Sowing the seeds of ecosystem degradation:
The 4,658-acre tract is owned by Spring Creek Farms LLC, which is registered in Illinois, according to Pamlico County tax records. About 250 acres on the south side of State Road 1324 have been cleared, a fact acknowledged last month by Abel Harmon of Hydeland Construction & Consulting in Swanquarter, who is working on the project. Farming could begin any time after the land clearing is completed, Harmon said in late September.
Not only do these wetlands provide a habitat for a wide range of local and migrating species, they also serve as a natural water filter to absorb toxins and nutrients. By turning these wetlands into agricultural tracts, you're taking away that filter and introducing even more toxins and nutrients via pesticides and fertilizers. Not good, to say the least. What's even more frustrating about this issue is the fact that once you've drained the wetlands, DENR no longer considers them wetlands anymore, and refuses to take action:
“It does have hydric soils, and (associated) vegetation,” she said, but the soil was not saturated.
“It needs to have all three of those things” in order to be legally designated as wetlands, Massengale added. “We went four times and looked very carefully, studying the plants and the soils, there was just no way that it qualified. And so there is nothing being done there that is noncompliant.”
But environmentalists believe the assessment was, at best, inadequate. Derb Carter, senior attorney for the Chapel Hill office of the Southern Environmental Law Center, said the assessment of four sites took place on June 8, when the water table would have been low. In a letter to Propst, Carter noted that Harmon and Mark Beck, representing Spring Creek Farms, wrote the Corps that the network of ditches on the property “has resulted in the removal of the hydrology parameters required to meet wetlands criteria.”
So there you have it. If you want to get around wetlands protection, you simply dig some ditches, and then wait a few years.