The state is ordering a Lake Norman property owner to replant trees he cleared from his land along a Mooresville cove.
The property along Oak Tree Road in Mooresville is now mostly muddy red clay. Logs are piled on the lot, and a backhoe sat idle in Wednesday morning’s rain.
Duke Energy’s lake services staff visited the site on Monday and notified the N.C. Division of Water Resources of the violation, company spokeswoman Kim Crawford said. Duke Energy manages lakes in the Catawba River chain under federal license.
Staff from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Mooresville regional office visited the site Tuesday and found that about 10 trees were felled in the 30-foot buffer zone where vegetation must be preserved, said Alan Johnson, environmental senior specialist with the regional office.
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Vegetation must be preserved within a 50-foot buffer from the shoreline along the Catawba River and its lakes, from Lake James to South Carolina, according to state buffer rules. Lake James straddles the border between Burke and McDowell counties.
The state enacted the 50-foot rule effective June 30, 2001, but older neighborhoods, including along Oak Tree Road, were grandfathered in under the former 30-foot requirement, Johnson said.
A resident across the cove who notified the state about the trees told the Observer it appeared that 100 trees in all were felled on the entire property.
The property owner who cut the trees down was in Florida this week, Johnson said, but staff spoke to his brother at the site. “They will tell the owner he has to replant the trees,” Johnson said.
The owner likely won’t face a fine if he replants the trees, because the goal in such cases is to restore the vegetation, Johnson said.
Vegetation stabilizes river banks, prevents soil from eroding into the water and filters storm water runoff, according to the N.C. Division of Water Quality.
Lakes along the main stem of the Catawba River are in serious trouble, the division says in a fact sheet about the buffer rules.
Three lakes – Rhodhiss, Hickory and Wylie – have documented water quality problems from excess nutrients – nitrogen and phosphorous – and others may follow, the division says.
“Riparian buffers are one way to protect the Catawba River and its lakes from storm water runoff pollution, particularly from development activities,” the state fact sheet says