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The original item was published from 5/14/2009 3:40:26 PM to 5/31/2009 12:00:06 AM.

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Posted on: May 14, 2009

[ARCHIVED] Burlington Officials Keep Eyes on Jordan Lake Bill

Jordan Lake

On Tuesday, May 12, North Carolina House Bill 239, entitled “Restore Water Quality to Jordan Reservoir,” passed its final reading and moved to the State Senate for consideration. The bill may culminate years of debate on the commonly named “Jordan Lake Rules” which would implement additional water quality measures for governments in and around the Haw River and New Hope Creek watersheds.

Several years ago, concerns over nutrient levels in Jordan Lake spawned action from the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources (NCDENR). The State agency sought to have additional rules established for water sources entering Jordan Lake. These rules were designed to address both point (direct) and non-point (indirect) source nutrients. While the majority of concern rested in the lake’s northeastern New Hope watershed, the Haw River was also cited for bringing excess nutrients into the lake. The resulting rules prompted concern from City of Burlington officials over how to pay for the proposed mandates, as well as how to measure the rules potential success.

“The Jordan Lake Rules have been on the City’s radar for some time now,” said Burlington Mayor Ronnie Wall. “We all want safe, clean water for North Carolina communities, but we have to recognize the impact millions of dollars in development retrofitting and equipment replacement can have on a community.”

Officials with the City’s Water Resources Department determined that additional costs would be incurred if the legislation was approved as written. Since that time, staff has worked with State elected officials, environmental groups, NCDENR and private sector groups to enhance the rules so that the lake sees positive benefits in the water quality, while reducing the financial impact to local taxpayers. The current bill represents a compromise to strike a fair balance between all parties’ concerns.

One major concern for the City of Burlington is the mandate to retrofit established developments to control non-point source run-off. The original rules required a 50% of nutrient reduction to be completed in 10 years from the time the rules were approved. This fast paced schedule could potentially cost millions of dollars to fund. The new bill provides an adaptive management approach, implementing the existing development rule in two stages. The initial stage is similar to the City’s current Phase II Stormwater Program, but it requires the City to identify and prioritize retrofit opportunities; however it does not require implementation. The second stage requires local governments to reduce their nutrient loading from existing development through retrofitting or credit trading.

Another concern for the City was how soon upgrades would have to be made to the City’s wastewater treatment facilities. The initial rules only provided the City until 2014; however the new rules push back the date to 2016 thereby allowing the City additional time to generate funding and complete construction. Additional rule modifications require the State to do annual water quality monitoring and report the findings every three years.

Finally, added water quality measurements will allow officials to see if necessary water quality improvements are being made prior to local governments implementing the second stage of the program. If water quality monitoring determined no improvements occur by 2017, then the second stage would begin for the Haw River Arm.

“While we still have concerns about the implementation of these rules, we are especially thankful to our Representative Alice Bordsen for her hard work on the compromise,” said Wall. “Hopefully this bill will soon pass the Senate and we can get to work on the task at hand… ensuring safe, responsible water management practices for the citizens of Burlington and all those impacted by the Haw River watershed.”

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