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Save Blounts Creek group sets date for boat rally

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David Massengill Holds a Save Blount's Creek sign during last year's boat rally on Blount's Creek.


By Beth Velliquette
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

CHOCOWINITY — A group opposed to the release of millions of gallons of water from a proposed mining operation on Blounts Creek has scheduled a boat rally for the end of the month.

The “Save Blounts Creek” boat rally is scheduled for Sept. 30 from 1-3:30 p.m. A convoy of boats, kayaks, canoes and jet skis will parade along the creek from Cotton Patch Marina to the mouth of Blounts Creek on the Pamlico River.

Blounts Creek, located east of Chocowinity, starts as a narrow creek that begins in a swamp and slowly grows wider as it twists and turns heading north. People like to boat, fish and photograph in and along the creek, which empties into the Pamlico River.

Martin Marietta Materials, a company that owns other quarries in North Carolina, applied for and received a permit from the N.C. Division of Water Resources  to release clean water from a new mining operation it plans to build at the headwaters of the creek.

Opponents, who are represented by Sound Rivers Inc. and the North Carolina Coastal Federation Inc., fought the permit, saying the discharge would change the nature of the creek and the swamp and harm the fish and other aquatic wildlife that live there.

Blounts Creek provides habitat to striped bass, river herring, American and hickory shad, largemouth bass, yellow perch, white perch, black crappie, chain pickerel, redfin pickerel, American eel, red drum, southern flounder and spotted sea trout, among others. If the 12 million gallons of water is discharged into the creek each day, it could change and harm their habitats and spawning grounds, opponents argue.

They brought the fight to court, but in late November, Administrative Law Judge Philip E. Berger Jr. issued a final decision from the Office of Administrative Hearings upholding the permit that allows Martin Marietta to discharge the water into the creek. The Office of Administrative Hearings is an independent quasi-judicial agency established to provide judges to preside in administrative law contested cases.

The groups appealed that decision, and they expect to be in Beaufort County court again in mid October. The Southern Environmental Law Center is representing Sound Rivers and the N.C. Coastal Federation in fighting the permit in court, saying the permit violates the Clean Water Act.

Those fighting the permit have said they do not oppose the mining operation that Martin Marietta plans to build, but they do oppose its plan to discharge the water into the creek. There are other ways Martin Marietta could handle the water than to dump it in the creek, they said.

“We want to let MM Minning, and some non-environmental thinking politicians know that we are still here and just as angered as we ever were,” said Bob Daw in a news release about the rally.

Last year, about 100 boats participated in the rally, and this year, the group hopes to double that amount.

“Yes, it will be organized chaos,” Daw wrote. “Yes, it will be a cluster madness of craziness. But it could very well be a record of all records ever set, to have 200 boats in a parade protest against a terrible wrong that has been allowed by our State D.E.Q. and politicians that picked their staff.”

Contact Beth Velliquette at bvelliquette@reflector.com or at 252-329-9566.