed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."