Chowan River Basin Plan Chapter 1

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is based primarily on a 54-page framework document entitled North Carolina's Basinwide Approach Dates in bold print denote plan approval by the EMC




    The purpose of this Basinwide Water Quality Management Plan is to report to citizens, policy makers and the regulated community on:

the current status of surface water quality in the basin,

     major water quality concerns and issues,

     projected trends in development and water quality,

     the long-range water quality goals for the basin, and

     recommended point and nonpoint source management options.

    This Plan presents strategies for management of both point and nonpoint sources of pollution. The Division of Water Quality (previously Division of Environmental Managment) is preparing a basinwide water quality management plan for each of the state's 17 major river basins, as shown in Figure 1.1.

Figure 1.1 Basinwide Management Plan Schedule (1996 to 2001)

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Chapter 1 - Introduction


    CHAPTER 1: Introduction - This chapter provides a non-technical description of the purpose of this plan, the basinwide water quality management approach and how this approach will be administered. The description of the basinwide management approach is based primarily on a 54-page framework document entitled North Carolina's Basinwide Approach to Water Quality

    Management: Program Description - Final Report/August 1991 (Creager and Baker, 1991).

CHAPTER 2: General Basin Description- Some of the specific topics covered in this chapter


     an overview of the major features such as location, rainfall, population, physiography, etc.

     hydrology of the basin and its subbasins

     a summary of land cover within the basin based on results of a 1982 and 1992 Nationwide Resources Inventory (NRI) conducted by the US Department of

    Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.

     population growth trends and densities by subbasin using 1970, '80 and '90 census data.

     major water uses in the basin and DWQ's program of water quality classifications and


CHAPTER 3: Causes and Sources of Water Pollution - This chapter describes both point and

    nonpoint sources of pollution. It also describes a number of important causes of water quality impacts including sediment, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), toxic substances, nutrients, color, fecal coliform bacteria and others. Pollutant loading in the basin and general water quality problem areas are discussed.

CHAPTER 4: Water Quality and Use Support Ratings - This chapter describes the various

    types of water quality monitoring conducted by DWQ, summarizes water quality in each of the subbasins in the basin and presents a summary of use support ratings for those surface waters that have been monitored or evaluated.

CHAPTER 5: Existing Water Quality Programs and Program Initiatives in the Basin -

    Chapter 5 summarizes the existing point and nonpoint source control programs available to address water quality problems. These programs are management tools available for addressing the priority water quality concerns and issues that are identified in Chapter 6. Chapter 5 also describes the concept of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). TMDLs represent management strategies aimed at controlling point and nonpoint source pollutants. This chapter also describes various program initiatives being implemented in the basin to address water quality problems.

CHAPTER 6: Major Water Quality Concerns and Recommended Management Strategies

    - Water quality issues identified in Chapters 2, 3 and 4 are evaluated and prioritized based on use-support ratings, degree of impairment, and the sensitivity of the aquatic resources being affected. Recommended management strategies, or TMDLs, are presented that describe how the available water quality management tools and strategies described in Chapter 5 will be applied in the basin. This includes generalized wasteload allocations for dischargers and recommended programs and best management practices for controlling nonpoint sources.

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Chapter 1 - Introduction

    CHAPTER 7: Future Initiatives - This chapter presents future initiatives for protecting or improving water quality in the basin. These may include both programatic initiatives such as improving permit compliance, or basin-specific initiatives such as developing strategies for restoring impaired waters.


    Introduction - Basinwide water quality management is a watershed-based management approach being implemented by DWQ which features basinwide permitting, integrating existing point and nonpoint source control programs, and preparing basinwide management plans. DWQ is applying this approach to each of the seventeen major river basins in the state as a means of better identifying water quality problems, developing appropriate management strategies, maintaining and protecting water quality and aquatic habitat, and assuring equitable distribution of waste assimilative capacity for dischargers.

    After conducting public workshops to identify areas of concern and major issues, a basinwide management plan is prepared for each basin. The plans are circulated for public review and are presented at public meetings in each river basin. The management plan for a given basin is completed and approved preceding the scheduled date for basinwide discharge permit renewals in that basin. The plans are then evaluated, based on followup water quality monitoring, and updated at five year intervals.

    DWQ began formulating the idea of basinwide management in the late 1980s, established a basin permitting schedule in 1990, began basinwide monitoring activities in 1990, and published a basinwide program description in August 1991. Basinwide management entails coordinating and integrating, by major river basin, DWQ's water quality program activities. These activities, which are discussed further in Section 1.4, include permitting, monitoring, modeling, nonpoint source assessments, and planning.

Water Quality Program Benefits - Several benefits of basinwide planning and management to

    North Carolina's Water quality program include:

     Improved program efficiency. By reducing the area of the state covered each year,

    monitoring, modeling, and permitting efforts can be focused. As a result, efficiency increases

    can be achieved for a given level of funding and resource allocation.

     Increased effectiveness. The basinwide approach is in consonance with basic ecological

    watershed management principles, leading to more effective water quality assessment and

    management. Linkages between aquatic and terrestrial systems are addressed (e.g.,

    contributions from nonpoint sources). All inputs to aquatic systems and potential interactive,

    synergistic and cumulative effects are considered.

     Better consistency and equitability . By clearly defining the program's long-term goals and

    approaches, basinwide plans will encourage consistent decision-making on permits and

    water quality improvement strategies. Consistency and greater attention to long-range

    planning will promote a more equitable distribution of assimilative capacity, explicitly

    addressing the trade-offs among pollutant sources and allowances for economic growth.

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Chapter 1 - Introduction

     Increased public awareness of the state's water quality protection programs. The

    basinwide plans are an educational tool for increasing public awareness of water quality issues within the basin.

     Basinwide management promotes integration of point and nonpoint source pollution

    assessment and controls. Once waste loadings from both point and nonpoint sources are

    established, management strategies can be developed to prevent overloading of the receiving

    waters and to allow for a reasonable margin of safety to ensure compliance with water quality


    Basinwide Planning Schedule - The following table presents the overall basin schedule for all 17 major river basins in the state. Included are the dates for permit reissuance and the dates by which management plans are to be completed for each basin.

    Table 1.1. Basinwide Permitting and Planning Schedule for North Carolina's 17 Major River


     Begin *Final Plan Public EMC/WQC Inhouse DEM

     NPDES Receives Mtgs. and Approval Draft due Biological

     Permit EMC Draft out For Public for Staff Data

    Basin Issuance Approval For Review Meetings Review Collection

Neuse 4/1993 2/1993 11/1992 9/1992 7/1992 Summer 91

    Lumber 11/1994 6/1994 2/1994 11/1993 7/1993 Summer 91

    Tar-Pamlico 1/1995 12/1994 9/1994 7/1994 5/1994 Summer 92

    Catawba 4/1995 2/1995 11/1994 9/1994 7/1994 Summer 92

    Fr. Broad 8/1995 5/1995 2/1995 12/1994 10/1994 Summer 92

    New 11/1995 7/1995 6/1995 4/1995 3/1994 Summer 93

    Cape Fear 1/1996 9/1995 6/1995 5/1995 4/1995 Summer 93

    Roanoke 1/1997 9/1996 4/1996 2/1996 9/1995 Summer 94

    White Oak 6/1997 2/1997 9/1996 7/1996 4/1996 Summer 94

    Savannah 8/1997 5/1997 2/1997 12/1996 6/1996 Summer 94

    Watauga 9/1997 4/1997 12/1997 10/1996 6/1996 Summer 94

    Little Tenn. 10/1997 5/1997 2/1997 12/1996 7/1996 Summer 94

    Hiwassee 12/1997 5/1997 2/1997 12/1996 7/1996 Summer 94

    Chowan 1/1998 9/1997 6/1997 3/1997 11/1996 Summer 95

    Pasquotank 2/1998 9/1997 6/1997 3/1997 11/1996 Summer 95

    Neuse 4/1998 12/1997 7/1997 5/1997 2/1997 Summer 95

    Yadkin 7/1998 2/1998 10/1997 5/1997 2/1997 Summer 96

    Broad 11/1998 5/1998 2/1998 12/1997 7/1997 Summer 95

    Lumber 11/1999 5/1999 2/1999 12/1998 8/1998 Summer 96

    Tar-Pamlico 1/2000 5/1999 2/1999 12/1998 5/1998 Summer 97

    Catawba 4/2000 10/1999 6/1999 4/1999 12/1998 Summer 97

    Fr. Broad 8/2000 2/2000 10/1999 7/1999 3/1999 Summer 97

    New 11/2000 5/2000 2/2000 12/1999 8/1999 Summer 98

    Cape Fear 1/2001 7/2000 2/2000 12/1999 8/1999 Summer 98

    Roanoke 1/2002 7/2001 2/2001 12/2000 8/2000 Summer 99

* Dates in bold print denote plan approval by the EMC

    The number of plans to be developed each year varies from one to six and is based on the total number of permits to be issued each year. For example, the Cape Fear basin, the state's largest, has about as many dischargers as all six of the small basins in 1997. This has been done in order

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Chapter 1 - Introduction

    to balance the permit processing workload from year to year. In years where more than one basin is scheduled to be evaluated, an effort has been made to group at least some of the basins geographically in order to minimize travel time and cost for field studies and public meetings.

    Plans to be updated every five years - The earliest basin plans will likely not achieve all of the long-term objectives for basinwide management outlined above. However, plans are updated every 5 years. Updated plans will incorporate additional data and new assessment tools (e.g., basinwide water quality modeling) and management strategies (e.g., for reducing nonpoint source contributions) as they become available.

Basinwide Plan Preparation, Review and Public Involvement - Preparation of an individual

    basinwide management plan is a five year process which is broken down into four phases as described below.

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Chapter 1 - Introduction

    Year Activity

Year 1 to 3 Water Quality Data Collection/Identification of Goals and Issues:

     Year 1 entails identifying sampling needs and canvassing for information. It also

    entails coordinating with other agencies, the academic community and local

    interest groups to begin establishing goals and objectives and identifying and

    prioritizing problems and issues. Biomonitoring, fish community and tissue

    analyses, special studies and other water quality sampling activities are conducted

    in Years 2 and 3 by DWQ's Environmental Sciences Branch (ESB). These studies

    provide information for assessing water quality status and trends throughout the

    basin and provide data for computer modeling.

    Year 3 to 4 Data Assessment and Model Preparation: Modeling priorities are identified early

    in this phase and are refined through assessment of water quality data from the

    ESB. Data from special studies are then used by DWQ's Technical Support

    Branch (TSB) to prepare models for estimating potential impacts of waste loading

    from point and nonpoint sources using the TMDL approach. Preliminary water

    quality control strategies are developed based on modeling, with input from local

    governments, the regulated community and citizen groups during this period. Year 4 Preparation of Draft Basinwide Plan: The draft plan, which is prepared by DWQ's

    Planning Branch, is due for completion by the end of year 4. It is based on

    support documents prepared by DWQ's Environmental Sciences Branch (water

    quality data) and the Technical Support Branch (modeling data and recommended

    pollution control strategies). Preliminary findings are presented at informal

    meetings through the year with local governments and interested groups, and

    comments are incorporated into the draft.

    Year 5 Public Review and Approval of Plan: At the beginning of year 5, the draft plan,

    after approval of the Environmental Management Commission (EMC), is

    circulated for review and public meetings are held. Revisions are made to the

    document, based on public comments, and the final document is submitted to the

    EMC for approval midway through year 5. Basinwide permitting begins at the

    end of year 5.

    Implementation - The implementation of basinwide planning and management will occur in phases. Permitting activities and associated routine support activities (field sampling, modeling, wasteload allocation calculations, etc.) have already been rescheduled by major river basin. All National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit renewals within a basin occur within a prescribed time period after completion of the final basin plan, and will be repeated at five year intervals.

    Nonpoint source management proposals will be implemented by several different avenues. The Water Quality Section is setting up nonpoint source (NPS) teams for each basin. These teams are made up of representatives of nonpoint source agencies, resource agencies, and special interest groups. The NPS teams are responsible for prioritizing specific watersheds for follow-up investigations, educational efforts, and best management practice (BMP) implementation. Funding for BMP implementation will be sought from sources such as existing cost-share monies or from federal Section 319 grants. In addition to projects in specific watersheds, the NPS team will develop programmatic action plans for each category of nonpoint source pollution. The

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Chapter 1 - Introduction

    action plans detail voluntary actions that agencies and groups have committed to complete to protect and improve water quality in the basin. Many of the action plan items involve increased educational efforts or enforcement of existing programs.



    The Division of Water Quality is the lead state agency for the regulation and protection of the state's surface waters. The Division is comprised of four sections: Water Quality, Groundwater, Construction Grants and Loans, and the Water Quality Laboratory.

    The primary responsibilities of the Division of Water Quality are to maintain or restore an aquatic environment to sufficient quality to protect the existing and best intended uses of North Carolina's surface waters and to ensure compliance with state and federal water quality standards. The Division receives both state and federal allocations as well as funding through permit fee collections. Policy guidance is provided by the Environmental Management Commission. The major areas of responsibility are water quality monitoring, permitting, planning, modeling (wasteload allocations) and compliance oversight.

    The Central office is divided into five branches, each branch is subdivided into units (Figure 1.2). The Planning Branch is responsible for developing surface water quality standards and

    classifications, nonpoint source program planning, administering the basinwide management program, modeling nonpoint pollution sources, developing use support ratings and supporting related GIS capabilities. It also coordinates the development of TMDLs and wasteload allocations for dischargers, provides primary computer modeling support, and coordinates EPA water quality planning grants and the implementation of the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) that resulted from the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuarine Study (APES).

The Regional Program Management Coordination Branch is responsible for providing increased

    communication and coordination of the water quality program. The responsibilities include the water supply watershed protection program, State Environmental Policy Act coordination for the Section, the operator training and certification program, emergency response, the development and administration of the enterprise wide database management system, and coordination and program management activities between the central and seven regional offices. The Environmental Technologies Unit is responsible for providing better access to data managed by the Water Quality Section so as to facilitate information exchange and analysis with the public as well as internal users. The Technical Assistance and Certification Unit rates the complexity of operation of wastewater treatment plants, provides training and operator certification commensurate with the plant operating needs, and provides technical assistance as requested by wastewater treatment systems. The Local Government Assistance Unit assists local governments in meeting the requirements of the water supply watershed protection program, managing the collection system permitting program, coordinating water quality state environmental policy act responsibilities and managing the EPA 205(j) grants program. The Branch also has the responsibility of ensuring program coordination through the seven Regional Offices.

The Environmental Sciences Branch is responsible for all biological and chemical water quality

    monitoring, discharger coalition water quality monitoring, and evaluations including benthic

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Chapter 1 - Introduction

    macroinvertebrate monitoring (biomonitoring), fish tissue, and fish community studies. The Branch is also responsible for effluent toxicity testing and evaluations, biological laboratory certification, algal and aquatic macrophyte analyses, long term biochemical and sediment oxygen demand, and lakes assessments. The Branch interacts heavily in 305(b) use-support assessments and in water quality standards review and development. The Neuse River Rapid Response Team is coordinated through the Environmental Sciences Branch. The Branch is in the process of developing simplified public access to water quality information via the World Wide Web.

The Point Source Branch is responsible for permitting, compliance and enforcement of

    wastewater discharges into our state's surface waters. Permitting and enforcement programs include the municipal industrial pretreatment program, state and federal stormwater programs, and the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. Modeling is conducted to determine the receiving stream's ability to assimilate the discharge and protect the streams uses and surface water standards.

The Non-discharge Branch is responsible for permitting, compliance and enforcement of

    wastewater discharges that are not directly into our state's surface waters. Examples of these

    include spray irrigation systems, sludge applications, reuse systems and groundwater remediation projects. This branch also handles the section’s activities related to wetlands including 401

    certifications, wetland policy and mitigation, and DOT and dredging project reviews.

    The seven Regional Offices carry out activities such as wetland reviews, compliance evaluations, permit reviews and facility inspections for both discharging and nondischarging systems, ambient water quality monitoring, state environmental policy act reviews, stream reclassification reviews, pretreatment program support and operator training and certification assistance. In addition, they respond to water quality emergencies such as oil spills and fish kills, investigate complaints and provide information to the public. Figure 1.3 shows the location of the regional offices and the counties that they serve.


    Creager, C.S., and J. P. Baker, 1991, North Carolina's Basinwide Approach to Water Quality

     Management: Program Description, DWQ Water Quality Section, Raleigh, NC.

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Figure 1.2 Organizational Structure of the DWQ Water Quality Section

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Chapter 1 - Introduction

    Figure 1.3 Location of Division of Water Quality Regional Offices

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