Raleigh, N.C. — Proposals to repeal water-quality rules for Jordan Lake and to allow more terminal groins at the coast survived the crossover deadline by passing the Senate Wednesday.
Senate Bill 515 would immediately repeal the state's 2009 water-quality rules to mitigate pollution and runoff flowing into Jordan Lake, a drinking water source for much of the Triangle.
Sponsor Sen. Rick Gunn, R-Alamance, said the rules are costing developers and cities hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they aren't working. He says a legislative commission will meet over the next few months to start from scratch on a new set of rules.
"We need to take a stand here and say we are going to do something to help the people who have to use the lake as a water supply," said co-sponsor Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford. In the meantime she added, "We need to quit just throwing money at this lake."
Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, called those arguments "completely devoid of history."
"The reason there’s been no improvement in the water quality of the lake is because the rules have not taken effect yet," he said. "Y'all keep putting them off."
Stein said repealing mitigation rules to improve water quality is “inane.”
"By the same logic, somebody who is genetically overweight shouldn’t be concerned at all about what they eat. Eat all the sweets and sugar they want. It’s OK, because we’ll treat them for diabetes," Stein said. "No doctor in the world would agree to that."
The bill passed the Senate 31-16 and goes to the House, along with Senate Bill 151, which would allow terminal groins in all 14 of the state's inlets.
Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, said the proliferation of groins would make the state's beaches "look like New Jersey."
"What we are doing is going to change radically the beautiful beaches of North Carolina, and there will be no turning back," she said.
Sponsor Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, disagreed, saying the structures would help protect inlets and land values.
"Every time we try to protect ourselves, our real estate," he responded, "suddenly a stop-sign comes up, and everyone has a better idea than we do."
The bill also eases most of the restrictions and regulations in current law for the four pilot-project structures approved in 2011. All four permits have been issued, but none has yet been built.
"Nobody can build them," said Sen Harry Brown, R-Onslow. "We made it so restrictive that nobody can jump through the hoops."
The bill also allows local governments to take on debt without voter approval to pay for the multimillion-dollar projects.
Stein ran an amendment to require voter approval for borrowing for terminal groins, but Republican leaders used a parliamentary maneuver to avoid a recorded vote on the amendment.
"For folks who didn’t want to help us with dredging, it seems like you want to get in the middle of all the issues on the coast," said Brown.
The bill passed on a vote of 36-11.