Thousands of North Carolinians are joining forces to remind the feds about the basic principles of gravity. More specifically, they want the EPA to reinstate Clean Water Act rules that protect headwater streams and isolated wetlands in the state. There had been regulations in place, but they were overturned by the Supreme Court in 2001 and 2006.
Jim Mabrey with Trout Unlimited says streams located at the top of mountains and in the center of prime real-estate development have been impacted by the change. “But if they don’t do something to protect it, you start building houses up there and you start filling these little streams and ditches in with sediment, it’s no longer a stream then, it’s just a mud hole. ”
Mabrey points out that frogs, bugs and other small animals call those areas home. A decline in their population would mean a decline in the food supply for larger animals and impact the ecosystem. The EPA has extended the comment period for the Clean Water Act regulations until October.
Opponents of a reinstatement of the rules say it would impact agriculture, but Fred Harris with the North Carolina Wildlife Federation says that’s simply not true, and while the new rules would protect key water sources, there are exemptions to protect the interests of farmers. “And I think an important thing is what is not, and things like farm ponds and ditches that farmers dig, those are clearly not included under there. ”
There are more than 242-thousand miles of rivers and streams in North Carolina which supply drinking water for the state and a home for the region’s fish and wildlife. Mabrey says extending the protection to areas that were initially protected is key to securing the “circle of life.” “The frogs, invertebrates, some small fish that use these streams when they are flowing with rainwater, that’s when they breed, that’s where they raise their young.”
Wildlife recreation-related activities lead to more than three-billion dollars spent per year in North Carolina alone, and that money supports more than 95,000 jobs in the state.