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Erosion Control

Pictures of soil testing

The Erosion Control Division enforces the Erosion Control and Stormwater portions of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO); administers the Neuse Buffer Rules; reviews erosion control plans; issues plan approvals and permits; inspects permitted sites; and investigates complaints and unauthorized land disturbances.

Erosion Control Permits and Information:

Stormwater Management Plan:


     JUNE 1, 2012


Division of Water Resources (DWR)

Streams Buffers:Still House Creek culvert

Surface Water (stream) Indentification:

Water Quality Resources:

Open Burning Regulations:


When a permit is required:

Orange County Watershed-Erosion Control-Stormwater-Nutrient Matrix and Map

In general, whenever clearing and grading will exceed 20,000 square feet (roughly 1/2 acre) an Erosion Control Plan must be submitted for approval; and a land disturbance permit must be obtained before any land disturbing activity begins (including timbering, demolition, clearing, or grading, etc.).

However, if the site is within either the University Lake, Cane Creek, or Upper Eno watersheds (Erosion Control FAQs), a permit is required for any grading exceeding 10,000 square feet (approximately 1/4 acre) and may be required for any disturbance depending on site specific factors. A waiver may be issued by the Erosion Control Division for land disturbances of less than 10,000 square feet. Not sure where you are?  Click here for a map showing these three watersheds.

NOTE: Bonafide agricultural, forestry, and mining activities are exempt from Orange County's Erosion Control Ordinance (See Section 5). These activities are regulated under state and federal authority.

The Erosion Control Permit application form must be included with the plan submittal. The application form consists of two parts:

1. Applications for Erosion Control Plan Approval and Land Disturbance Permit
2. Statement of Ownership and Financial Responsibility

Stormwater Management Plan:

Orange County's Stormwater Ordinance applies only to areas within the Neuse River Basin and states that Stormwater Management Plans must be submitted for any new development or land-disturbing activity. Plans must address:

  • Riparian Buffers,
  • Nitrogen Loading, and
  • Peak Flow Control

Plans are to be submitted to the Erosion Control Division for review and approval. The current Stormwater Plan fee is $500.00.


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Neuse Buffer Rules:

The State of North Carolina has designated Orange County as the delegated authority to administer the Neuse Buffer Rules within Orange County - this includes areas within the Town of Hillsborough.  The Neuse buffered streams within the town (Lower Eno River unprotected) and its surrounding Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) have a 50' Riparian Buffer measured from the top of the bank.  The rest of the county watersheds that comprise the Neuse RIver Basin are the Lower Eno protected, Flat River, Little River, and Upper Eno.  Under the Zoning Ordinance these four watersheds have a stream buffer overlay with a minimum 65' buffer requirement.  To see a map of the Orange County watersheds including the Neuse River Basin click here.

Orange County reviews all proposed Neuse Buffer impacts in accordance with the Neuse Buffer Rules and issues approvals, denials, and other. Buffer impacts are categorized as exempt, allowable, allowable with mitigation, or prohibited. See the Stormwater Ordinance for the complete table of uses and other Neuse Buffer related issues.

Non-Neuse Buffers:

The non-Neuse River Basins include the Roanoke Basin in the extreme north west of the county (approximately 10 square miles comprised of the Hyco Creek and South Hyco Creek sub basins) and the Cape Fear Basin in the western and southern portions of the county (comprised of the Back Creek, Haw Creek, Cane Creek, Haw River unprotected, Haw River protected, University Lake, Jordan Lake unprotected and Jordan Lake protected).All non-Neuse buffers are a minimum of 65' wide (130' total width).See the Orange County Zoning Ordinance for additional information.(The Zoning Ordinance may be viewed or obtained in the Planning and Inspections Department.) To see the Orange County Watersheds map click here.

Surface Water (stream) Identification:

The presence of a stream buffer can affect proposed land use as driveways and building locations.The county has, in the Planning Department, a base map of all known streams.Anyone who wishes to dispute the map may request staff to "field" or "ground" truth the stream. Staff will use methodologies and criteria developed by the North Carolina Division of Water Quality to determine if the stream feature shown on the map is indeed subject to buffer requirements. To view the document outlining the guidelines click here. To see the score sheet click here.

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Stormwater pollution:

  So why do we care about stormwater?

Quite simply...North Carolina's number one water quality problem is stormwater runoff pollution.  As stormwater flows across impervious (i.e.paved) surfaces or exposed soil, it picks up various pollutants, such as oil & grease, excess nutrients, bacteria and sediment.  Polluted stormwater flows down our storm drains and ditches where it is discharged, untreated, into our streams, rivers, and lakes.  Stormwater runoff pollution causes adverse impacts to aquatic ecosystems, poses human health risks, and can greatly increase the cost of treating our drinking water.

For more information about stormwater pollution and stormwater resources, contact the Stormwater Resource Officer, Wesley Poole, by phone at (919) 245-2587 or email.

Development related burning information:

OPEN BURNING PROHIBITED - Effective SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 Per Orange County Zoning Ordinance, Subdivision Regulations, and Erosion Control Ordinance (as amended on September 16, 2003).

Open burning of trees, limbs, stumps, and construction debris is PROHIBITED in Orange County for all activities associated with the development of a subdivision and/or any other permitted land-disturbing acitivites.

This does not include activities involving the production and management of agricultural or forestry products.

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News & Updates:

Erosion Control/Stormwater Divsion

Internal Review Procedure and Remedy for Disagreement

(S.L. 2014-120 Senate Bill 734)


PSCN Class B Special Use Permit

Approved at August 27, 2014 Special Board of Adjustment Meeting

Chestnut Ridge Class B Special Use Permit

Approved at August 11, 2014 Board of Adjustment Meeting

Central & Rural Orange County Future Bus Service Public Outreach -

Click here for more information


Efland Zoning Overlay Districts 

Click here for more information

Erosion Control Division Receives 2014 Local Erosion & Sedimentation Control Programs Award - Click Here

Agricultural Support Enterprises


Floodplain Mapping Update – Changed in Floodplain Locations(s) for properties in Orange County

Stormwater Rules

New stormwater rules related to development in watersheds for Falls and Jordan Lake were implemented June 1, 2012. Please click here for Fact Sheet and here for a flyer related to the new rules. For more information contact Erosion Control.

UDO now available!

The Unified Development Ordinance is now online and ready to use.