Under the Conservation and Historic Preservation Agreements Act, found at Article 4 within Chapter 121, local governments have the authority to acquire conservation easements and other interests in property for the purpose of preventing activities that are detrimental to erosion control or soil conservation. § 121-35(1)(vii), § 121-37. (See Conservation Easements, above.) North Carolina gives primary responsibility for erosion and sedimentation control to the Department of Environment and Natural Resource’s Sedimentation Control Commission, pursuant to Article 4, Chapter 113A; and to water and soil conservation districts, pursuant to Chapter 139 (see below). Under § 113A-60, however, a city or county may enact a sedimentation control program upon approval by the Sedimentation Control Commission. The Commission may require a local government administering such a program to require that applicants for land-disturbing activities submit an erosion and sedimentation control plan to the appropriate soil and water district, as well as to the local government. § 160A-61(a). The local government’s approval of any draft erosion and sedimentation control plan must be conditioned on the applicant’s “compliance with federal and state water quality laws, regulations, and rules.” § 113A-61(b1)
North Carolina’s Soil Conservation Districts Law, found at Chapter 139, is based largely on the model State Soil Conservation Districts law drafted by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration in 1937. (Indeed, a North Carolina farmer was one of the primary advocates of the model law, and the citizens of Anson County, North Carolina formed the first soil conservation district in the nation.). Under this law, water and soil conservation districts, rather than local governments, have primary authority to deal with erosion and sedimentation. However, a county may gain the powers of soil and water conservation districts in connection with watershed improvement programs (see Watershed Planning, Counties, below) if a majority of its voters approves a watershed improvement tax. § 139-41, § 139-39. These powers include the ability to conduct surveys and investigations; to carry out preventative and control measures and works of improvement; to enter into agreements; to obtain rights to property and to maintain and/or sell any such property; to provide landowners with material or equipment that will help them in their conservation efforts; to undertake public works, including watershed improvements and projects; to develop comprehensive plans for conservation, utilization and disposal of water and development of water resources; to act as an agent for the United States in connection with these activities; and to require land occupiers to enter into agreements in exchange for certain benefits. § 139-8. There is no similar provision for cities.