15A NCAC 07H .0205 COASTAL WETLANDS
(a) Description. Coastal wetlands are defined as any salt marsh or other marsh subject to regular or occasional flooding by tides, including wind tides (whether or not the tide waters reach the marshland areas through natural or artificial watercourses), provided this does not include hurricane or tropical storm tides. Coastal wetlands may contain the following marsh plant species:
(1) Cord Grass (Spartina alterniflora),
(2) Black Needlerush (Juncus roemerianus),
(3) Glasswort (Salicornia spp.),
(4) Salt Grass (Distichlis spicata),
(5) Sea Lavender (Limonium spp.),
(6) Bulrush (Scirpus spp.),
(7) Saw Grass (Cladium jamaicense),
(8) Cat‑tail (Typha spp.),
(9) Salt Meadow Grass (Spartina patens),
(10) Salt Reed Grass (Spartina cynosuroides).
The coastal wetlands AEC includes any contiguous lands designated by the Secretary of DENR pursuant to G.S. 113-230(a).
(b) Significance. The unique productivity of the estuarine and ocean system is supported by detritus (decayed plant material) and nutrients that are exported from the coastal marshlands. The amount of exportation and degree of importance appears to be variable from marsh to marsh, depending primarily upon its frequency of inundation and inherent characteristics of the various plant species. Without the marsh, the high productivity levels and complex food chains typically found in the estuaries could not be maintained.
Man harvests various aspects of this productivity when he fishes, hunts, and gathers shellfish from the estuary. Estuarine dependent species of fish and shellfish such as menhaden, shrimp, flounder, oysters, and crabs make up over 90 percent of the total value of North Carolina's commercial catch. The marshlands, therefore, support an enormous amount of commercial and recreational businesses along the seacoast.
The roots, rhizomes, stems, and seeds of coastal wetlands act as good quality waterfowl and wildlife feeding and nesting materials. In addition, coastal wetlands serve as the first line of defense in retarding estuarine shoreline erosion. The plant stems and leaves tend to dissipate wave action, while the vast network of roots and rhizomes resists soil erosion. In this way, the coastal wetlands serve as barriers against flood damage and control erosion between the estuary and the uplands.
Marshlands also act as nutrient and sediment traps by slowing the water which flows over them and causing suspended organic and inorganic particles to settle out. In this manner, the nutrient storehouse is maintained, and sediment harmful to marine organisms is removed. Also, pollutants and excessive nutrients are absorbed by the marsh plants, thus providing an inexpensive water treatment service.
(c) Management Objective. It is the objective of the Coastal Resources Commission to conserve and manage coastal wetlands so as to safeguard and perpetuate their biological, social, economic and aesthetic values, and to coordinate and establish a management system capable of conserving and utilizing coastal wetlands as a natural resource essential to the functioning of the entire estuarine system.
(d) Use Standards. Suitable land uses are those consistent with the management objective in this Rule. Highest priority of use is allocated to the conservation of existing coastal wetlands. Second priority of coastal wetland use is given to those types of development activities that require water access and cannot function elsewhere.
Examples of unacceptable land uses include restaurants, businesses, residences, apartments, motels, hotels, trailer parks, parking lots, private roads, highways and factories. Examples of acceptable land uses include utility easements, fishing piers, docks, wildlife habitat management activities, and agricultural uses such as farming and forestry drainage as permitted under North Carolina's Dredge and Fill Law or other applicable laws.
In every instance, the particular location, use, and design characteristics shall be in accord with the general use standards for coastal wetlands, estuarine waters, and public trust areas described in Rule .0208 of this Section.
(e) Alteration of Coastal Wetlands. Alteration of coastal wetlands includes mowing or cutting of coastal wetlands vegetation whether by mechanized equipment or manual means. Alteration of coastal wetlands by federal or state resource management agencies as a part of planned resource management activities is exempt from the requirements of this Paragraph. Mowing or cutting of coastal wetlands by academic institutions associated with research efforts is allowed subject to approval from the Division of Coastal Management. Alteration of coastal wetlands is governed according to the following provisions:
(1) Alteration of coastal wetlands is exempt from the permit requirements of the Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) when conducted in accordance with the following criteria:
(A) Coastal wetlands may be mowed or cut to a height of no less than two feet, as measured from the coastal wetland substrate, at any time and at any frequency throughout the year;
(B) Coastal wetlands may be mowed or cut to a height of no less than six inches, as measured from the coastal wetland substrate, once between each December 1 and March 31;
(C) Alteration of the substrate is not allowed;
(D) All cuttings/clippings shall remain in place as they fall;
(E) Coastal wetlands may be mowed or cut to a height of no less than six inches, as measured from the coastal wetland substrate, to create an access path four feet wide or less on waterfront lots without a pier access; and
(F) Coastal wetlands may be mowed or cut by utility companies as necessary to maintain utility easements.
(2) Coastal wetland alteration not meeting the exemption criteria of this Rule requires a CAMA permit. CAMA permit applications for coastal wetland alterations are subject to review by the North Carolina Wildlife Commission, North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Marine Fisheries Service in order to determine whether or not the proposed activity will have an adverse impact on the habitat or fisheries resources.
History Note: Authority G.S. 113A‑107(a); 113A‑107(b); 113A‑113(b)(1); 113A‑124;
Eff. September 9, 1977;
Amended Eff. November 1, 2009; August 1, 1998; October 1, 1993; May 1, 1990; January 24, 1978.