For Immediate Release
Caitlin Jennings, American Rivers, 202-243-7023
Gerrit Jobsis, American Rivers, 803-771-7114
The EPA Rules Against North Carolina’s Detrimental Practice on Rivers
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined last week that
North Carolina's Department of Environment and Natural Resources
(NCDENR) may not allow land purchase or protection as a substitute for
requiring the adequate stream flows needed for healthy rivers. EPA
instructed the state to discontinue using the policies which allowed
land for water swaps pending further review. In the same letter to
NCDENR, EPA explained that certain land-for-water trades may violate
water quality regulations, and it requested that NCDENR provide
information on past applications of its policy for further EPA
review. EPA's determination could affect all North Carolina rivers
with hydroelectric power dams, which include most of the state's major
NCDENR is required under the federal Clean Water Act to assure that
rivers have sufficient water flows to maintain fish and wildlife,
recreation, and water supply. However, instead of meeting those
requirements, NCDENR has been negotiating land swaps with the companies
that operate dams along rivers. EPA explained that adequate river
flows are essential for clean water and that North Carolina cannot
trade them away. Just as life on land needs clean air, river life
needs clean, flowing water for survival. No other conservation
measure, even those with other public benefits such as land protection,
can replace the essential values provided by water flowing in a river.
EPA's determination is a great victory for North Carolina's rivers
and should better assure healthy water flows below hydropower dams in
North Carolina and beyond. The determination could be especially
pertinent to the Catawba, Yadkin, and Pee Dee Rivers where the flawed
policy was recently applied by the state during dam relicensing
"A healthy river requires both sufficient flowing water and natural
lands to buffer the stream from development impacts," said Gerrit
Jobsis, Southeast Regional Director at American Rivers. "We applaud the
EPA for clear guidance on North Carolina's detrimental policy and look
forward to restoring rivers where it was wrongly applied. While we
strongly support land protection when it is done for the right reasons,
acquiring land by sacrificing a river's health is never right."
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