Tag Archives: wetlandsmatter

February Message from Rick

Hello Wetland Enthusiasts!

I hope everyone had a fantastic World Wetlands Day and was able to get out and explore a wetland.

Recently, the US EPA announced the changes to the definition of Waters of the US (WOTUS) which has serious implications for the protection of streams and wetlands especially. We know that fewer wetlands will be under federal protection under the Clean Water Act, but just how many wetlands will lose their protection is still to be determined.

One estimate based on an EPA internal presentation is that 18% of the streams would lose protection and 51% of the wetland would lose protection across the United States. Based on data we have for North Carolina, we estimate that 26% of forested headwater wetlands could lose protection and depending on interpretations, it could be much more. We also know that many basin wetlands like pocosins, wetland flats, and Carolina bays could lose their protection.

So, you may wonder, what does it mean for a wetland to lose their protection. When a wetland is to be impacted usually with some development project, a permit has to be granted by the US Army Corps of Engineers to approve the impacts (I.e., draining and filling) and after efforts are made to first avoid or minimize the impact. A second permit is needed from the North Carolina Department of Enironmental Quality. This permit is also based on the Clean Water Act but deals with water quality issues with the proposed impact. Both permits are required before a wetland can be filled or altered. If a wetland loses protection under the Clean Water Act, then a developer can directly impact a wetland or stream without a permit — there is no legal mechanism to prevent or minimize (or mitigate) the wetland impact.

Some states like California and Minnesota have state rules that protect wetlands and streams beyond the federal government. However, the state of North Carolina currently cannot have stricter laws than the federal government. South Carolina is not under this same restriction but would require legislative action to pass new rules.

Of course, there will be lawsuits and probably the implementation of the new rules will be delayed. The Carolina Wetlands Association will be speaking up for the protection of wetland across North and South Carolina. We need to hear your stories about wetlands that will be impacted by the changes in definition of Water of the US. Please contact me, rick.savage@carolinawetlands.org.

Be sure to watch our webpage for the latest information as we learn more about what these new rules will mean to our wetlands. We should all be concerned about the impact to our ecosystem services provided by our wetlands.

Thanks all and let’s spread the word about how we need to protect our wetlands,

Rick

NC Wetlands Summit

The North Carolian Wetlands Summit was held at the North Carolian State Univeristy Arboretum in Raleigh, NC on September 25-26 with attendees from state and federal government, universities, non-profit organizations, and tribes.

The purpose of this meeting were to convene a community of wetland resource protection experts across North Carolina to learn about current research and monitoring in the state and evaluate future needs for research, monitoring, and education. The main outcome is the beginning of a strategy for a more integrated approach to wetlands protection across the state.

Meeting Materials

List of participants

Agenda

September: Message From the President

Message from the President

While not a Category 5 when Dorian reached the Carolinas, there was still plenty of flooding and wind damage from Dorian and the tornados it produced.  Please keep our coastal friends in mind as they recover from this significant event. We need our wetlands now more than ever given the frequency and intensity of such storm events.

I want to tell you about two new and significant projects that the Carolina Wetlands Association is starting.  First, we are partnering with North Carolina State University (Drs. Mike Burchell and Natalie Nelson) and RTI International (Kim Mathews) to establish a “volunteer wetlands monitoring program” at our wetland treasures sites.  This project is funded by EPA Region 4 Wetland Program Development Grant. Work on this grant will start later this year.

The second project we are working on is developing a workshop to educate local decision makers about wetland values and how they can be as nature-based solutions to benefit communities.  I have met with staff from North Carolina’s Office of Resiliency and Recovery about partnering with them on the workshop. Work is ongoing to develop the workshop and various supporting materials (e.g., tools, case studies) and we hope to test the workshop at the NC Coastal Conference in November.

More than ever, Carolina Wetlands Associations needs volunteers to help with these projects and to provide financial support. Please let me know if you are interested in helping with either of these projects.  A financial donation would be very important to consider at this time to help us in our success with building the organizational infrastructure we need to run these projects.

Thanks all, now go out and explore a wetland.

Rick