By Jesse Wood
Aug. 1, 2014. Days after its community meeting detailing a proposed plan of action to derail the Town of Boone’s proposed water intake, which has been dubbed by critics as a “Boone Water Grab,” the New River Advocates will speak before the Ashe County Board of Commissioners on Monday, Aug. 4.
The meeting starts at 1 p.m. and is held in the commissioner’s boardroom on the third floor of the Ashe County Courthouse.
Deborah Greene, a well-known conservative activist in the area and board member of the New River Advocates, will present before the commissioners and request the adoption of a resolution that supports a reversal of the reclassification of a portion of the South Fork of the New River.
If the WS-IV reclassification, which is an approved drinking source, were to revert to Class C, then the Town of Boone’s water intake project would be dead in the water, Greene said. The Town of Boone needed the WS-IV designation to move forward with its water intake project, which would draw up to four million gallons of water out of the river per day, that is about a decade in the making.
In 2008, town voters approved a $25-million bond referendum for a new intake system, garnering 73 percent support for the project. And two years later, the Boone Town Council accepted a $20.5-million loan from the USDA to finance the project. Since then, the town has already spent at least $2 million on the project for property, consulting and engineering fees – and if the project were to be completed, that completion date is still years away.
In 2011, the Ashe County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution supporting the WS-IV distinction, although that resolution adopted on April 4, 2011, stated the board didn’t “support or oppose” the town’s project. A month later the Watauga County Board of Commissioners adopted a similar resolution.
In July 2012, the N.C. Environmental Management Commission approved the reclassification to WS-IV waters.
“Despite reservations, the commission approved the application based on perceived necessity of public drinking water. The town’s information and the environmental assessment were all based on a future “need” of 7.0 MGD. Nowhere is there evidence that NCDENR ever researched or verified that “need,” stated a July 28, 2014, letter from Frank Packard, chair of the New River Advocates and homeowner near the proposed intake near Todd, to the Ashe County Board of Commissioners in advance of Monday’s meeting.
Further into the two-page letter, Packard wrote, “New River Advocates Inc. understands the need for quality drinking water. However, we do not believe that the Town of Boone has demonstrated a need for a public drinking water source of this magnitude. It appears Boone is attempting to grab this water source that belongs to all citizens in the area. We believe the reclassification from Class C with supplemental HQW to Watershed IV is not going to enhance the quality of the New River. We believe the reclassification will actually adversely affect the New River. Recreation, fishing, wildlife and agriculture have the least impact on the New River, as well, better serve the general welfare and economic benefits of Ashe County.”
Other documents included by New River Advocates into the meeting packet for the upcoming meeting also note that the April 4, 2011, resolution adopted by the Ashe County Board of Commissioners only made reference to Watauga County – and not Ashe County. While a resolution adopted by the Watauga County Board of Commissioners a month later, referenced “a portion of the South Fork of the New River in Ashe and Watauga County.”
See the proposed resolution below. Also, click here for the meeting packet to the upcoming meeting that includes nearly a dozen documents, images, letters and more information pertaining to New River Advocates bid to derail this project.