River Basin & Watershed Riparian Buffer Rules
In North Carolina, forestry activities are regulated within selected river basins or watersheds through a series of so-called "Riparian Buffer Rules" enacted by the N.C. Environmental Management Commission and administered by the N.C. Division of Water Resources (DWR). These buffer rules go above and beyond the requirements defined by the Forest Practices Guidelines Related to Water Quality (commonly called "FPGs").
These river basin and watershed areas include:
- Catawba River and its mainstem lakes
- Goose Creek watershed (Union and Mecklenburg counties, NC)
- Jordan Lake watershed
- Neuse River basin
- Randleman Lake watershed
- Tar-Pamlico River basin
The Riparian Buffer Rules set additional limits on activities within the buffer zone, including but not limited to:
- Limited eligibility to cut any trees from the buffer zone
- How wide the buffer zone must be
- What type of forestry activities are allowed to occur in the buffer
- The size and quantity of trees allowable for harvesting in the buffer
The NCFS has produced a "Forestry Leaflet" for each Riparian Buffer Rule outlining the requirements that forestry operations must meet in order to comply with each rule.
- WQ10: A Guide to the Forest Harvest Requirements of the Consolidated Riparian Buffer Rule for Catawba, Randleman, Neuse and Tar-Pamlico: 15A NCAC 02B .0612.
- WQ11: A Guide to the Forest Harvest Requirements of the Goose Creek Watershed Riparian Buffer Rule: 15A NCAC 02B .0608.
- WQ12: A Guide to the Forest Harvest Requirements of the Jordan Lake Watershed Riparian Buffer Rule: 15A NCAC 02B .0267.
The NCFS also developed a 1-page summary table that summarizes all of the buffer rule forest harvesting requirements for quick reference, available at this link. (NOTE: Be sure to read the Forestry Leaflet that contains the details of what is required for each rule and do not rely only on the summary table.)
While the NCFS observes forest harvests to see if the buffer rules appear to be in compliance, the N.C. Division of Water Resources (DWR) is the agency that makes the final compliance determination and will handle any enforcement action. The DWR also retains the authority to inspect a site on its own, with or without prior knowledge of the NCFS.
If you need assistance to determine whether or not a stream, ditch, water channel or other body of water requires these rules, please contact a forester at the nearest NCFS district office.