Press Release | September 23, 2010

Agreement Reduces Trout Stream Impacts from Cliffs Mountain Golf Course

A legal challenge brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Western North Carolina Alliance and Trout Unlimited against a permit issued by the state to the Cliffs at High Carolina ended today in a settlement agreement that reduced the private, Tiger Woods-designed golf course’s impact on headwater trout streams by almost half—from 3,132 linear feet of stream impacts in the original design to 1,655 linear feet of impacts in the revised design. The original design of the golf course located in the mountains of western North Carolina included extensive underground piping of trout streams.

“North Carolina’s mountain headwaters are so vital to aquatic life and downstream communities that they deserve the full protection of our laws,” said DJ Gerken, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The redesign of the private golf course under this agreement significantly reduces the impact on our stream headwaters and ensures compensatory restoration to North Carolina for any unavoidable impacts to vital mountain streams.”

The Southern Environmental Law Center, Western North Carolina Alliance and Trout Unlimited challenged the permit issued for the original golf course design in court because it allowed too much impact to trout streams without sufficient mitigation.

“We are pleased with the outcome, and we applaud The Cliffs for their willingness to work hard to address our concerns, said WNCA executive director Julie Mayfield. “They were committed to reaching an agreement and made significant changes to the golf course to do so.”

The redesign of the Cliffs golf course vindicates several important environmental protections for streams under North Carolina law:

– Streams cannot be buried for a project if those impacts can be avoided through a better design.
– Unavoidable impacts to quality mountain streams must be mitigated at a 2:1 ratio so that, for every area impacted, twice that  area must be rehabilitated or restored elsewhere.
– Developers must mitigate their impacts to streams by restoring streams. They cannot offset their mitigation burden by seeking credit for streams on their property that were not impacted by their development and are not otherwise at risk of being degraded.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources will revise the water quality certification for the development to reflect the settlement agreement. The Cliffs also must obtain a revised Army Corps 404 permit to reflect the terms of the settlement.

About Western North Carolina Alliance
For 28 years, WNCA has empowered citizens to be advocates for livable communities and the natural environmental of Western North Carolina. WEB:

About Trout Unlimited
Trout Unlimited’s Mission is to conserve, protect and restore North America’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. The North Carolina State Council of Trout Unlimited, and its individual Chapters, carry that mission for the residents, sportsmen/sportswomen and TU members of North Carolina. WEB:

Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.

Press Contacts

DJ Gerken

President and Executive Director

Phone: 828-258-2023

Kathleen Sullivan

Senior Communications Manager (NC)

Phone: 919-945-7106
Email: [email protected]