North Carolina environmental officials recently added dozens of new goals and recommendations to the Coastal habitat protection plan.
The document was first created in 2005 and has been updated every few years since then. The 2021 amendment to the plan outlines several potential measures to address the many ongoing issues along the coast.
“There is growing concern about declining water quality and its influence on structured habitats such as submerged aquatic vegetation, shellfish beds and wetlands,” the document said in the summary. “Therefore, most of the priority issues selected in the 2021 amendment … include elements of improving water quality.”
The top five issues highlighted in this year’s update are:
- protection and restoration of aquatic vegetation submerged by water quality
- protection and restoration of wetlands through nature-based solutions
- compliance and enforcement of environmental rules to protect coastal habitats
- wastewater infrastructure solutions for improving water quality
- coastal habitat mapping and monitoring to assess status and trends.
Suggested actions under these issues include restoring the submerged aquatic vegetation on 191,000 acres along the coastline, using new technologies to map coastal wetlands, and educating local landowners on management strategies. nature-based watersheds.
The new recommendations also call on the State Department for Environmental Quality (DEQ) to increase regional office staff, prioritize research on alternative designs for wastewater collection systems, and seek funding to supplement appropriate state compliance efforts.
Anne Deaton, a habitat program supervisor at DEQ, said the public is very involved and engaged in preparing for this year’s amendment.
âWe have had overwhelming support to implement the actions of this plan, so we are really excited and hope that these actions will be carried out,â said Deaton. “Because we haveâ¦ specific recommended actions in the plan, which is a little different from what we used to do, we hope that will move progress forward.”