WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - In coastal North Carolina water is everywhere. Obvious locations such as the ocean or lakes are protected as U.S. waterways, but if some changes are made to the EPA Clean Water Act, your backyard could also fall under this classification.
Tyler Newman, Senior Director of Government Affairs for BASE, said, "The complicating factor is that it's not just water. You're talking about areas that are sandy with pine trees on them, that don't necessarily have water on them at all."
These areas are classified as "isolated wetlands" because of their hydric soils that drain into major waterways, even if there is no water in sight.
"Whether it looks dry or not, a lot of these places are considered wetlands and function as a critical part of a wetland ecosystem," said Mike Giles, a coastal advocate for North Carolina Coastal Federation.
Giles said environmentalists have always defined these areas as wetlands, but their classification would be clearly spelled out and protected under the new rule.
Middle Point Subdivision in the Ogden area could possibly see one of the most drastic changes in our area if the new rule goes into effect.
Under current conditions, less than one-fourth of neighborhood's land is protected as a wetland; however, if the wording changes, nearly the entire neighborhood would fall under the "isolated wetlands" category because of its hydric soils.
This means any additional construction would be bogged down by the red tape and permits necessary to build on protected wetlands.
Despite speculation, supporters like Giles said the clarification would actually benefit those looking to build.
"They're trying to clarify and make it easier for people to understand what guidelines or regulations they need to go through," Giles said.
However, opponents are weary the updated act will do more harm than good to the city's economy.
"I think 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," Newman. said
The comment period for the rule is open to the public until October 20. Go to this link for more: http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/wetlands/CWAwaters.cfm#comment