NEWSLETTER # 117       MARCH-APRIL 2006          PO BOX 155, BEAUFORT, NC 28516              252-728-3885


Downeast Tomorrow and Planning.


            We applaud the work of our friends “Down East” who have come together to work for the preservation of their heritage and their water quality. Our Annual Meeting was a wake-up call to all interested in preserving our waters and our economic base. The message, loud and clear, was that “we are losing our water quality and we have to do things differently to save our remaining clean waters”.

            The simple fact is that, as Pete Peterson, Vice Chair of the Division of Environmental Management and Chair of their Water Quality Committee, and Tom Reeder, of the Division of Water Quality, both said: our present regulatory framework is not preserving our water quality.  We are not controlling stormwater runoff and excessive pollutants are entering our waters. The evidence is in the declining oyster and scallop populations and in the increasing amounts of water closed to shellfishing. Core Sound is a priceless gem that we will lose unless we change our attitude toward development. It is abundantly clear that impervious surfaces of over 10-15% result in water quality degradation unless special measures are taken to control runoff! Note that present coastal stormwater rules allow 25-30% impervious surface with no special controls.

            So what can we do about it? Downeast Tomorrow has successfully lobbied the county commissioners to hold a public hearing on establishing a moratorium on large developments down east for a year to give the local government time to establish regulations that will be effective in controlling pollution. The state has not done it and it is a logical step to expect local government to do so.

            As Tom Reeder discussed, the state is planning a new set of stormwater control regulations that will be offered as an option to local government. Some of our environmental friends think the proposed Universal Stormwater Management Rules are not strong enough but, as we discussed in a previous newsletter, they are simple and a big improvement over the existing state rules.

            Most importantly, adoption of these rules would signify that the local government finally realizes that state rules do not work in our sensitive environment and that the local government must act to protect our water.

            Another topic being considered by DET is the Land Use Plan (LUP). The county commissioners adopted a draft plan weakened in several ways from the previous plan despite objections from citizens groups. The draft plan was sent to the state for comments, which have now been returned and which show a number of deficiencies in the LUP. After the commissioners consider these comments and propose revisions, there will be a public hearing on the LUP. We hope that interested parties study the plan and state comments and again demand a better LUP.

            The LUP is not meant to be a regulatory document; it is supposed to be a plan which outlines how the citizens and the local government want to see the region grow and develop. There should be delineated areas that are suitable only for very limited development as well as areas for commercial or industrial development. Policies for land use should be included that will protect water quality of adjacent waters.  We hope that DET will work to see their concerns addressed in the plan revision.


Navy Sonar Range.


            The following article is by our newest board member, Christine Miller.

            The Navy is proposing to build a sonar training range approximately 47 nautical miles off Camp LeJeune, in Onslow Bay.   The range will be used for sonar training and will cover 500 square miles.   Sonar has been associated with mass strandings of marine mammals in several instances in the US and abroad.   There is also potential for sonar to harm fish and disturb valuable hard bottom habitat.   The sonar range is also likely to disrupt recreational and commercial fishing and recreational diving, potentially impacting the local economy.

            The Navy’s Draft Environmental Impact statement did not adequately address the potential negative environmental and economic impacts. The National Environmental Policy Act requires that they do so. Many groups, including environmentalists, scientists and fishermen object to the proposed project.  Most environmental groups, including Sierra Club, Environmental Defense, the Coastal Federation, Southern Environmental Law Center and others object based on the documented evidence of the damaging effects these mid-frequency blasts would have on many marine mammals, some of which are protected species. Other problems involve potential effects on seabirds and fish that are important to North Carolina’s commercial and recreational fisheries. The Natural Resources Defense Council has filed two lawsuits to stop the Navy from moving forward with their proposal.

            Sonar has been linked to adverse effects on whales several times in recent years, including beach stranding and death. The Navy has admitted that sonar was the cause of a mass whale stranding in the Bahamas in 2000. In the new National Marine Fisheries Service report on the January 2005 death of 37 whales off the coast of North Carolina, mention of the naval sonar exercise was removed as a possible cause.  Now, however, NOAA has gone on record raising serious concerns about the Navy’s proposal and minimization of negative impacts. A new report on the stranding is due out soon.

            The impact on the highly endangered North Atlantic right whales, of which fewer than 350 remain in the world, is a primary concern.   These animals migrate from Canada to Florida and back every year, along with their newborn calves, which may be especially sensitive to the effects of sonar bombardment.  In its proposal, the Navy admits that humpback and sperm whales could be “harassed” by sonar, but does not mention the right whale, other than to state that the right whale was “expected to occur only rarely in the vicinity of the proposed site,” it would not be harmed. Local fishermen report many sightings of right whales, giving local evidence that they are indeed present in the proposed sonar area.

            Although less is known about sonar’s effects on fish, it is known that the proposed site is in the migratory path of striped and mullet shrimp. Also, at least one study on the effects of seismic testing on bottom fish indicate that the fish leave the area of the testing for an average of five days. The Navy proposes performing 160 exercises a year.

            This training range, if approved, would likely help bring about the extinction of the right whale, as well as hasten the depletion of fishing stocks off the coast.

            The Navy received tens of thousands of comments on their Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). State politicians have expressed serious concerns with the proposal. The final EIS will come out in the fall of 2006, and I hope everyone continues to follow the issue.  --Christine Miller



Crossroads news.


            We had a great Annual Meeting and want to thank all those who attended as well as the outstanding panel of speakers that brought us such a timely message. A special thanks to all those who contributed to the Silent Auction by furnishing items or purchasing the articles.

            Please look at the first line of your address label, which contains information on the status of your membership. Our dues are on a yearly basis and we are grateful to all those who pay dues promptly in the early part of the year. We do not cut your newsletters off promptly because we know late payment often results from just forgetting but we do urge you to check your status. Also, if you really want the newsletter but find it difficult to pay for it, let us know.

            We also know that some of those receiving “Complimentary Copies” are supporters and we welcome monetary support from them even though we provide free copies as a courtesy to local government officials and state or private organizations involved in environmental issues.

            Again, we urge our members to discuss Crossroads with their neighbors and friends. If anyone wants to try a free subscription, just let us know the name and address and we will put them on the mailing list for a few issues.

            We welcome Christine Miller as our newest Board member. Until recently Christine worked with the NC Recreational Water Quality Program in Morehead City. During the past two years, she also served as the Public Information Officer for the new UNC Coastal Studies Institute in Manteo, as part of a DENR/UNC joint appointment.  She will be joining the NC Coastal Federation as their Regional Planning Director in April. She has a Masters degree in Marine Policy with an emphasis on Coastal Management from the University of Delaware's Graduate College of Marine Studies. She serves as a mediator with Sierra Club's National Conflict Resolution Team and is co-chair of the NC Sierra Club's Coastal Conservation committee. She is also a member of the North Carolina Coastal Caucus.
            Al Fox is resigning from the Board. Al has been a valuable member and we will miss him. Our sincere thanks to you Al, for your service on the Board. We appreciate your hard work and willingness to help. Keep up the good work with the Isaac Walton League!

            With Al’s departure, we have a vacancy on the Board and would welcome suggestions for new directors.