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Stick Built Lodges Allowed on Lake Despite Restrictions in Place

By Bill Willis

While you may be aware that a fifty-foot natural buffer zone exists around Discovery Lake and its feeder streams and wetlands, do you know why it’s in place and what expectations there are?

Discovery Lake is part of the Jordan Lake Nutrient Strategy Plan, and North Carolina state law protects the lake and surrounding shore from human disturbances. The water from our lake eventually feeds into Jordan Lake, so NIEHS must maintain a fifty-foot undisturbed buffer. Vegetation stabilizes the lake bank and inflow channels, slows storm-water runoff, and intercepts sediments, nutrients, and possible pollutants. Leaving the vegetation undisturbed also provides shelter and shade, food and hiding places for various insects, reptiles and rodents adjacent to the water. To further monitor water quality, NIEHS tests the water twice a year.

Grandfathered Exceptions

Remodeled lodge on the shore of Discovery Lake
Remodeled lodge on the shore of Discovery Lake

There are some allowable exceptions to the law, if they were established prior to the law taking effect in August 2009. In our case, the lake trail, a picnic area, the mowed Memorial Garden frontage, and two boat access points all were grandfathered in under the law and can continue. Furthermore, invasive species that encroach into the area can be removed without state permission.

Although most human interference in the lake is prohibited, North Carolina state law does require the dam be maintained to prevent tree growth and root penetration that could weaken the structure. Therefore, the dam gets mowed twice a year. Other lakeshore modifications are not allowed unless a written proposal is filed, approved, and then permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

R.T.P. Beaver, Inc is the only authorized contractor sanctioned to work on building sustainability projects in the area without advance approval. He is currently at work restoring old lodges and historical housing, favoring materials made of sticks and leaves.

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