In a triumph of science over politics Wednesday afternoon, the Environmental Management Commission’s water-quality committee approved earlier versions of a report on SolarBees that says the devices aren’t working to clean up Jordan Lake, as well as a report on riparian buffers that says buffers are effective and valuable in protecting water quality.

Under the state Department of Environmental Quality, the EMC is a fifteen member body of experts appointed by the governor, House speaker and Senate president. The full commission meets tomorrow and is expected to approve the earlier reports as well.

The commission had been directed by the legislature to submit reports to lawmakers by April 1 that, among other things, study whether SolarBees are working to clean up nutrient-caused algal blooms in Jordan Lake, and whether 100-foot buffers effectively protect water quality of rivers and lakes.

Two versions of each report appeared between March and May, and water-quality committee members noted in both instances that valuable information was removed from the originals about the ineffectiveness of SolarBees, and about the effectiveness of riparian buffers respectively. The committee members voted unanimously to send the earlier, more scientifically grounded reports to full commission, who will decide whether to send them to lawmakers in the General Assembly.

Of course, the vote follows an announcement from DEQ last week that it was abandoning the SolarBee pilot project in Jordan Lake, despite the emergence of a watered-down report stripped of any language that mentioned that SolarBees weren’t working.

“We appreciate the EMC’s commitment – with respect to both the in-lake treatment report and the riparian buffer report – to bringing science-based, non-politicized recommendations to the state legislature,” said Grady McCallie, policy director for the North Carolina Conservation Network, in a statement. “The EMC has reinforced that pollution should be controlled at the source, and that North Carolina’s riparian buffer protections are effective tools for guarding our rivers, lakes, and estuaries.”

“The reports developed and finalized by DEQ staff are consistent with the content mandated by the legislature and reflect conclusions that were developed and finalized based on scientific data,” wrote Stephanie Hawco, deputy communications director for N.C. DEQ.

No word from DEQ secretary Donald van der Vaart, or Tom Reeder, assistant secretary for the environment, who likely are not happy with the whole two reports fiasco.