NEWPORT — A Carteret County-based environmental nonprofit has released a statewide plan to address stormwater flooding through nature-based projects and practices.
The N.C. Coastal Federation, which is dedicated to protecting the coastal environment, held a press conference Wednesday to announce the official release of the action plan. According to the federation’s announcement, it is “a roadmap for government leaders and practitioners to reduce stormwater flooding using practical, effective natural approaches.”
The NCCF developed the statewide plan through a partnership with Pew Charitable Trusts. Pew flood-prepared communities officer Yaron Miller said that using nature-based stormwater management practices can help improve coastal resilience.
“The action plan calls on state and local governments to lead by example by proactively incorporating nature-based designs in projects so that taxpayer-funded investments are more resilient to flooding and help reduce runoffs from storms,” Yaron Miller said.
Stormwater is the No. 1 nonpoint source of water pollution in North Carolina. Water from rain events washes over impervious surfaces, picking up pollutants in the process, and when stormwater isn’t allowed to infiltrate into the ground, it carries this pollution into the local water bodies, where it’s released.
The action plan recommends governments and stakeholders increase education, outreach and professional training for nature-based stormwater and watershed management strategies. It also recommends governments create committees to ensure continued stakeholder engagement and leadership in support of long-term progress. Last but not least, it calls for stakeholders to create effective watershed management focused on protecting, restoring or mimicking natural water systems to reduce flooding and improve water quality.
The plan also includes ten “first steps” the federation’s work groups considered critical to managing stormwater:
- Developing a comprehensive watershed management network.
- Conducting an economic study on costs and benefits of nature-based stormwater strategies.
- Promoting demonstration projects.
- Providing accurate information on maintenance costs and including the information in stormwater design manuals.
- Streamlining modifications to existing post-construction stormwater permits to encourage nature-based strategies.
- Advancing state and local policies promoting nature-based stormwater strategies.
- Forming an action plan steering committee to spearhead efforts to move forward with the plan’s recommendations.
- Establishing a work group to coordinate future planning for education and outreach.
- Organizing a N.C. Department of Transportation work group to tackle priority actions.
- Educating the state congressional delegation on opportunities to increase the amount of financial resources for working lands and conservation.
NCCF Executive Director Todd Miller said creating the plan was “a real team effort with Pew,” and stakeholders were involved in coming up with the various recommended approaches to stormwater management.
“This is a watershed moment for North Carolina,” Todd said. “State leaders are taking steps to address flooding…more floods are inevitable if we don’t adopt nature-based strategies.”
The executive director went on to say many of the stakeholders involved with the plan “see economic opportunities around the development of these nature-based strategies.”
One such stakeholder is Restoration Systems President John Preyer. His company creates plans for environmental restoration and mitigation, and it’s participated in the federation’s wetlands restoration project at North River Farms in the Down East region of Carteret County, the largest wetlands restoration project in the state.
“The benefit to natural (stormwater drainage) systems is obvious,” Mr. Preyer said. “You’re getting the benefit of stormwater storage.”
Citing the North River Farms project as an example, Mr. Preyer said before the project, stormwater drained from the actively-used farmland into the nearby waters within two hours of a rain event. With the restored wetlands, however, the stormwater is held for more than two months, allowing for natural infiltration.
“We’ve seen many forward thinking landowners would rather have a living shoreline than a hardened shoreline,” Mr. Preyer said.
Another example of nature-based stormwater controls in the county is Pine Knoll Shores’ stormwater drainage project. Town Manager Brian Kramer took part in the press conference, talking about the nature-based measures officials have been putting in place with the federation’s help.
“We’re trying to minimize the pumping of raw stormwater into nearby waters,” Mr. Kramer said, “and maximize natural infiltration…we’re trying to put infiltration areas in our higher spots to prevent it from running down to our local areas.”
Other practices Pine Knoll Shores officials are using include grading the roads to direct stormwater into swales for infiltration and encouraging natural infiltration practices on private property.
Mr. Kramer said he likes how the NCCF’s statewide plan encourages state and federal officials to provide more resources and funding for nature-based stormwater management.
“We don’t have engineers on staff,” he said. “We need coastal specialists to help us.”
Todd Miller said many nature-based practices are more cost effective than traditional stormwater management practices, like storm drains that go right from roads to local water bodies. He also said more funding is becoming available from federal sources for flood prevention.
“Having these plans is so critical to ensure the resources go where it’s needed most,” he noted.
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.