Riverkeeper seeks wetland protections impacts

Environmental, Neuse River Watershed, Sound Rivers, Stormwater, Tar-Pamlico Watershed, Water Quality, Wetlands

Posted on December 7th, 2023

Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Katey Zimmerman with forum presenter John R. Dorney.

Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper Katey Zimmerman was on the move this week, seeking out information about how recent legislation and a U.S. Supreme Court decision will impact wetlands in the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico watersheds.

On Monday, Katey attended the North Carolina Water Resources Association’s Wetland Protections Winter Forum at North Carolina State University’s McKimmon Conference and Training Center. The present was John R. Dorney, an expert in wetland and stream functional assessment, isolated wetlands and wetland and stream permitting.

“The presentation was primarily about the effects of the Sackett (v. EPA) decision on jurisdiction wetlands. There has been lots of confusion about the real implications of the decision for two main reasons—one, many wetland mapping resources either have very low accuracy and/or are decades out of date, and two, poorly understood definitions of phrases used in regards to wetlands like ‘relatively permanent’ and ‘indistinguishable,’” Katey said, adding that because there are no solid definitions of those qualifiers, a large percentage of wetlands will no longer be protected.

Another implication is that ditch connections are not sufficient in determining a wetland, so wetland types that may no longer be jurisdictional include pocosins, hardwood flats, pine flats, managed pineland and depressional swamp forest.

According to Dorney, the loss of regulation will likely result in slow changes over time to water quality and flooding, except in areas that are rapidly developing, such as Greenville and New Bern.

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