Soil and water

2021 Coastal Habitat Protection Plan Amendment Approved

Live shores are accepted as a natural alternative to prevent erosion along the shores of estuaries. Photo: UNC

The 2021 Coastal Habitat Protection Plan amendment has been approved and new official state recommendations to improve water quality and habitat can now be implemented.

In unanimous decisions, the Coastal Resources Commission voted on November 10, the Environmental Management Commission on Thursday and the Marine Fisheries Commission on Friday. The approval of all three committees was required for the amendment to pass.

The 2021 amendment recommends five priorities: the protection of submerged aquatic vegetation and wetlands, compliance with environmental rules, sanitation infrastructure solutions to improve water quality and habitat mapping.

“We are very happy to have received the unanimous support of the three committees for the document. I think this clearly reflects the amount of work that everyone involved has put into the amendment, ”said Jimmy Johnson, Coastal Habitat Coordinator of the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuarine Partnership and a member of the Habitat Protection Plan Steering Committee. inshore, to Coastal Review on Friday following the Marine Fisheries Commission Meeting.

The three commissions first approved the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan in 2004. It was developed to improve and restore coastal fishing through habitat protection and enhancement. The plan is typically revised every five years to reflect changes in the state of habitat protection in the state. The CHPP Steering Committee chose to draft an amendment to the 2016 plan rather than rewriting the whole document to streamline the process. The amendment was made available to the public for comment earlier this year.

Now that the amendment is approved, the next step is a 30-day review by the NCDEQ, followed by another one-month review by the Joint Legislative Commission on Government Operations.

“If we do not receive any comments or requests for modification, the amendment will be deemed approved. The CHPP team and the CHPP Steering Committee will continue to meet in 2022 to monitor the implementation of the recommendations, ”said Johnson.

Marine Fisheries Habitat Division program manager Anne Deaton told Coastal Review that because the amendment includes recommended actions, “we can start implementation immediately after final approval and we are really looking forward to doing it ”.

Johnson told the Marine Fisheries Commission on Friday that most of the public comments received were favorable. Public comments received via email included petitions from Audubon North Carolina and the North Carolina Conservation Network totaling 1,257 signatures. There were 33 letters of support for the plan and its implementation and 17 letters of support for a public-private partnership. Other public comments focused on changes to the recommendations and texts. Nearly 20 environmental organizations also contributed. Johnson said that while there were concerns, organizations viewed the CHPP amendment positively.

Deaton told the commission that the CHPP steering committee met on October 27 after September 21-October. 21 Public consultation period ended. After examining the comments of organizations and stakeholders, the committee decided to modify four actions related to the priority issue Protection and restoration of submerged aquatic vegetation by improving water quality. The committee also made an additional recommendation to form a public / private partnership. All these changes can be found in the draft amendment most recently presented and approved by the three committees.

The changes include expanding the sources of interim funding for VAS monitoring and management and adding the directive to form a working group that would increase best management practices to improve water quality in the regions. water bodies from the after-sales service. Two other Recommended Actions have been updated with some minor changes for clarification.

Regarding the added additional recommendation, Deaton reiterated Johnson’s earlier comments that the advisory committees and the public had contributed a lot to a public-private partnership, and the CHPP steering committee agreed.

The new recommendation reads: “By 2022, DEQ will support the formation of a public-private partnership that will engage a diverse group of stakeholders to help develop, implement, and gain policy support and funding. of the measures of this 2021 modification of the CHPP. that protect and restore water quality.

Deaton said the concept of this new recommendation is to broaden support, having more people involved will help accomplish more, it can expand funding opportunities and more collaboration.

“By involving stakeholders from the start, we can better discuss the obstacles to achieving these achievements,” she said.

The amendment also includes Annex A, the first public comments submitted by an independent working group of stakeholders led by the North Carolina Coastal Federation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, and Annex C which consists of written public comments. .

Todd Miller, executive director of the federation, told Coastal Review on Friday that he was happy the amendment was approved unanimously, adding that “the work begins now.”

Leda Cunningham, Officer of the Pew Marine Life Conservation Project in the United States, said in a statement: “Pew commends everyone who has worked on the CHPP for maintaining their momentum and focus while undertaking this ambitious task. with a wide range of contributors. “

Since the approval of the 2016 Coastal Habitat Protection Plan, implementation has focused on restoring oyster reef habitat, encouraging the use of live shorelines, reducing impacts of sedimentation in estuarine streams and the development of measures on habitat trends and management effectiveness, in accordance with the 2021 amendment. “Although new priority issues have been selected for the CHPP Amendment 2021, the 2016 issues remain an ongoing priority. “

The 2016 plan is made up of two documents: the CHPP source document and the CHPP Summary, or the “CHPPlet”. The source document includes thematic papers, which are summaries of the research areas addressed, on priority issues from 2016, including restoring oyster reef habitat, encouraging the use of shorelines living, reducing the impacts of sedimentation in estuarine streams, and developing measures on habitat trends and management effectiveness. Concept Papers include specific recommended actions that replace the need for a separate implementation plan.

The protection plan team that worked on the 2021 amendment includes staff from the Marine Fisheries Division, Coastal Management Division, Water Resources Division and Energy Division, minerals and land resources. The Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership, Wildlife Commission, Energy, Mineral and Land Resources Division, Mitigation Services Division, and Land and Water Conservation District also participated.