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As Seagrasses Expand, State Considers New Rules to Protect Them
By Wendy Heller, December 25, 2007 @ 02:00 AM (EST)
Source: Fayobserver.com

Officials with the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries have said the state must modify the definition of seagrass to more accurately describe the habitat  and possibly help identify and protect areas that could support the seagrass.

But much of the shallow areas ideal for seagrass growth lies in territory ideal for piers or docks. So the discussion among state officials has some regulators and developers worried about what a new definition could mean for coastal development.

"Unfortunately, it's an awkward situation," said Jim Leutze, the former University of North Carolina at Wilmington chancellor who serves on both the Coastal Resources and Marine Fisheries commissions. "But both sides are trying to do the best they can within their responsibilities."

The debate comes as clusters of the so-called submerged aquatic vegetation have sprouted in places where it hadn't been for years. Researchers are trying to figure out whether the grasses are recolonizing old habitat or expanding their range  and why they're doing so.

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