January 8, 2008

How rumors start Part 2 (Shame on you Coastal Federation)

I received a copy of an email written by North Carolina Coastal Federation local rep Jan Deblieu soliciting action from her allies to block the reconstruction of storm water ocean outfalls in Nags Head and KDH. I believe it is this is what prompted the letter in the OB Sentinel that I discussed in an earlier post.
Not surprisingly the letter distorts both the impact of the project and the legislative and policy background. The letter opens with the following statement:
In 2004 the NC Legislature allocated $15 million for the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to study removing ocean outfalls—the pipes that carry stormwater into the Atlantic.
Here is the actual language directly from the budget bill:
SECTION 30.20. Of funds available to the Department of Transportation, up to fifteen million dollars ($15,000,000) shall be used during the 2004‑2005 fiscal year for a stormwater pilot project to clean up State‑maintained ocean outfalls and associated outlets through new and innovative technologies and filtering mechanisms.
Note that it says nothing about "removing ocean outfalls". These are the funds being used to install the data logging equipment on the outfalls and it funds outfall study based at UNC-CSI. Jan continues to explain that the money for "removing outfalls" might also be used for the purposes described in the authorizing statutes.
The money is also to pay for looking at ways that stormwater might be treated, if it must be released into the ocean. But treatment techniques are proving to be expensive and difficult.
This part is right, treatment will be expensive and the discussions about who will pay the operating costs for the pilot project aren't getting very far. Jan was at least telling the truth here.
Jan goes on to explain the the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan, a comprehensive water quality policy adopted by the state, has policy on ocean outfalls. Here is how Jan characterizes the policy:
One of its key provisions was to bar the use of ocean outfalls. Under the CHPP, stormwater is not to be released into the ocean except in emergencies.
Ok, sounds like we shouldn't permit the project under this policy, here is the actual language from the CHPP:
Prohibit new or expanded stormwater outfalls to coastal beaches and to coastal shellfishing waters (EMC surface water classifications SA and SB) except during times of emergency (as defined by the Division of Water Quality’s Stormwater Flooding Relief Discharge Policy) when public safety and health are threatened, and continue to phase-out existing outfalls by implementing alternative stormwater management strategies.

Well lets see, it does prohibit new outfalls but these outfalls have been around for over 3o years. It says we shouldn't expand outfalls but this project repairs the outfalls but doesn't expand the amount of discharge in any way. It does suggest we phase out ocean outfalls and as indicated people are working on finding a way to do that. Even if we phase out existing outfalls for normal drainage events this policy accepts the continued use ocean outfalls for emergency situations (ocean overwash, hurricanes etc). If this is the policy then fixing the outfalls for that use alone makes the actions consistent with the policy.
Here is my favorite passage from Jan's letter:
Stormwater carries a host of pollutants into public waters, including fecal coliform, gas, oil, and sediments that can harm marine life. Rebuilding the outfalls will lead to permanent public advisories against swimming near the pipes.

I have already addressed the issue of just how much pollution actually comes out of these pipes. Water quality testing has been going on for almost 10 years now and has yet to find anything more that momentary spikes in bacteria levels around the outfalls and damn few of those. The real kicker is that hte letter suggests fixing the outfalls might led to signs on the beach warning about swimming near the outfalls. JAN, THEY ARE ALREADY THERE. Do you go to the beach, have you been to the outfalls? The signs have been up for several years as a result of a state program that eliminated actually responding to real threats as demonstrated by water quality monitoring. (This is explained in this post)
Jan goes on to call for emails to the state and to the NC legislature protesting the project because the CHPP is being ignored.
The piece is filled with what I believe are misrepresentations of legislation and public policy that are pretty clear. Further it ignores the existing data and more importantly the needs of the property owners and the community. Allowing the existing outfalls to fail would lead to an inability to drain storm water in emergency situations (think Kitty Hawk during Isabel and the Halloween storm.)DCM staff thinks the project is consistent with state rules. It wouldn't even be on the radar if it didn't need a variance. The variance is related to installing hard structures on the beach because DOT will use steel sheets to stablize the pipe while the extensions are being added. They will be removed when the project is complete.

Should we try to reduce pollution from ocean outfalls? Sure. Should we not install new outfalls? Yes. Should we continue to use the existing outfalls that have not been demonstrated to pollute materially? Yes. Should we distort the facts to promote our mission and energize our followers? NO! That's what the NCCF has done with this email and that's why I don't trust them. They do not accurately represent the facts, they twist them to support their mission of gaining contributors. If they were really interested in clean water and good public policy they would simply tell the truth.
Ciao.
Note:I like Jan. I used to think we were on the same side. You can find the full text of the letter below.

From: Jan DeBlieu
To: hatteraskeeper@nccoast.org
Sent: Saturday, December 29, 2007 1:56 PM
Subject: REBUILDING OCEAN OUTFALLS!!!



Folks,



Happy Holidays! And now, regrettably, back to business . . .



In 2004 the NC Legislature allocated $15 million for the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to study removing ocean outfalls—the pipes that carry stormwater into the Atlantic. There are a few ocean outfalls down south, but most are in Dare County. The money is also to pay for looking at ways that stormwater might be treated, if it must be released into the ocean. But treatment techniques are proving to be expensive and difficult.



Now, even as the ocean outfall removal/treatment study continues, DOT has asked the NC Division of Coastal Management for permits to rebuild three ocean outfalls in Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills. They're on the verge of receiving the permits, and will receive them unless concerned citizens speak out. If the outfalls are rebuilt, they will carry polluted stormwater into the ocean for years to come.



Three years ago state officials asked for public comments on the Coastal Habitat Protection Plan. The plan was adopted with great fanfare and was touted as a turning point in state coastal policy. One of its key provisions was to bar the use of ocean outfalls. Under the CHPP, stormwater is not to be released into the ocean except in emergencies. Stormwater carries a host of pollutants into public waters, including fecal coliform, gas, oil, and sediments that can harm marine life. Rebuilding the outfalls will lead to permanent public advisories against swimming near the pipes.



Why are the CHPP provisions being ignored? A few years ago, state officials refused to let the town of Emerald Isle rebuild an ocean outfall within town limits. Instead, property was set aside to treat the stormwater. There are alternatives to dumping stormwater into the ocean.



If you believe that rebuilding the Outer Banks ocean outfalls is bad public policy (we do!), please speak out. Send an email immediately to Jim Gregson, the director of the NC Division of Coastal Management, at jim.gregson@ncmail.net Tell him you object to the rebuilding of ocean outfalls #1, #4, and #6. (These are on Conch and Curlew streets in Nags Head and Lake Drive in Kill Devil Hills.)



Also, please contact key state legislators to let them know you object to the rebuilding of the outfalls. Write letters to the editor. Raise a ruckus! This can only be stopped if enough people speak out against it.



I have a detailed comment letter that NCCF wrote objecting to the reconstruction of the outfalls. If you'd like a copy, let me know and I'll send it to you.



Thanks, as always, for your help in protecting our beautiful coast. Best, Jan



Jan DeBlieu

Cape Hatteras Coastkeeper

North Carolina Coastal Federation

Celebrating 25 Years of Coastal Conservation

1 Comments:

At 9:47 PM, Blogger Monticello said...

Gee.there's a surprise.

 

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