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State farm bill strips wetland protections, environmental groups say impact would be devastating

A new government survey shows an increase in wetlands for the first time in many decades. But most of the increases are due to ponds like this one in Edgewater, Md. It was built recently to hold storm runoff from a new housing development.
Elizabeth Shogren, NPR
File: A new government survey shows an increase in wetlands for the first time in many decades.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently sharply limited the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to protect and preserve wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

The North Carolina Farm ACT was approved by the general assembly on Thursday and now goes to the governor’s desk. It includes a provision that says the state can’t adopt more stringent protections for wetlands than federal ones.

Sound Rivers’ Neuse River Keeper Samantha Kopp said that could have a devastating impact on eastern North Carolina.

“If North Carolina officials do not step in and take action to protect our wetlands and small streams, our communities are going to see worse and more frequent flooding, and we're going to see also water quality issues downstream,” she said.

Vote margins in both chambers signal that any veto by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper could be overridden.

Republican Rep. Jimmy Dixon of Duplin County, who shepherded the bill in the House, told colleagues on Wednesday that the impact of the wetlands provisions upon flood control and water quality was overstated.

’What we’re talking about here is isolated wetlands,” said Mike Carpenter, with the North Carolina Home Builders Association, which pushed for the wetlands change.

He added: "It’s not as gloom and doom and disastrous as our friends in the environmental community would like to believe it is.”

Public Radio East reached out to several officials with the North Carolina State University Extension to ask more about the positive impact the reduced wetland protections would have on agricultural producers but did not hear back by deadline.

**The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Annette is originally a Midwest gal, born and raised in Michigan, but with career stops in many surrounding states, the Pacific Northwest, and various parts of the southeast. She has been involved in the media industry in eastern North Carolina for more than three years. An award-winning journalist and mother of four, Annette moved to ENC to be closer to family – in particular, her two young grandchildren. It’s possible that a -27 day with a -68 windchill in Minnesota may have also played a role in that decision. In her spare time, Annette does a lot of toddler and baby cuddling, reading, designing costumes for children’s theater and producing the coolest Halloween costumes anyone has ever seen. She has also worked as a diversity and inclusion facilitator serving school districts and large corporations. It’s the people that make this beautiful area special, and she wants to share those stories that touch the hearts of others. If you have a story idea to share, please reach out by email to