Charlotte Observer Dec. 1, 2005

Easement plan aims to protect watershed

Lower Creek is topic of meeting with state

by KATHRYN THIER AND VICTORIA CHERRIE

State officials are encouraging landowners near the Coddle Creek
watershed to preserve their land forever.

The Coddle Creek watershed is mostly in Cabarrus County and includes
part of southeastern Iredell County, just outside Mooresville. The
Coddle Creek project is part of a larger, ongoing plan to protect the
Lower Yadkin/Upper Rocky River basin and its tributaries.

Coddle Creek via Lake Howell provides Cabarrus County's drinking water
supply, though the creek's headwaters are in Iredell and Rowan counties.
For that reason, state officials are encouraging the counties and towns
in the watershed to work together to protect it.

"The bottom line is we all need to work together to maintain the
integrity of these streams," said Coleman Keeter, executive director of
the Water and Sewer Authority of Cabarrus County.

The Coddle Creek project aims to protect the land around Coddle Creek
from future development by putting land into conservation easements.
Such easements forbid new development on the land and compensates the
landowner for allowing that restriction.

Landowners along Coddle Creek are encouraged to contact the N.C.
Ecosystem Enhancement Program to see if their land qualifies for
conservation easements.

Conservation easements can often increase the value of surrounding land
because people often pay a premium to live near land they know will
never be developed, said Patrick Beggs, the project's coordinator with
the N.C. Cooperative Extension.

The state recommendations for local governments are voluntary, but
participating in the project could give local officials more control
over how the area develops, "instead of allowing the development to
occur willy-nilly," Beggs said.

The recommendations involve counties, cities and towns throughout the
Coddle Creek watershed asking developers to use low-impact development
techniques.

Low-impact development means stormwater is absorbed on site, rather than
being allowed to flow downstream and into a body of water. That helps
prevent erosion and cuts down on pollution.

Some examples of low-impact techniques:

• Retention ponds that hold stormwater temporarily can have wetlands
added to them with plants that filter pollutants and slow stormwater
movement.

• Stormwater from parking lots can drain into on site rain gardens
instead of downstream.

• Instead of roof gutters connecting to a pipe that dumps rain water on
a street, the pipe can shoot water into a rain garden.

Rain gardens are garden spaces that dip in the center to absorb
stormwater, instead of letting water and pollution run downstream.

Ray Furr, the water operations manager for the Water and Sewer
Authority, said Cabarrus County already has a lot of rules in place to
protect the watershed that other places don't, such as an overlay zone.
The zone carries rules for development in areas designated as public
water supply watersheds. For example, no commercial or industrial
development is permitted, Furr said.

"Cabarrus County has done a lot not only with its ordinances but other
things, like having a full time deputy that patrols Lake Howell," he said.

A study of the buffers around the lake also is done every three years to
review how well the lake is protected, Furr said. In a separate effort,
the Water and Sewer Authority is working with Cabarrus County to ensure
further protection, he said.

In 2000, Cabarrus County spent $400,000 and the Water and Sewer
Authority pitched in $460,000 to buy 104 acres of additional buffer
along Park Creek, which feeds into Coddle Creek, to protect that area
from future development.

As a result, the state's Clean Water Management Trust Fund has made
available an additional $360,000 to be used for restoration or to buy
more land to buffer the area around Lake Howell. The Water and Sewer
Authority board has discussed using the money to restore eroding banks
of Lake Howell or purchasing additional buffer, Keeter said.

Local stormwater protection

Few N.C. counties have stormwater runoff ordinances. Iredell enacted a
few stormwater rules this summer, especially to protect runoff from
silting Lake Norman's coves during residential development near the
lake. Cabarrus, Catawba and Mecklenburg have stricter rules.

See if your land near Coddle Creek can be put in conservation easements
by contacting the N.C. Ecosystem Enhancement Program at (919) 715-0476
or http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/eep.