The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Wednesday, November 1, 1995            TAG: 9510310108
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   79 lines


Rejecting further regulation of their land, residents and businesses around Rudee Inlet are joining environmentalists to develop a water quality management program to protect Rudee Inlet and its tributaries from pollution.

Those who live and work in the area blasted a proposed 50-page city ordinance patterned after the unpopular Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area ordinance that restricts development on waterfront property.

Instead, they agreed to work together to determine what's best for the Owl Creek watershed and the people who rely on it. The core of the watershed is the Rudee Inlet area, which is ringed with marinas, restaurants and the Virginia Marine Science Museum, all popular tourist attractions.

``We need a common sense business approach rather than a bureaucratic governmental approach,'' said Edward R. Bourdon Jr., a lawyer representing two marinas and Croatan Civic League president.

``Let us do it rather than wait for somebody to slam something on us,'' he said. ``We don't want to be saddled with regulations we don't need.''

Business owners in the watershed say regulation makes little sense because the health of the waters is not even known.

``We don't need government regulation for a problem that no one knows exists,'' said Jay F. Wilks, a lawyer for Ocean Breeze Festival Park.

There are no current studies on water quality in Rudee Inlet, Lake Rudee and Owl Creek, although they are generally considered fairly healthy despite the floating trash and oil slicks that are sometimes visible.

C. Mac Rawls, museum director, said a study conducted in the late 1980s indicated the water was ``in pretty good shape.'' Because the museum draws water for its aquariums and fish tanks from Owl Creek, it has a significant interest in keeping it clean.

Coincidently, the museum just hired a water quality specialist, so Rawls offered to help collect more current data.

After learning the sentiments of the group, city officials scraped the proposed ordinance and agreed to let the citizens take charge.

``We listened to the public,'' Judith L. Rosenblatt, planning commissioner and chairwoman of the Owl Creek Watershed Subcommittee, told a gathering of about 40 at the Virginia Marine Science Museum last week.

``Instead of us presenting an ordinance, we will go the other way. We will let this group create anything that needs to be done to protect the area.''

The Owl Creek watershed is the smallest of six watersheds in the city, comprising 3,000 acres. It's bounded roughly by 19th Street to the north and Camp Pendleton to the south; and Birdneck Road to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.

A group of interested people from the watershed, including business owners, residents, the Navy and environmentalists will meet this week to determine what direction to take.

The group that is eventually formed may be as formal as a ``management association'' similar to the Resort Area Advisory Commission and appointed by City Council, or as informal as a self-appointed advisory group.

One of the first orders of business will be collecting the most current data on the health of the watershed.

``There are a lot of common sense solutions that would not effect property rights or new regulations,'' said City Councilman Linwood O. Branch III, whose district includes the watershed.

Among the activities that have been discussed are working for increased marine patrols, increased enforcement of existing environmental ordinances and increased street sweeping; developing an adopt-a-waterway program and an education and awareness program for the watershed.

``This (Owl Creek watershed) has got to be one of the greatest gems the city has,'' Rawls said. ``This is a creative plan, a somewhat different approach.

``I feel very good about it.'' ILLUSTRATION: C. Mac Rawls, director of the Virginia Marine Science Museum,

said the museum, coincidentally, had just hired a water quality

specialist, and Rawls offered to help collect more current data on

the water quality of Owl Creek.

by CNB