NEWSLETTER # 106, January, 2004 PO BOX 155, BEAUFORT, NC 28516. 252-728-5117
Director's Editorial: Don Hoss
[Don retired in 2003 after a 45 year career as a biologist at the Federal Biological Laboratory, now the NOAA Laboratory, in Beaufort. He was Director of the Laboratory from 1998 to 2003….Ed.]
Remembering the Carteret County Environmental Resources Commission
In 1969 then Carteret County Commissioner Ken Newsom issued a written statement expressing his concerns about pollution in Carteret County. In that statement Commissioner Newsom noted that problems associated with other parts of the country, such as air and water pollution and over-crowding, had reached Carteret County. He gave, as examples, the increasing number of areas closed to shellfishing, receding water tables resulting in the loss of artesian wells in the eastern part of the county, and the use of secondary roads for dumping trash and garbage. Commissioner Newsom went on to say that he believed that local government was the best hope for finding solutions to environmental problems because it should be more responsive to the people and their problems. He then proposed the establishment of a county Environmental Resources Commission to serve as an advisory group to the Commission. The commission, appointed by the Commissioners, would:
What Commissioner Newsom said at that time holds true today, at least in my opinion. An INFORMED local government is essential if we are to preserve the environment and the way of life that is cherished in the county. The problem is, how does local government get the best information available on complex environmental issues (e.g. stormwater runoff, habitat protection, and land use planning, just to name a few)?
I suggest that the County Commissioners consider reconstituting the Environmental Resources Commission. Carteret County is fortunate in that within the county it has excellent environmental expertise located in Federal, State and University facilities and several non-governmental environmental organizations. In addition, there is a wealth of practical knowledge available from the local fishing community.
As an example, a reconstituted Environmental Resources Commission could research and provide information on current environmental issues such as land use planning. As it now stands, the required revision of the Carteret County CAMA Land Use Plan has been delegated by the County Commissioners to the County Planning Commission and a consulting group has been hired to assist them in their efforts. In my opinion, a county Environmental Resources Commission made up of county residents could provide important input needed to update the current plan.
We should take advantage of the valuable expertise in our county so that the critical environmental decisions that must be made (decisions that affect not only us, but generations to come) will be based on the best information available and benefit all of the citizens of the county.
Stormwater Rules Update
In a previous Newsletter, we detailed the steps to be taken with the set of Stormwater Rules [Phase II (15A NCAC 2H .0126) and State (15A NCAC 2H .1014)] adopted by the Environmental Management Commission (EMC) in July, 2003. They are to become enforceable rules by August 2004. As we predicted, the Rules Review Commission (RRC) sent the Rules back to EMC with significant objections. One key objection was lack of statutory authority to require the reach of compliance intended in local government stormwater ordinances based on Phase II requirements. Regarding the State Rules, RRC stated that there was lack of certainty as to whether counties that are not owners or operators of stormwater systems are subject to these Rules. This last point is particularly telling as it was EXACTLY this reason why the State Rules were written; counties have many miles of stormwater conveyances, called highway and road drainage systems, not owned or operated by the county. Finally, RRC complained that both sets of Rules were ambiguous (too many subsections and too hard to follow) and needed to be rewritten.
EMC responded to RRC's comments in several ways. Addressing the ambiguity issue, it reworked the organization of the Rules to makes them easier to read and understand. The more contentious point about legitimacy of the authority of these Rules in counties not owning stormwater drainage systems was handled by giving local governments a number of different ways they could control stormwater runoff from new development other than by issuing new ordinances. In counties without approved stormwater programs, however, new development sponsors would have to apply directly to DENR for the appropriate stormwater control permits.
RRC again took up the Rules question and concluded that ambiguity and lack of statutory authority still plagued the proposed Rules. In other words, EMC had not fixed the problems that provoked the initial objections expressed by RRC when the Rules were first set back to EMC. Now what? EMC staff has to sort out just what the RRC intended at this point. Did RRC want to "return" the Rules, thus requiring new public hearings. Or did it want to "object" to the Rules, thus requiring EMC to address the objections? All we can predict at this juncture is that intense discussions must be taking place between EMC and RRC staffs to figure this out. The fate of the Rules is now uncertain.
By our next Newsletter, March 2004, we might be able to report progress as the Rules may have moved to the General Assembly by then. A letter writing campaign from CCX members to key legislators may be in order, at that point, to help protect whatever is left of the original EMC product that requires defending from attack by lobbies opposed to some of the environmental protections in the Rules.
Our big news, of course, is the upcoming Annual Meeting. Please note the details in the box below and plan to attend. We expect to be impressed, once again, with the quality of the presentations and the quantity of the turnout.