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Lawmakers choose to delay, not scrap Jordan Lake Rules

Posted July 11, 2013

— A House committee on Thursday pulled back from plans to repeal water-quality regulations for Jordan Lake, choosing to delay the implementation of some to allow more study of the lake's environment.

The House Environment Committee voted 12-7 to approve an amended version of Senate Bill 515, and the measure is expected before the full House next week.

The Jordan Lake Rules were adopted in 2009 to cut pollution and runoff flowing into the lake from upstream sources by 35 percent.

The lake, which is a drinking water source for about 300,000 people in the Triangle, has always had problems with pollution because it's fed by urban streams and small tributaries that pick up a lot of fertilizer, sediment and toxins. The pollution has caused algae blooms and fish kills and has forced the closure of some of the lake's beaches in recent years.

The Senate voted in May to scrap the rules, which Republican sponsors say aren't working and are hindering economic development in upstream communities from Greensboro to Durham.

Sponsor Sen. Rick Gunn, R-Alamance, who previously called for starting over with new environmental regulations, on Thursday applauded the effort of House lawmakers and regulators with the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources to reach a compromise.

"The intent of this legislation is to clean the lake and make the water quality better," Gunn said.

Jordan Lake aerial Effort to repeal Jordan Lake pollution regulations watered down

Rep. Rick Gunn House committee discusses Jordan Lake legislation

Under the new proposal, rules that have already been implemented will remain in place, but those that haven't yet taken effect will be suspended until July 2016. In the next three years, Gunn said, lawmakers will study new technologies, best practices and program costs to come up with an improved plan to keep Jordan Lake clean.

Also, the state will spend $2 million from the Clean Water Trust Fund for a pilot project on improving water circulation in the Morgan Creek/Haw River branch of the lake.

"This is a badly designed lake," Gunn said, noting the various fingers of the lake and berms impede water flow and promote algal blooms.

Opponents questioned the need to delay any regulations, saying that won't improve Jordan Lake's water quality any faster.

"We need to focus on upstream sources (of pollution) as well as the lake," said Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford. "This is an unfortunate step we're taking."

Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, also balked at the idea of the pilot project, saying the Clean Water Trust Fund doesn't have the resources to spend money on unproven technology.

DENR opposed repealing the Jordan Lake Rules, fearing that any violation of federal clean water standards could lead to even stricter regulations. Tom Reeder, director of the Division of Water Resources, said the agency backs the amended bill.

"You're looking at a recovery we're going to measure in decades, not years. So, taking a few years off to look at this technology to see if there's a cheaper, easier, more efficient way to clean up this lake, it makes good sense to me," Reeder said.

Environmental groups and people who rely on Jordan Lake for water said the long-term cleansing of the lake is a good reason to give the existing rules time to work instead of setting them aside after four years.

"Those rules designed to clean up Jordan Lake will clean up Jordan Lake eventually if they're given a chance to work," said Elizabeth Outzs, director of Environment North Carolina.

"I'm extremely disappointed," Morrisville Mayor Jackie Holcombe said. "I'm disappointed in the process that there was not any opportunity for any public comment."

24 Comments

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  • BGJ Jul 12, 9:07 a.m.

    "...I'm glad you're here to regale us with anecdotes, in the meantime, we'll continue using scientific data..." - perseusomega9

    Amen to that.

  • perseusomega9 Jul 12, 8:21 a.m.

    I'm on the lake in my boat nearly every single weekend, and have been pretty regular since the lake finally filled up in the early 80s (The old slogan was "Ski Jordan lake and never drown"). Other than a muddy color due to the river feeding it, I've never seen any water quality issues. I've never seen fish kills. The only reason the beaches close from time to time is due to the disgusting parents that let their children defecate in the water around the public beach areas. Sounds like a solution to a problem that really doesn't exist, of which the dems are notorious for creating.--Goner

    I'm glad you're here to regale us with anecdotes, in the meantime, we'll continue using scientific data.

  • Offshore Jul 11, 5:09 p.m.

    Primary source of drinking water contaminated by run off of urban areas, fertilizers, etc.
    So stop building more subdivisions on the north end of the lake. It is, by the way, a giant retention pond.

  • oleguy Jul 11, 4:27 p.m.

    Got friends 100 miles NW from NYC,, They cannot even let loose next to a tree because of the water shed.. 100 miles

  • oleguy Jul 11, 4:16 p.m.

    If the rules Aint working, then you need to tighten them, or find out who is breaking them,,, You dont disband them DUH,,,

  • CrazyFoxofCary Jul 11, 3:59 p.m.

    I hope they leave this one alone. We aren't talking a recreation area alone, we are talking the primary source of drinking water for hundreds of thousands in the triangle area.

  • Whatev333 Jul 11, 3:45 p.m.

    An impaired water is an impaired water. It is not rocket science, people. There are reasons for surface water quality standards and years of monitoring go into actually determining a water is impaired.

    All that data goes to the federal government,and it determines the environmental budget for the state that comes from the EPA.

    Of course, if you think that real scientific data is just make believe, everything is a ok...

  • Plenty Coups Jul 11, 3:42 p.m.

    "I will never understand why Republicans/conservatives are so anti-environment."

    Or anti-science. Or anti-public education.

  • stormwaterguy Jul 11, 3:24 p.m.

    @goner: Jordan Lake is impaired from high nutrients as indicated by excessive chlorophyll a which cause the following water quality problems:
    - too much algae
    - low dissolved oxygen
    - foul taste
    - high turbidity

    Other problems include huge amounts of trash, especially in the Haw River section. If anyone wants to see what flows down the Haw River from Burlington (Rep Rick Gunn's district) and Greensboro (Rep Trudy Wade's district), go to www.cleanjordanlake.org

  • fredk Jul 11, 3:22 p.m.

    Repealing environmental efforts is one of the reasons for the New York article which is critical of NC.
    Add in our laughable [but not] fights about education, abortion, prisons, etc.....and you can see the damage done already by the GOP.
    To the person asking why GOP is against the environment...because it costs business money to NOT pollute, and GOP is all about keeping the rich cats rich, and not about the rest of us and the air/water that we need. They drink Perrier, remember!

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