N.C. Senate Has Crazy New Scheme to Avoid Cleaning Up Jordan Lake, Would Repeal Protective Buffers Along Waterways | News

N.C. Senate Has Crazy New Scheme to Avoid Cleaning Up Jordan Lake, Would Repeal Protective Buffers Along Waterways


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SolarBees utterly failed to do anything to clean up nutrient-polluted Jordan Lake but the North Carolina Senate has another trick up its sleeve—anything to avoid actually spending the money needed to clean up a reservoir that provides drinking water to 300 thousand people.

A provision in the Senate budget unveiled yesterday earmarks $500 thousand from the state's Clean Water Management Trust to study whether freshwater mussels can be used to clean up the Jordan and Falls reservoirs and other polluted water bodies.

An interim report on the study would be due in March 2017, and a final report due in May 2018.

The North Carolina Conservation Network says this new proposal  and other budget provisions "largely eschew science-based management strategies in favor of unproven tactics."

"Introducing non-native freshwater mussels into North Carolina's lakes would be a recipe for disaster, and is no substitute for controlling pollution at the source," said Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Matthew Starr in a statement. "These provisions are just another attempt by the legislature to delay any actual clean up. It's a waste of money."

Other budget provisions block attempts to restore water quality and prevent fish kills in Jordan and Falls Lake and in other water bodies across the state, including repealing wastewater treatment upgrades, controls on runoff from developments and farms, and protections for riparian buffers along state waterways.

Scientists regard vegetative buffers as the most cost-effective and fair means of controlling polluted runoff from farms and developments; the Senate budget would have them repealed and would schedule the repeal of state requirements for buffers along the Neuse River, the Tar-Pamlico River, the Catawba River on December 31, 2019— even if no alternative is in place.  

“This provision isn’t a tweak, it’s a sledgehammer," said Molly Diggins, state director of the North Carolina Sierra Club in a statement. "It is as if the Senate has forgotten how important our waterways are for tourism, recreation, and drinking water.”

Here's a list of several of the bad things the Senate budget proposes to do to the state's environment from the N.C. Conservation Network's policy director Grady McCallie:

· Section 14.13 attacks North Carolina’s nutrient management strategies, packages of rules designed to restore water quality and prevent massive fish kills in the Neuse estuary, Tar-Pamlico estuary, Jordan lake, and Falls lake. Jordan and Falls reservoirs are water sources for, respectively, over 300 thousand and over 400 thousand residents of the Triangle.

· The provision blocks all implementation of the Jordan and Falls rules through December 2019, and repeals all four strategies at that date.

· In the meantime, the provision earmarks $500 thousand in Clean Water Management Trust Fund dollars to fund a study of in-lake alternatives to controlling pollution at the source. Just last month, the Environmental Management Commission (EMC) concluded, in a report required by SL2015-246 last year, that in-lake treatment doesn’t work and isn’t a substitute for controlling pollution upstream at the source.

· Also throwing good money after bad, the provision concedes that SolarBees didn’t work, but then earmarks another $500 thousand from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund to study whether freshwater mussels can be used to clean up Jordan and Falls reservoirs.

· The provision requires the EMC to adopt new rules based on the new in-lake study, as a part of ‘rules readoption’, but on a schedule that is completely inconsistent with the ongoing readoption schedule, with temporary rules in place by December 2019. The Department of Environmental Quality is directed to run a time-consuming stakeholder process starting in December 2016, even as the provision discards the results of all four long-running stakeholder negotiations that created the current rule sets.

· The premise for the provision – that North Carolina’s four nutrient management strategies have not worked and will not work – is false. The strategies have reduced nitrogen and phosphorus pollution input where they have been implemented, and already conditions are not as bad as they were in the estuaries in the late 1990's. If the rules are fully implemented – particularly in Jordan and Falls lakes – conditions will continue gradually to improve.

"Provisions in this bill would repeal all four of the pollution management strategies, as well as water quality protections in the Catawba basin, and around Randleman reservoir in the Triad," McCallie said in a statement. "Where these rules have been implemented, they reduce pollution. Repealing them would harm water quality across North Carolina and would violate the federal Clean Water Act."

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