Stream Buffers Protection Program
A stream buffer, also known as a riparian buffer, is the vegetated land adjacent to a stream bank. Stream buffers stabilize stream banks which reduces stream bank erosion, and have been shown to reduce nutrient levels in the water entering the stream. Stream buffers also provide shade which keeps the water cool, and supply the necessary food and habitat for many aquatic organisms. These resources provided by the stream buffer create an excellent environment for a diverse and healthy ecosystem. NC State University has done extensive research on riparian buffers and their positive impacts including this presentation from Michael Burchell.
Stream buffers protect and maintain vegetative corridors along stream banks to help slow, spread out, and treat stormwater runoff through biological and hydrologic processes. Riparian buffers are implemented in the community through the authority of the NPDES Phase 2 Permit. The Cities of Burlington and Graham administer programs to implement the stream buffer requirements within their jurisdictions, these programs include the review of development and redevelopment plans for compliance stream buffer standards, routine inspections, and reliance on regulatory measures for abatement and enforcement. NCDOT manages their pollution controls within the right of way through its Stormwater Management Program under the overarching Guided Reduction of Excess Environmental Nutrients (GREEN) program.
For the project partners, stream buffer protection and management is being driven recently by the Jordan Lake Rules. For years prior to the adoption of the Jordan Lake Rules, stream buffers and built-upon area setbacks existed through other regulations. Since 2009, NCDOT has been complying with stream buffer standards for new development projects in the Little Alamance Creek watershed. The Cities of Burlington and Graham implemented their stream buffer ordinances in 2011. Efforts to publicize the new ordinance throughout the watershed have likely highlighted the role and importance steam buffers provide to the community.