Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Catawba water wars continue

Two non-profit organizations created to protect the Catawba River have taken legal action to stop the water transfer planned for Concord and Kannapolis.

According to the Charlotte Observer, and the Winston-Salem Journal,
The Protect the Catawba River Coalition, a group of local governments that oppose the transfer, will spend $100,000 to hire two lobbying firms to push a bill introduced by N.C. Rep. Mitch Gillespie, R-McDowell, and similar bills that would tighten laws regulating water transfers.

If passed, Gillespie's bill would toughen controls on water transfers. It would also retroactively require Concord and Kannapolis to install flow meters tracking water they withdraw from the Catawba and to withdraw only as much water as they need at the time, among other directives.

In January, the N.C. Environmental Management Commission approved the transfer by Concord and Kannapolis of up to 10 million gallons of water a day from the Catawba. The cities may take the same amount from the Yadkin River.

Last month, the coalition appealed the decision, asking an administrative law judge to overturn it.
The Southern Environmental Law Center represents Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation which is joining with the state of South Carolina in a lawsuit.
SELC is representing the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in an appeal filed March 28 with the state Office of Administrative Hearings. Among our concerns:

* The commission approved the water transfer despite numerous defects in the application review process, including the failure to notify South Carolina, which has a section of the Catawba River basin within its borders.
* The commission failed to give citizens adequate time to review and comment on a series of revisions to the “final” environmental impact statement for the project.
* The transfer could prolong water shortages during periods of drought within the Catawba River, fuel residential growth in the sensitive habitats of the lower Yadkin River, adversely affect instream flow in the Catawba, and damage aquatic habitat in both rivers.
. . .
South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster joined us at the press conference with the river foundation to announce his plans to seek a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court on grounds that the North Carolina acted against the U.S. Constitution in allowing the transfer, which will impact waters of his state. A few days prior, a coalition of 17 local governments in the Catawba basin filed a similar administrative appeal to stop the transfers.

The Catawba River originates in the mountains of North Carolina and flows through a series of lakes into South Carolina. Many people within the basin depend the river as a source of drinking water, as well as for a host of recreation activities. In addition, the waters of the Catawba River provide habitat to varied plant and animal species.
For background check out this great compilation of articles in the Hickory Record about the transfer, a removal of 22 million gallons of water from the Catawba for Concord and Kannapolis.

Water Commission members and contact info.

City of Hickory Interbasin Transfer Information webpage

Division of Water Resources Interbasin transfer information

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