New report highlights progress for North Fork First Broad River, calls for more success stories

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Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center

Raleigh, NC.-On the eve of the close of the public comment period for the new Clean Water Rule, a new report tells the story of how the bedrock environmental law has helped to restore and protect the North Fork First Broad River from development and pollution.

Environment North Carolina Research & Policy Center, along with small businesses, released Waterways Restored, a series of case studies highlighting the success of the Clean Water Act in protecting places like the North Fork First Broad River, and calling for a new rule to restore protections for more than 135,000 miles of the state’s rivers and streams.

“The Clean Water Act has brought progress to the North Fork First Broad River, but the law’s promise isn’t yet fulfilled,” said Liz Kazal, field associate with Environment North Carolina.  “All of our rivers and streams deserve a success story.”

The North Fork First Broad River in western North Carolina supports a native trout population, and is now protected by an “anti-degradation” designation under the Clean Water Act that bars new sources of pollution nearby.

Small businesses around North Carolina have joined in the group’s efforts to highlight the importance of clean water to their businesses and to the state.

“People need clean water for recreation,” said Kate Lewis, owner of Stand Up Outfitters in New Bern. “Without it, I wouldn’t be able to take people out on the water. Clean water is critical to the survival of my business, and everyone else, really.”

While the North Fork First Broad River is guaranteed protection under the Clean Water Act, 56% of North Carolina’s rivers and streams are not, thanks to a loophole in the law secured by developers and other polluters nearly a decade ago.

In March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule to restore protections for the headwaters, streams, and wetlands left in limbo by the loophole. But oil companies, agribusinesses, and developers are campaigning bitterly against it, and in September the U.S. House voted to block the rule, including 10 members of the North Carolina delegation.             

Advocates, however, stressed broad support for the proposal from environmental groups, farmers, small businesses, and ordinary citizens. As the public comment period draws to a close tomorrow, more than a 800,000 Americans gave their support for the rule including tens of thousands of North Carolinians.

“We strongly promote healthy water based activities including paddleboarding and kayaking, “ said Rob Bennett, owner of My Aloha Paddle and Surf, Inc. in Mooresville. “Our business depends on safe, clean waterways to attract residents, and provide a safe and enjoyable experience.“  

While the North Fork First Broad River is getting cleaner, polluters still dump about 8.8 million pounds of toxic chemicals into waterways statewide each year. Protection from pollution and development for the smaller streams that flow into the North Fork First Broad River, advocates said today, is crucial to protecting the river for future generations.

“The only way to continue the North Fork First Broad River on the path to success is protect all the rivers and streams that flow into it,” said Kazal. “That’s why it’s so important for EPA to restore protections for all the waters that crisscross our state.”


Environment North Carolina Research & Policy Center conducts research and brings citizens together to advocate for the places we love and the environmental values we share.