By JIMMY WILLIAMS

Tideland News Writer

As Swansboro commissioners were approving a watershed management plan on Feb. 28, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries was shutting down thousands of acres of shellfishing waters along the state’s coast. (See related article.)

Yet, as dire as the situation may seem, DMF officials say the steps local governments take could reverse the trend of closures. That is certainly the hope behind Swansboro’s action last week.

“This plan is important for a number of reasons,” Scott Chase, town manager, told the commissioners as he introduced the item during the board meeting.

He then turned the presentation over to Mariko Polk, GIS watershed specialist with the N.C. Coastal Federation, who outlined those reasons prior to the board’s unanimous vote to approve. The town partnered with the federation to produce the plan, according to Chase. The cost of the 167-page plan, $5,000, was shared equally between the federation and the town.

The goal of the Swansboro Watershed Restoration Plan is “to reduce water quality impairments within the Swansboro region, and will be accomplished by reducing the bacterial load entering the waterways of the watersheds,” according to the plan Polk presented.

“This goal will be accomplished over 20 years by achieving the objectives and management actions identified … Over time, reductions in the volume of storm water runoff will be achieved through implementation of this plan and should result in measurable water quality improvements, signified by gradual increases in open shellfish waters and more recreational activity. This restoration plan relies on reducing runoff volumes within the Swansboro watersheds to reduce existing water quality impairments and restore water quality.”

Five areas of the community were taken into account for the study. They are Halls Creek, which would impact Queens Creek; Foster Creek (Bogue Sound-Bogue Inlet); Ward/Hawkins Creek (Bogue Sound-Bogue Inlet); Hammocks (Queens Creek and Bogue Sound-Bogue Inlet); and Historic (Bogue Sound-Bogue Inlet and White Oak River).

Polk, as she has explained since the process began in the fall, said the plan established the restoration goal – “turning back the clock” – of limiting the amount of runoff in the community to the amount of runoff measured in 1993.

That year was selected, in part, because data on runoff from that year is available, according to Polk. Swansboro’s runoff generated within a specified period of time was compared with the amount generated in 2016. In order to return to the 1993 milestone, runoff will have to be reduced by about 13 million gallons.

That increase is attributable to a number of factors – more roads and driveways, more rooftops, more ornamental lawns and so forth – and the plans offers tips on how to reduce the flow of storm water that has resulted from these features.

“As with other plans that incorporate this volume reduction philosophy, this plan emphasizes six management objectives to accomplish its goals,” the plan states.

Those goals include …

• New development and redevelopment does not create additional water quality impairments.

• The targeted volume of stormwater runoff is reduced from existing private land uses.

• The targeted volume of stormwater runoff is reduced from existing public land uses and paired with capital improvement projects.

• Water quality is appropriately classified by existing uses.

• Periodic monitoring and review is conducted.

• Community is educated about storm water pollution and engaged in accomplishing objectives.

NCCF Deputy Director Lauren Kolodji, who joined Polk at last week’s meeting, praised the town for taking on the plan.

“Having a good plan will help position the town for future funding,” she said.

Commissioner Frank Tursi, a former NCCF staff member, has explained that federal funds are available to local governments interested in mitigating problems created by storm water runoff. He said the Section 319 Grant program, established by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1987, provides funds for efforts to reduce pollution from storm water runoff.

In North Carolina, the Division of Water Resources administers the 319 Grant Program. The state receives about $4.5 million annually for efforts to reduce storm water runoff, also referred to as non-point source pollution. One of the first steps toward earning a share of those funds is to create a watershed management plan.

Kolodji said that even though the future of those funds is unclear with the Trump administration, there are many simple steps that can be taken by individual property owners to reduce the deleterious effects of runoff.

“I really commend the town for considering it,” she said of the watershed management plan.

Prior to voting to approve the plan, commissioners opened the floor for comments.

Junior Freeman told commissioners he opposed any aspect of the plan that could force compliance.

“My main concerns is … specifically, this will be voluntary,” he said. Already, there are “so many layers” of regulations. And, Freeman added, people in business already know that, “protecting our waterways and our environment (is of) utmost importance.”

Freeman also offered a mild chastisement of the town. He claimed Swansboro has failed to properly maintain existing storm water runoff reduction projects, referred to as Best Management Projects, or BMPs.

Those BMPs are cited in the Watershed Restoration Plan as “supporting projects.”

“Plan partners intend to gather the information regarding the specifications of each project so that the volume reduced by each project can be calculated and incorporated into the tabulations that will be kept on the total reduction that has occurred in the watersheds,” the plan states.

Freeman, a Swansboro resident, also said that he believed extending centralized wastewater treatment – sewer service – would reduce the potential for surface water impairment.

Finally, he does not believe Swansboro should take on the task of administering storm water rules, which is primarily a function of the state. To do so would place an undue expense on taxpayers and an undue burden on staff.

In his comments, Mayor Scott Chadwick addressed one aspect of Freeman’s remarks, referring to the town’s BMPs. most of which have been installed since 2010,

“What I like about this plan,” Chadwick said, “is the town has led by example.

“Plus,” he added, “there are things we can do that are not terribly expensive. I like the plan. I think y’all did a great job.”

Brent Hatlestad of Swansboro encouraged the town to take a more proactive approach to requirements.

“I’m in favor of it being in a regulation,” he said. He then told the elected leaders of a situation in his neighborhood in which a developer – in draining a property – piped the runoff directly to the river. The state may allow that, according to Hatlestad, but there is probably a better, less harmful, way to drain the property. “Whatever the cost is, it’s worth it.”

Also commenting was Lee Combs of Swansboro.

He praised the board for taking the steps it has and encouraged the officials to do what it takes to reduce runoff.

“It’s something we need to do,” Combs said.

In his comments, Tursi noted that he worked with the nearby town of Cedar Point in adopting a similar plan in 2005.

That experience, and the study and monitoring that has followed, has shown that much of the bacteria reaching the surface waters is coming not from properly working septic tanks, but from animal waste.

He also said that since it was put in place, the EPA has spent about $1 million in Cedar Point area projects to reduce runoff in the community, including working with the state Department of Transportation to reduce the impact of runoff from N.C. 24.

Other projects included improvements at the boat ramp at the Tideland Trails campsite; improvements at Western Park athletic fields; and installing cisterns at Western Carteret Fire Department.

“Those are the kinds of things that are possible,” Tursi said.

A motion to approve the plan passed by a 5-0 vote.

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(10) comments

noitall

Let's assume this rain water capture plan eliminates bacteria from Queens Creek, Bogue Sound, White Oak River, then what?

Raw oysters are safe to eat in months with Rs. This is consistent with the present advertised restrictions and relates to water temp not runoff.

So how will this plan work? How can we measure results? Can you guarantee results?

The oysters are not harmed by the bacteria. Plankton is their food. So if you remove bacteria then the oysters will starve?

David Collins

If our oysters are not safe to eat when the water warms, how can oysters from the gulf be safe to eat at all?
Suspect all this and the storm water runoff fee is just a ploy to generate more money to spend on more stuff. If you tax the rain, taxing the air can not be far off.

morehood city res

the old addage of eating oysters in months that end in R was an attempt to help you remember that those were the safer months to eat oysters, especially raw ones, due to bacteria called vibrio, which occurs naturally in the water and is more present when H20 temps rise over 70 deg F. you can eat oysters year round as long as they are handled and prepared properly. most states though limit their harvest to the cooler months. head up north and you can definitely eat them all year with minimal concerns.
a whole separate issue is the storm water runoff. the problem there is fecal coliform bacteria carried from the land and into the water consumed by oysters and eventually you if you harvest them from a contaminated area. this can make you sick. as well if you swim in those areas too. these contamination events also occur when wastewater treatment plants fail/malfunction or septic tanks fail. though treatment plant upgrades have occured, places like calico creek in MHC and taylors creek in Beaufort are still closed. probably in part to the amount of development in their vicinity. the town of swansboro made progress when they removed their wastewater treatment discharge from fosters bay eventually opening up 400 acres to shellfish harvest in 2015.
hope this helps you understand it a little better! [smile]

noitall

Raw oysters are bad in months that have "R". Prepared oysters are all OK.

Bogue Sound, White Oak River are not polluted Oysters are there because that's where their food is; plankton. Plankton contain bacteria. No bacteria no oysters.

Swansboro is, as always chasing the money. This storm-water tax is obscene.
Look at the record. They cannot even make the good ole boy work.

Crooked.

morehood city res

it was promoted that harvesting and eating raw oysters in the months that end with R was okay because water temperatures are lower and vibrio is not considered a problem. oysters don't survive on "eating" bacteria. they mostly eat plankton, phytoplankton and zooplankton, which are tiny microscopic algae and animals. please do some reading on the topic. this is why science is important, it helps you understand the natural world we live in. oysters eat plankton, does bacteria end up in the oyster? yes sometimes. why? because they are filter feeders. they filter anything in the water out and eat some of it and excrete the rest. but sometimes bacteria can taint the oyster and even clam. it is not a mystery, make believe or fake news, it actually happens, even if you don't believe it. [smile]

morehood city res

it is not that bacteria is their food, it just happens that sometimes bacteria is in their food, or more accurately in the water that they are filtering to get their food. oysters don't have the ability to pick out what they don't want to eat, ie: the bacteria from what they do want to eat (the plankton). if bacteria is in the plankton then it is not providing any nutritional value to the oyster and they could care less that they are eating it. remember there are all types of bacteria occurring all over the place, in water, on your skin, in your digestive system. some bacteria is good bacteria and some is not good because it can make you sick. nobody likes to get sick from eating ecoli tainted food at a restaurant so why would you want to eat wild oysters that can do the same thing. [smile]

noitall

This is about Tursi creating some imagined problem and obtaining funds from anyone to keep the NC Coastal Federation afloat by solving imaginary problems

I live on Bogue Sound near a popular oyster reef. There is no pollution; only the natural course of things that create habitat . Enough of this baloney.

If the citizens of Swansboro are gullible and believe Tursi then so be it. BOGUE SOUND IS NOT POLLUTED!!!

ECU 1

Just pay the oyster harvesters the $ collected for the rain water tax, and for all the studies... Should triple the income for the oyster farmers. Right? Nothing will change, lunar tides, large rain events and illegal discharges will mitigate any BMP's positive temporary results, but some folks feel good on spending OPM- other peoples money.

morehood city res

this is just a plan, there is no mention of a storm water tax or rain tax. am i missing something? or is this how fake news starts?
bogue sound is pretty big, most of it is open to shellfish harvest. some of it is permanently closed in order to ensure the safety of shellfish consumers. these areas are around the highly developed lands. some of the sound closes temporarily during large rain events where pollutants can be washed into the waters. to some i suppose this is not a problem. to others that make a living off of harvesting oysters, harvest them recreationally or just like to eat oysters then i think this would be a problem.
the tide might be turning on the days that we treated our waters as a dumping ground now that we are starting to understand the benefits of a healthy estuarine environment.

[smile]

ECU 1

Morehead city res: we do pay a rain tax "Tursi Tax" in swanboro!

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