NC Senate Bill Hurts Waterways

The NC Senate has taken a step to weaken protections for our state’s waterways with its recent Senate Bill 131. Under this bill, the length of stream developers can harm or destroy before having to mitigate the damage they cause will be doubled. According to NC Policy Watch, “Senate Bill 131 could benefit not only the entire development industry, but one of the bill’s primary sponsors…”

Small streams, like the one pictured here, could be filled in without requiring any mitigation, or offset to the damage.

“Why are we racing to the bottom?” Upper Neuse RIVERKEEPER Matthew Starr asked in a recent NC Policy Watch article.  Starr’s quote was in response to the Senate’s assertion that Senate Bill 131 serves to “align North Carolina’s requirements with those of other states and of districts overseen by the US Army Corps of Engineers.”  To read the rest of the NC Policy Watch article about Senate Bill 131, click here.

Please contact your NC Senator and Representative and tell them to vote NO on Senate Bill 131find your legislator here.

For more information about the impact of  these changes, continue reading below.

Regulatory Reform Act of 2016 Background and Impacts

Senate Bill 131, Regulatory Reform Act of 2016 was introduced last year, but failed to pass both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly. The bill includes sections that would harm public resources or the environment and should be removed from the bill.

Section §2.4 of the Bill: Mitigation of stream impacts. The bill would double the length of stream that can be destroyed with no mitigation required, from 150 linear feet to 300 feet of impact, and exempts the first 300 feet of larger impacts from mitigation requirements. If implemented, this will increase the unmitigated loss of streams, which are critical for water quality, flood control, habitat, and water supply.

  • Section 2.4 “Except as required by federal law, the Department of Environmental Quality shall not require mitigation for losses of 300 linear feet or less of stream bed.” This provision applies to ALL STREAMS including our most important rivers. Doubling the allowed impact before mitigation from 150 feet to 300 feet will cause destruction of major streams and rivers throughout North Carolina.
  • A second clause states: “Except as required by federal law, the Department of Environmental Quality shall not require mitigation for impacts to an intermittent stream.”  These small streams are critical parts of the natural drainage system of the state.  Here are important facts and impacts of allowing these streams to be destroyed:
    • Of the streams that supply public drinking water systems, 56% are intermittent, ephemeral, or headwater streams.  That’s over 7K miles out of 13K miles of streams in the state.
    • As small headwater channels are lost, flooding increases downstream.
    • Small streams are important in controlling the flow of water to larger streams. By controlling the flow of water to larger streams, an intact network of healthy headwater streams can reduce downstream flooding.
    • NC’s small streams drain between 55% and 85% of the land area and are critical at protecting downstream water quality.  This is where our drinking water sources begin!
    • Headwater streams are a major source of food for downstream aquatic ecosystems, accounting for between 50% and 70% of the aquatic life found in our watersheds.  They offer vital habitat for wildlife.
    • Brook trout, the only trout native to NC, use larger rivers for part of its life, but rely on small  streams for spawning and nursery areas.  Lose small streams, and we lose native trout habitat.

If you care about any of these factors, including the higher costs that will be paid by taxpayers later to address problems caused by stream destruction, please contact your NC Senator and Representative and tell them to vote NO on Senate Bill 131 – find your legislator here.