Press Release | December 17, 2014

Conservation Group Notifies Federal Agencies of Intent to Sue

Chapel Hill, N.C. –The Southern Environmental Law Center notified the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today of the North Carolina Coastal Federation’s intent to sue the federal agencies under the Clean Water Act’s citizen suit provision for failing to protect 251 acres of wetlands in Pamlico County.

Represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Coastal Federation sent a 60-day notice letter to the federal agencies identifying violations of the Clean Water Act resulting from their failure to provide wetland protections to approximately 251 acres of illegally ditched wetlands. If the federal agencies fail to provide Clean Water Act protections to the wetlands within the 60-day period, the letter states, the Coastal Federation intends to sue the agencies in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

“Under the Clean Water Act, illegal ditches cannot eliminate wetland protections,” said Geoff Gisler, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The ditches in these wetlands were installed illegally without permits and the Corps and Environmental Protection Agency must, therefore, protect these wetlands as wetlands.”

The 251-acre tract that is the subject of the letter is part of a larger 4,600 acre area known as the “Atlas Tract.” The wetlands provide protection to the headwaters of creeks that flow directly into the Bay and Neuse Rivers.

“Last December the federal government issued a new report that shows that we’re losing about seven football fields of forested coastal wetlands every hour in the United States,” said Todd Miller, executive director of the North Carolina Coastal Federation.  ”Lack of enforcement of existing wetland protection laws such has recently occurred in Pamlico County is a major cause for these unacceptable losses.  The N.C. Coastal Federation hopes to slow these losses by insisting that we enforce existing federal laws to protect these wetlands.”

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Southern Environmental Law Center:

The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of nearly 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.

www.SouthernEnvironment.org

North Carolina Coastal Federation:

The N.C. Coastal Federation is the state’s only non-profit organization focused exclusively on protecting and restoring the coast of North Carolina through education, advocacy and habitat restoration and preservation. The federation’s headquarters are at 3609 N.C. 24 in Ocean between Morehead City and Swansboro and the office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The federation also operates field offices in Wrightsville Beach and Manteo. For more information call 252.393.8185 or check our website at www.nccoast.org.

Press Contacts

Geoff Gisler

Senior Attorney and Leader of SELC's Clean Water Program

Phone: 919-967-1450