Many of us from eastern North Carolina have said for many years that the real economic future of our coastal plain lies in the business of outdoor recreation. Heavy industry has its place here as long as it doesn’t damage our natural resources, but if you threaten the environment of our favorite fishing holes or hunting woods, look out. You’ve stepped on the wrong toes.
It looks like the proposed Martin Marietta marl rock quarry already has somewhat of a foothold in the down east County of Beaufort and has set the wheels of discontent in motion. The quarry has planned the site of their new industry at the very headwaters of one of the most revered brackish water streams on the coast.
The outdoor community is bothered by the proposed daily discharge of 12.5 million gallons of untreated wastewater from the Martin Marietta mine into the headwaters of Blounts Creek.
Blounts Creek is located on the south side of the Pamlico River about six miles downstream from Washington. For many years the creek has been one of the favored fishing spots of the “upstate” anglers. It’s noted for not only freshwater fishes such as largemouth bass and bluegills but also anadromous fishes such as herring, shad and striped bass.
If one had to choose any two of the fish of Blounts Creek if would be the “brim” and the year-round favorite, speckled trout.
Kayakers find the picturesque creek wonderful for exploring and watching the large variety of neo-tropical birdlife, including numerous sightings of our national bird, the bald eagle, that are known to nest in the area. Stands of old growth pine trees along the creek’s edge are ideal nesting spots for the endangered red cockaded woodpecker and numerous waterfowl attract hunters who visit the area.
Longtime residents of the Blounts Creek area are quite familiar with other forms of aquatic life in the waters of the creek. Sightings of the endangered Atlantic sturgeons are common.
And let’s not forget that the “highly endangered” red wolves are now residents of the woodlands of Beaufort County.
So what have a lot of the folks of the Blounts Creek area so upset about these 12.5 million gallons of waste water that Martin Marietta wants to dump into two ditches that feed the headwaters of the creek? It’s probably the fact that there have been few preliminary studies (called environmental impact studies) conducted to determine what could take place to the fragile natural resources of Blounts Creek.
The water that Martin Marietta proposes to discharge into Blounts Creek is to be water that is contained in the ground covering a layer of marl rock that lies over a hundred feet beneath the surface. The marl rock is noted as a necessary item for rip rapping shorelines or is used to make muddy roads solid enough to drive heavy trucks on.
The water must be removed from the open pit mine in order for the equipment to harvest the rock. The close proximity of this quarry to a railroad leaves one to think that a lot of this terrain stabilizing marl rock is headed for the huge Potash Corporation mine at Aurora.
The problem that seems to be bothering a lot of people is that no one seems to know just exactly what the effect this waste water will have on the environment of Blounts Creek. And it looks as if the both federal and state governments have already given Martin Marietta the necessary paperwork to go ahead with their Vanceboro Quarry without doing their proper homework.
Residents of the Blounts Creek area that I’ve talked with state, “they have no problem with the mine itself. It’s just that we don’t have any idea what effect the waste water will have on the creek and that it looks like this is to be another case of the state and federal governments pushing through the necessary paperwork without giving much thought to what the consequences of their actions will do to our home environments.”
Last week we visited the proposed site for the Vanceboro Quarry and found that the land has already been cleared in preparation for the digging to begin. With that in mind, it looks as if Martin Marietta feels that they have an open door to go ahead with their plans to mine marl rock there. What many citizens of the area have to say about these plans seems to have little effect on the mine’s plans.
The North Carolina Coastal Conservation Association, Ducks and Quail Unlimited organizations, as well as the Pamlico Tar River Foundation, should play a vital role in what industries such as this proposed mine could play in our coastal zone.
Concerned citizens will have a chance to voice their plans at a public hearing slated to be held at the Beaufort County Community College in Building #8 auditorium.
The formal hearing will begin at 7 p.m. on March 14. The doors will be open to the public at 6:00 to give folks a chance to voice their concerns and hear what our government officials and Martin Marietta have to say about the proposed Vanceboro Quarry. The College is located about 5 miles east of Washington on the north side Highway 264.
Outdoorsmen from many areas who have enjoyed fishing and hunting in the Blounts Creek area for many years should have a chance to speak their piece at this official hearing.