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Public Hearing On Water Protection Rules for Reclassified Segment of South Fork New River

By Jesse Wood

Feb. 18, 2013. The Watauga County Board of Commissioners holds a public hearing to allow commWatauga_county_NC_sealent on the implementation of water protection rules for a reclassified segment of the South Fork of the New River.

A portion of the South Fork of the New River in the Brownwood area near Ashe County was reclassified in July 2012 because of the Town of Boone’s planned 4-million-gallons-per-day raw water intake system. 

The Water Supply Watershed Protection Act requires local governments to adopt and implement the appropriate watershed protection ordinance and maps 270 days after reclassification.

According to County Manager Deron Geouque’s comments in Tuesday’s meeting packet, the county has had a watershed protection ordinance in place since 1994.

After the public hearing, the board will adopt the official map and text amendments incorporating the new watershed and other updates to the ordinance that need to be submitted to the N.C. Division of Water Quality.

While this public hearing relates to Boone’s intake project, it doesn’t have any bearing on the project. Watauga County Planning and Inspections Director Joe Furman said the public hearing just concerns the watershed protection ordinance – not the project itself.

Recently, the project, which has been five years in the making since Boone voters approved a $25-million bond referendum in 2008 for the intake system, has come to a standstill because of Ashe County officials stance on the project.

While Ashe County officials originally didn’t endorse or condemn the project, that changed last fall when Ashe County Board of Commissioners realized the access road to the intake system crosses Ashe County land and therefore Ashe County would be responsible for issuing floodplain permits.

Ashe County Manager Patricia Mitchell wrote in a letter: “The board is opposed to any section of the access road crossing Ashe County land, and is opposed to the idea they have to issue floodplain permits for that construction.”

In the same letter to Steve Garret, LOMC Manager with the N.C. Department of Public Safety in the Division of Emergency Management, dated Sept. 24, Mitchell wrote: “Until recently, we were unaware that Boone was paying to have the road constructed, that the Boone-financed road will also be the access road, and part of that road is in the political jurisdiction of Ashe County. Therefore, the Board of Commissioners will not sign the MT-2 form for the [Boone intake system] and are opposed to having any portion of the project located in our political jurisdiction.”

Because Ashe did not sign off on the form, the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied a conditional revision to the Flood Insurance Rate Map for the communities surrounding the intake system, which effectively and temporarily “terminated” the project until necessary forms are submitted, according to a letter, dated Jan. 30, 2013, from John K. Dorman, program director with the N.C. Floodplain Mapping Program to David Kiker of W.K. Dickson & Co, Inc., an engineering firm representing the Town of Boone.

Town of Boone Manager Greg Young didn’t return a phone call seeking comment on how Boone will proceed.

Open this PDF to read an interesting email thread between Mitchell and Young last fall. Scroll to the bottom and read up for chronological order.