Bertie moves to protect Roanoke River watershed

Published 9:05 am Tuesday, October 29, 2013

MERRY HILL – Back in July, the Bertie County Board of Commissioners approved a Watershed Protection Ordinance for a small area along the Roanoke River between Bertie and Martin counties.

Martin County requested the ordinance due to water treatment facility restrictions on the aquifer that the county had been drawing their water from.

Now with a new water treatment facility coming to Martin, Bertie has had to adopt a watershed protection ordinance that will limit development to no more than 70 percent of the property in that area without doing special engineering storm water control.

“It’s a very small area of property that can be developed because of the environmental limitations,” said Bertie County Planning Director Traci White, as she held a map of the critical and protected area in question. “Much of this area in our county is already in wetlands or is in U.S. government possession – they own the property.”

The old map when the ordinance was adopted back in the summer did not meet the state Division of Water Resources Water Quality programs standards. Now a new map has been submitted compiled through a cooperative effort of the Bertie County Planning as well as Mapping departments.

“It does meet the state requirements,” White said. “I have gotten the approval from the state (Water Quality division) and we need to adopt this.”

The Bertie County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing during their monthly meeting at the Midway Community Building in Merry Hill on October 21 for citizen input on the new map.

The new map proposes an amendment to the county’s Watershed Protection Ordinance illustrating critical and protected areas as required.

Commissioner Rick Harrell tried to waylay any confusion as to the new map and ordinance.

“The town of Williamston approached (the Board) about the need they had to withdraw water from the Roanoke River to provide drinking water to their citizens and they had to build a treatment plant in order to do that,” Harrell explained. “Because the line is on the Roanoke River, the county, we, had to institute development restrictions to protect the water quality because it’s a wetlands area of Roanoke River swamplands.”

“We own the river,” Commission chairman J. Wallace Perry pointed out to those assembled. “The Roanoke River along there belongs to Bertie County.”

Harrell pointed out that it’s the area just across the river that can be seen on the left side from the US-17 Bridge, a non-farming area.

Farmland restrictions were a concern of some of the citizens at the public hearing, but the Commissioners assured them that no county farmland was involved.

Joe Hoggard inquired if the portion of the critical area that is not government owned, or private property, could be developed by developers beyond the 70 percent.

White admitted there was some flexibility in the ordinance to allow private development, but that most of the land, because of its swampy nature, could not be successfully developed.

“There may be some nature conservancy property in there,” White said. “But it’s not developable.”

Commissioner Ron Wesson made a motion to adopt the amended ordinance and map, seconded by Commissioner John Trent, and the commissioners approved it unanimously.