Monday , April 25, 2005

Elizabeth City Daily Advance: Pasquotank watershed honored for ecosystem protection

By Bob Montgomery

The Pasquotank River Local Watershed Plan has earned a national award for its innovative ideas to offset growth, development and loss of wildlife habitat.

The Environmental Excellence Award, presented Tuesday by the National Association of Environmental Professionals, recognizes the state's Ecosystem Enhancement Program for its Pasquotank watershed plan, said Bill Ross, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

In particular, the Pasquotank River Local Watershed Plan was cited for its excellence in bringing together local residents, private-sector partners, resource professionals and state environmental officials, Ross said.

"This award is testimony to the partnerships, innovation and teamwork that drive (Ecosystem Enhancement Program's) work across the state," Ross said in a statement issued Wednesday. "The initiative joins forces to develop solutions to challenges affecting degraded or threatened waterways, focusing on opportunities that respond to local needs."

Pasquotank County Manager Randy Keaton recognized Rodney Bunch, county planning director, for working closely with officials to develop the watershed plan.

The Pasquotank River Basin is among 22 watersheds statewide in which comprehensive plans for improving water quality are being carried out, said Tad Boggs, spokesman for DENR.

The Enhancement Program worked on the Pasquotank River Local Watershed Plan with Decision Support Professionals of Kill Devil Hills, which performed the technical watershed assessment.

The program, founded in July 2003, combines the state's existing wetlands restoration initiative with ongoing efforts by the N.C. Department of Transportation to offset environmental damage caused by transportation improvements and other economic development, Boggs said.

The county commissioners learned in February that the $1.3 million Pasquotank River Watershed Project is among six demonstration projects nationwide approved for federal funding through the Environmental Protection Agency.

The multi-year project looks for ways to solve storm water management problems that have contributed to flooding, soil erosion and groundwater pollution.

The 18-year-old North Meadows subdivision, northwest of Elizabeth City along Berea Church Road, was the site chosen for the project because of its low-lying terrain, presence of ditches and septic systems.

The project will be led by Albemarle Regional Health Services and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Property owners have been notified that water and soil scientists will be installing monitoring wells and collecting water and soil samples.