To the Editor:
A recent letter to this newspaper addressed the current plan to build 7,200 homes on the Williamson Tract, rightly concluding that, instead of developing that land, we should “keep it as it is!” There are many reasons why, but perhaps the most important one is this: The Williamson wetlands are a crucial safety net – not just for Oak Island, but for all nearby towns and areas, and the families and businesses that make their homes in this area.
Here in southeastern Brunswick County we live on the coastal plain, close to the ocean, the ICW, the Cape Fear River, or streams and marshland. We face current or potential issues related to storm water, flooding, coastal erosion, even hurricanes – and yes, many of us face the possibility of our flood insurance rates going sky high if the threat of flooding increases. But natural wetlands help us. They have a protective impact – lessening storm water problems, flooding and coastal erosion on a regional scale, so says the Environmental Protection Agency. And no amount of “mitigation” can replace the regional protection that natural wetlands provide. We are lucky because the Williamson Tract is perhaps the largest wetlands complex in Brunswick County or, indeed, the coastal plain, and so far, those wetlands have not fallen to development.
In many places up and down the southeastern Atlantic coast, wetlands have been dwindling, and development that destroys wetlands is a substantial cause. Without the Williamson wetlands, our coast and our homes would become vulnerable. You may hear arguments that Oak Island’s tax base will be increased by developing the Williamson Tract, thus benefiting the town as whole and all who live in it. But think again.
The other side of that pocket-book issue is not only that increases in town infrastructure and services will cost money. That’s true and important, but add this thought: if flooding increases flood insurance rates go up, potentially to sky-high levels. And because lenders require flood insurance for many (maybe most) of the homes and businesses in this coastal area, people with mortgages don’t have a choice – not if they are located close to the water or in a low-lying spot.
So, I ask families and businesses: don’t give up on defending your safety net. Let’s love the Williamson wetlands just as they are. What’s at stake here is our beach, our homes, and our many local businesses. What’s at stake is our way of life. Don’t throw that away.
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