WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Arguments over what the EPA Clean water act protects have been debated for more than a decade.
In April, the EPA and US Army core of engineers proposed an 88 page rule to further define what protected wetlands are.
While the rule is supposed to simplify what's protected under the Clean Water Act, some people are afraid it will just muddy the waters.
The new addition to the act would clarify isolated streams and wetlands, which some of you might find in your backyard after a heavy rain storm, as protected bodies of water.
Environmentalists argue that these areas are critical to the ecosystem, even if they're completely dry for parts of the year, because the soil still drains into our drinking water and pollutes it. They say these areas have always been classified as wetlands, but now the wording in the Clean Water Act will reflect that.
"What you do in the upper reaches of wetlands, and the upper reaches of streams and creeks, even small ponds affects the downstream ecology and what we depend on is clean water, not only for recreation and fishing but for our economy. Without clean water we could have no vibrant economy," said Mike Giles, coastal advocate for North Carolina Coastal Federation.
But local government officials and landowners fear the process of obtaining the necessary permits to build roads and other infrastructure in these areas would drain local funds and ultimately cost tax payers money.
"I think you'll see the tax base diminish," said Tyler Newman, Senior Director of Government Affairs for BASE. "You'll see local governments having challenges adding infrastructure or repairing infrastructure. You'll see the school district not being able to expand. You'll see roadway projects decline because they can't expand in our area because of dry areas that are considered wetlands."
The public comment period is extended until October 20 for residents to voice their opinions. So far, thousands of comments have been left for and against the proposed rule.