NC wetlands threatened by SCOTUS ruling, Farm Act language

North Carolina's wetlands are facing new threats thanks to the ripple effect of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The high court's May 25 ruling in Sackett v. EPA significantly curtails the federal government's ability to regulate wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

That decision triggers language in S582, the N.C. Farm Act, that means millions of acres of North Carolina’s wetlands - critical to water quality, wildlife, and flood control - could be opened to development. 

An aerial view of Interstate 40 in Pender County, NC., inundated by floodwaters from Hurricane Florence in 2018
I40 in Pender County, inundated by Hurricane Matthew's flood waters in 2016

The N.C. Senate on Thursday gave the measure its final legislative approval, and it's heading to Gov. Roy Cooper's desk now.

The N.C. Farm Act would limit the definition of “wetlands to waters of the United States." That means North Carolina's definition of "wetlands" could be no more stringent than the now-weakened federal definition. 

Wetlands aren't just beautiful habitat for native and endangered species. They help mitigate flooding and support water quality. They help support fisheries and shellfisheries. Paving and filling them in could jeopardize nearby communities' drinking water, our landcapes' ability to absorb heavy rains, and the viability of fisheries and related businesses.

"North Carolinians know how important our wetlands are to our environment and our safety. Our legislature missed a golden opportunity to show leadership, wisdom and concern for our people by maintaining high standards for wetlands protection in the face of bad decision-making on the federal level," said Cynthia Satterfield, state director of the N.C. Chapter.

You can help: Urge Governor Cooper to veto S582 and send it back to the legislature, and ask your state lawmakers to remove the harmful language regarding wetlands. North Carolina's environment, businesses and people need healthy, intact wetlands!