State lawmakers in both chambers have approved a measure that would weaken environmental rules protecting rivers and streams in North Carolina.
Among other things, Senate Bill 883 would reduce the ratio of land that has to be mitigated when developers and others damage the banks of those waterways. That kind of damage is a major contributor to poor water quality.
Lawmakers in western North Carolina are especially concerned. The trout fishing industry there brings in about $200 million every year. Democratic Representative Joe Sam Queen is from Waynesville.
"It's absolutely essential that you have good stream bank, good water quality to grow trout. They are a canary in the coal mine. If the water quality's not good, you do not have trout. And we have spent a couple of decades bringing them back and we have made great progress," said Queen.
Queen says now the state is moving backwards. The bill's key measures were drafted by a new panel of state regulators and industry stakeholders.
But the measure's backers in the legislature say the proposed changes are highly technical and will help clarify regulations. The bill now goes to the governor.