YES! Editorial: Jordan Lake Rules

Water, like many other things, runs downhill. And North Carolina acts as a sluice, with water running from the highlands out west to the flats east of Raleigh, filtering through every community large and small. It feeds into streams and rivers on its journey to the sea, but much of it is collected in reservoirs that supply our drinking water, seeps into the groundwater that saturates our soil, enters our lake system where we fish, swim and boat. Our little section of this toboggan run is the Upper Haw River sub-basin, which buttresses the river as it winds its way through six counties before feeding directly into Jordan Lake. And because of nitrogen, phosphorous and a lot of other potentially nasty nutrients, Jordan Lake is getting seriously funky, enough so that it has been placed on a federal Impaired Waters list which by law obligates the state to take action.

That’s the story behind the Jordan Lake Rules, which takes communities like the Triad to task for their role in contaminating the lake by enumerating guidelines for nutrient use, stormwater management and wastewater discharge. The guidelines involve changes — lots of them — the cost of which right now falls mainly on municipalities, counties, farmers, manufacturers and real estate developers, a coalition not without some clout. It took just 10 letters of opposition to the state Rules and Regulations Commission to send the Jordan Lake Rules back into the planning stages, though it actually received many more than that, mainly from municipalities, counties, farmers, manufacturers and real-estate developers. The Jordan Lake Rules now go back to the Environmental Management Commission for a revision on the basis of ambiguity and a question of the rules’ authority — opponents say they are not legally bound by them. The authority, though comes from North Carolina’s 1997 Clean Water Responsibility Act, Part VIII, which mandates “completion of basinwide water quality management plans for each of the state’s seventeen river basins” and gives the EMC power to implement and adopt rules for their provisions. But even if it didn’t, we in the Upper Haw River sub-basin must acknowledge our contributions to the algae blooms and chlorophyll-a levels in Jordan Lake and do what is necessary to minimize them. The cost in dollars is daunting, yes, but it’s possible that state monies can defray some of it. But the issue here is about more than dollars: Clean water is as integral a quality of life issue as it gets — it makes up about 65 percent of our bodies. And we would do well to remember that, as Jordan Lake is susceptible to our nutrient runoff, so too is our water supply vulnerable to the nitrogen and phosphorous trickling in from upstream.

YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinionin our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be avital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed representa consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through muchdeliberation and consideration.