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New rules on stormwater control receive Legislative approval

By George Olsen


New rules on stormwater control receive Legislative approval

New Bern, NC – INTRO - The state Legislature has approved rules regarding coastal storm-water run-off that will supercede rules slated to go into effect next month. George Olsen has more.

The new rules replace those set up in the 1980s that many saw as ineffective in protecting shellfish waters from pollution. For those concerned about closures of shellfish waters, the new rules should be good news.

12:39 There's no doubt that what the legislature has passed, and assuming there are no substantial technical corrections, the rules are much better than what we have now and they will be more protective of water quality than the rules we have now.

Frank Tursi is the Cape Lookout Coastkeeper with the North Carolina Coastal Federation. But there is some disappointment that more stringent rules devised by North Carolina's Environmental Management Commission that had been slated to go into effect in August have been set aside. A lot of what the EMC devised remains.

02:52 The core components of what we had advocated remained intact, and that was the 12% impervious surface trigger within a half-mile of shellfish waters, if you exceed that 12% then you have to install effective stormwater controls. The amount of stormwater that'll have to be controlled will be a one-year 24-hour storm which in this area of the central coast is around 3.5 inches. The 50-foot setback wasn't changed, so the core components were not changed.

But there were changes that Tursi says were significant.

02:52 If you disturb less than an acre but more than 10,000 square feet, than the rules the EMC passed require some stormwater controls you wouldn't need a permit but you would have to install some minimal stormwater controls on your property. Well, the stakeholder group changed that 10,000 square feet of disturbance to 10,000 square feet of built upon area, of concrete or asphalt, that's a major difference.

How wetlands figured into impervious surface calculations also change with the Legislature's rules. Under EMC rules, if you had 10 acres of land and 5 are wetlands, once you reached 12% impervious surfaces on the remaining five acres, you had to install stormwater controls. Under the Legislature's rules, it would be 12% of all ten acres, and with the percentage of impervious surface allowed increasing to 24% in areas a half-mile or more away from shellfish waters as they did under the EMC proposal it could allow a significant increase in impervious surfaces being laid down.

06:38 So in places like Bertie, Hertford, Camden, those counties in the northeast where there's not a lot of shellfish waters, that 24% is a large enough percentage that you might be able if you can include your wetlands in the calculations, that might be the difference between having to install stormwater controls and not having to install stormwater controls because the percentage difference is large enough that you might be able to use the larger area to avoid stormwater controls.

Despite the changes from the preferred EMC rules, Frank Tursi says the Coastal Federation does support the compromise. But he expresses some dissatisfaction with the process or more accurately perhaps, the skirting of the process.

12:39 Because these were rules that went through the normal public process of rulemaking in North Carolina. There were four public hearings at the coast. Over 1000 people attended. It went before the EMC three times after the public review process and finally approved. All of that was chucked because some powerful special interests didn't like the outcome, and it went into this quasi-legislative process where quote-unquote stakeholders met weekly in Raleigh for two months.

Assuming the bill receives the Governor's signature, the new coastal stormwater run-off rules will go into effect October 1. I'm George Olsen.