I debated as to whether or not to even respond to such obviously politically motivated comments by Mr. Jesse Steele in a recent letter to the editor, or to just ignore them. However, as Mr. Steele chose to drag my name into his political rant, I believe a few comments are warranted. First, he is factually correct in stating that he does not know where I get my information. There are actually numerous sources, including information obtained through the NC Public Information Act from the town and the NCDOT, NC General Statues, as well as working with other persons interested in this project. I have also attended meetings involving Boone officials and state and local government officials. One of the key sources has been the Local Water Supply Plans provided by the towns of Boone, Blowing Rock, and ASU as required by the NC Division of Water Quality over the past four years. Those are readily available online to anyone interested in fact checking. Analyzing all of this information and data presents a very different story than the water needs as presented by the town of Boone in the Environmental Assessment completed in 2009 and their infamous 2004 study that is oft quoted. That EA was completed by WK Dickson, the engineering firm hired by the town to develop this project and move it forward. What you see in the LWSPs is much less need than what Boone shows in the EA. For example (and it is just one), the EA shows a need for Boone to supply the town of Blowing Rock 500,000 GPD of water. However, in the BR LWSP BR projects their demand supply in 2050 as only 396,000 GPD. BR’s current capacity is 400,000 GPD so to be at the less than the 80% state threshold in 2050 they would only need approximately 180,000 additional (in 2050, not every day from now until then). Why inflate the water needs by 320,000 GPD other than to justify an “oversized intake” as questioned by DENR in its scoping report in November of 2008? There is also an allocation for 1,000,000 GPD for unincorporated Watauga County. Who knows, maybe one day in the distant future they may even provide water to their ETJ, but again it is built into the plan as an everyday event. Who knows how that high estimate was established (half of what the town of Boone is currently using), but it certainly has the appearance of “selling” water and water “control.”
Mr. Steele’s sole source of facts is the EA as noted above. That is the same EA which the Boone town manager said was wrong when challenged regarding county boundaries/surveys showing the proposed access road and water transmission line. My contention is that there is other “wrong” information in the EA, starting with the assumption that the town needs 7.0 MGPD in 50 years. The LWSPs do not document that need. If the basic assumptions of need are in error, then the data that flows from that is or has the potential to be inaccurate at best. Using Mr. Steele’s example, of wells, if the true “need” (not water wants) is considerably less than 7.0 MGPD as I contend from analyzing the LWSPs, then perhaps 22 wells are not needed but maybe half of that. You then have an option that becomes more feasible and potentially less costly (less tax payer dollars) and intrusive on this historic river. Likewise, I am not aware that increasing finished water capacity was considered as a viable and less costly alternative, again because the initial assumptions for water “need” are flawed by inflation.
Mr. Steele can choose to accept the EA by the town and its engineers as the definitive factual document. That is certainly his right and choice. However, those opposed also have the right to choose to examine all the facts and data that has not been made public by the town, and arrive at an opposite view and to work to oppose the project based on those findings. To his surprise, that view may be just as enlightened. Mr. Steele’s demeaning attitude towards those that do not agree with him speaks much to what is wrong politically in this country today.