Updated -- see below.
Several noteworthy developments are emerging in the great Catawba water war – the request by Concord and Kannapolis to take a maximum of 26 million gallons a day from the Catawba River basin and send it into the Yadkin-Pee Dee basin.
The request has been hotly contested along the upper Catawba and in South Carolina. I wrote about it in Urban Outlook for Saturday's Observer. If you have thoughts, please feel free to comment below.
One significant development came in December, and it got discussed at Friday’s meeting of the Catawba-Wateree River Basin Advisory Commission in Rock Hill:
--- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities has waded into the water war. A letter from CMU chief Doug Bean to N.C. Sen. Dan Clodfelter, D-Mecklenburg, who chairs the basin commission, suggests the cities suspend their original request for a year, under a proposed agreement in which a water management group would be set up to look at water supply issues basinwide. Or, the letter says, the two cities should accept an EMC proposal for only 10 million gallons a day from the Catawba and not ask for any more for a year. (Note, I updated the previous paragraph Tuesday after a state environmental officer called to point out that CMU's proposal wasn't to defer the lower, 10 mgd amount.)
CMU has been the very big, very silent elephant sitting over in the corner during this fight. It dwarfs most of the other water users. And it already has an IBT certificate to shift 33 million gallons a day from the Catawba into the Rocky River (Yadkin-Pee Dee) basin. It has obvious reason to care about the basin losing more water, but it can’t really get out there and fight IBTs on general principle.
Bean’s letter notes that if the Concord-Kannapolis IBT goes to court, which seems likely if the full amount is granted Wednesday, court decisions might not please anybody.
--- Also Friday, Clodfelter and the commission made clear they’re looking at how they might declare the Catawba basin a “Capacity Use Area.” That’s a mechanism set up under the 1967 N.C. Water Use Act that, basically, gets all major water users to the table to hash out what to do if it looks as if the water supply won’t serve everyone wanting to use it. The Catawba basin isn’t at that point yet. But within 50 years, it may well be.
The Capacity Use Area process so far has only been used in Eastern North Carolina, in regions using groundwater.
--- Wednesday Mecklenburg County commissioners passed a resolution asking the N.C. General Assembly to improve the state process for considering and approving IBT requests and for managing conflicts over shared water resources. The commissioners didn’t come out and say don’t – or do – approve it. (See CMU, above.) But they’re right that the process needs improvement.
As Clodfelter pointed out Friday, if you hold an IBT certificate from the state, then your rights to the water from another river basin are superior to the rights of the people in that basin, “which is just bizarre,” he said. “It’s all outta whack in North Carolina.”
The state Environmental Management Commission is scheduled to decide the issue Wednesday. My prediction? Look for either a deferral, or granting of the lower, 10 million gallons a day option.
Links added: In Tuesday's Observer’s, the Viewpoint page presented a pro-con package by elected officials throughout the Catawba region, and in Concord and Kannapolis. Here's a link to the pro side of the argument, and a link to the "con" side.
Monday, January 08, 2007
Updated -- see below.