LETTERS / A Real Debate on the Merits of the Intake Project

Published Friday, July 12, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Dear Editor,

So I’d like to start today’s letter with my usual quirk, or what I’m now calling the “West Wing” challenge. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HL_vHDjG5Wk

“After it, therefore because of it.” One of the more popular fallacies of logical debate, and one Mr. Packard has based a good bit of his flawed premise about “flawed premises” around.  By stating that because X in the EA (map information) is wrong we now have to accept that  ABCDEFG are also wrong? Even after he says, and I quote…
“While it does not specifically relate to numbers,  the town manager  has stated that maps in the EA are wrong. What other information could be incorrect as well? “

So tell me, when a menu at a restaurant has a typo in it’s prices do we automatically assume that the vegan soup was cooked in beef broth? After all it doesn’t relate to the prices, but how do we know?
When newspapers from the Times to the Democrat issue a correction on a story do we automatically assume everything else in the paper is wrong as well? How do we know if that’s the REAL sports scores?
Oh I know, how bout if we only rinse and don’t repeat, how do we know if the shampoo is really working?

One thing does not always lead to another, and to try and claim that because a map is wrong “In my opinion everything else could be as well.” is patently ridiculous. Anyone taking a freshman level logic / critical thinking class would tell you as much. Just how any first year debate team member will you that opinions are not facts, and should not be treated as such. This being the other large issue I once again take with Mr Packard’s letters.

“But your Oracleness, he seems to actually have a lot of numbers in his letter.”

Really? Take a closer look, and tell me does he site any actual sources? Oh yes the LWSP questions and the quote from page 8 of the EA. Followed by his statement that since we haven’t crossed 80% for five consecutive days there’s no issue. Of course This raises a few questions of my own. for instance, why doesn’t Mr. Packard wish to cite his sources properly? 

Let me help. http://www.ncwater.org/Water_Supply_Planning/Local_Water_Supply_Plan/report.php?pwsid=01-95-010

And there’s Mr Packard’s question of course, but what is that two questions down? That one that says…

“Are peak day demands expected to exceed the water treatment plant capacity in the next 10 years?  Yes

And if you look back from 2007 onward, the answer to that question has been yes on every single LWSP submitted by the town from then till now.

So why is it that Mr. Packard was perfectly willing to use the first  question on the LWSP to make his point, but he neglects to mention that which goes against his case? We have a word for that in debates as well, it’s called a lie of omission.

Ah but I forgot, the LWSP’s were made using the “flawed” 2004 EA study as the basis behind them. And since the map lines were wrong we can’t trust the numbers regarding the future water demands of the town. So who knows if the answer to that question is even accurate? 

Another example of his flawed reasoning I take issue with. 

“Why would you use theoretical and assumptive numbers when the actual water usage data and trends was available for 2006, 2007, & 2008 while the EA was being prepared for release in fall of 2009? . . . . real numbers versus theoretical… you be the judge of which are more trustworthy.”

This just makes me want to take my red sharpie and write beside it “SOURCES!” Mr Packard claims the numbers are out there yet he doesn’t provide a single link. Does he mean the LWSP’s? More to the point not a single “real” number is being provided in his letter as proof. If the real numbers would back up your opinions why are you not providing them? Past that I’m not going to waste time with this straw man he’s set up. But if you want to talk numbers let’s try his next claim.

“Also, in the EA,  a projected/future water use number was used for the ASU system from a 2002 LWSP. That number  for the year 2030 was significantly higher than the 2030 number in the 2007 ASU LWSP and every year since (1.515 MGD in the 2002 plan versus .84 MGD in every plan from 2007 until present) . . . .  By the way, the 840,000 GPD number in 2030 represents 42% of the ASU capacity of 2,000,000 GPD.”

First off lets deal with another lie of omission. From the EA once again, page 10.

In addition, the Town and ASU have initiated a project to connect their systems for emergency purposes only.

Again I wonder why these little details keep getting left out by someone who claims he’s dug into the EA. Ah I know, it’s probably because of one of few actual facts in his letter. The 2002 number is inflated compared to the ones after on the ASU LWSP’s. Thus that’s why Boone isn’t using ASU to solve their water issues. The problem is…

#1 To claim that we can use that water to supply the town means Mr. Packard is now the one guilty of wanting to use future projections and “theoretical numbers” about what ASU’s future water demands will be to bolster his claims. Which puts us back in the realm of hypocrisy when he’s the only one allowed to do so.

#2 His numbers don’t add up. Well let’s be fair, that would once again require Mr. Packard to actually provide numbers rather then the illusion of them by claiming ASU has 58% of 2.0 MGD it could provide to Boone.

Again allow me to fill in the blanks.

First off we’ll start with a fantasy world assumption. ASU could provide every drop of that remaining 2,000,000 (or 1.16 MGD) to the town. No leaks, no muss, no accidents, no spikes in demand from campus or Boone. Even though Mr Packard himself admitted that days when the town did crest 80% were due to leaks in the lines, and no water system is perfect.

Combine that with the town’s current supply of 3.0 MGD and you get 4.16 MGD supply vs a projected (if wrong because of map lines) 2030 demand of 3.167, or 76% right off the bat.

And this number as far as I know hasn’t kept up with current events, or the recent request from a developer to build on the old TT lot.  To the tune of 92000 gallons of requested water.

We’re now (using Mr Packard’s numbers) at 78% demand

For extra giggles? If the town had given Phil Templeton the extra 100,000 gallons he’d demanded for the old WHS property? (assuming that in the 2012 LWSP the 150,000 already allocated to the old WHS property was part of projected demand) These two sources alone would put the town’s demand above the 80% mark and forced the town to seek an additional water supply.

And that of course is assuming that ASU could redline it’s water draw right at the maximum allowed amount.  And provide right  at a perfect 1.16 MGD every single day of the year from 2030 onward. If anyone would like to believe that is possible I have your passport to fantasyland right here.

Of course in terms of water demands one didn’t happen, and one might happen. Regardless if you “assume” that ASU provides it’s magical perfect 1.16 plus 3.0 from the town this still leaves the town with only a .160 MGD margin to work with before it crosses the 80% line.

Which raises the question. Even before you take into account this is nowhere near the recommended 1.0 MGD reserve  Mr. Packard claims as just there to inflate the town’s demand. How is Boone going to grow with virtually zero water to supply to any project? All the more so as this .160 number is well within the simple variance of water use by month using 2012 numbers. Or a difference of .231 MGD for average daily use (Dec vs Sep) And .495 MGD for max daily use (May vs Aug).

Also does anyone remember the 2007-09 drought in this state? At that point in time according to the LWSP’s Boone’s water demand in 2007 was 1.855 MGD. Compared to 2011 when the demand was only 1.628 MGD.

Or a difference of .227 MGD between wet and dry spells. Which if we used Mr Packard’s numbers would put the town at -.067 MGD if we wanted to stay below the 80% threshold.
Which is why you have reserves, and why you plan for future water needs before those needs are upon you. So you aren’t caught short should such conditions arise again. 

Once again Mr. Packard’s assertions and his own “theoretical” numbers just don’t add up for 2030, much less beyond it.

Oh but I keep forgetting, the map lines are wrong, so everything I say doesn’t matter. I’m just using the same flawed math…

Regarding his additional observations, I don’t have the space to waste on them since I’m trying to keep my word count down. I will however say this sums up my opinion regarding them as nothing mentioned has anything to do with his continued claims regarding the EA.


That said lets get to my favorite quote, this claim here.

I also find it interesting that in the recently released report commissioned by Boone to review housing that the consulting firm was skeptical of the population forecasts others were making for the town: . . . Again population growth driven by ASU has been a key selling point of this project to town citizens both in the infamous 2004 “study” and now in the 2009 EA. Well, that  population growth may not be the case after all.

Wait so let me get this straight… After spending an ENTIRE letter harping about how we can’t trust theoretical numbers and (because of map lines) overinflated projections of water demand. Mr Packard is now willing to use a theoretical projection about the population growth in the town of Boone that he agrees with, to attack the theoretical numbers regarding population growth and future water demand that he disagrees with?

I can’t think of a more textbook definition of a certain word. https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/hypocrite

It ranks right up there with another mangling of the facts right below. Regarding his quote from the EA and…

“Really… a population of 33,336 in 2030, almost double the 2010 census?”

Though I will admit I was curious about this claim myself in the EA, and I couldn’t find any legitimate reason to expect Boone’s population to get that high either. It’s even more confusing when you look at the 2012 LWSP and the population projection for the town is only 20483 in 2030.

So what does someone lacking facts do? Why get more of course. In this case by asking Utilities director Rick Miller about the difference. His response? (Bolding is mine)
 I think what you are asking concerning the population estimates can be explained  this way; the engineers estimate of 33,336 is for water system users in 2030. This number includes, Town system users, non campus University system users (off campus housing) and County users. The population number you asked about this morning, 17,751 is the official Boone population, not water system users. The engineers calculated our 2002 water system user population at 19,581.
As to your question on the ADD demand I offer the same response I provided at an earlier Water Committee meeting; in the EA the engineers calculated 2.75 MGD utilizing our per capita demand and multiplying that to our projected water system user population, (Not just the population of Boone!)  82.6 gallons per capita day x 33,336 water system users= 2,753,553.6 gallons per day. In the LWSP estimate staff and I added 417,000 gallons per day to the EA estimate for anticipated use in Blowing Rock, as we assumed they would be using water from the new intake site and additional growth to our system, hence 2.75 MGD + 0.417 MGD = 3.167 MGD

So once again I have to ask, for someone who attends many a committee meeting. Why is it that once again Mr Packard seems unable or if you want my “opinion” unwilling to reveal things that might  go against his case? Such as the fact the water usage numbers aren’t just Boone?

Once again the lies of omission seem to be catching up with him.

And while Mr. Packard seems long on naysaying he does seem rather short on solutions too. Except for the refrain that does keep popping up in his comments, or in his words… “Why don’t we use wells? That will work!”

I’ll add that once again Mr Packard never provides much in the way of real numbers to back up this claim. So allow me to assist again by pointing out the flaw in his plan, courtesy of the EA, page 11.

Assuming that a well in Watauga County can produce an average of 25 gpm, and that wells can only be operated 12 hours per day (according to NCDENR), the Town would need over 440 wells to meet its 20-year needs. . . .   In addition, each well would need approximately one (1) acre each in order to have a 100-foot pollution-free radius, which would mean a minimum purchase and impact on 440 acres. 

Once again Mr Packard is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts. Or shall we insist that because map lines were wrong North Carolina environmental law is as well? 

Also the only thing that would even come close is the county’s recent 199 acre purchase of the Greene Property. And even if you covered that entire lot in wells you would still only meet (despite the map lines saying it’s wrong) not even half of Boone’s projected 20 year need.

So can we please finally put to rest this rather silly argument already?

Speaking of Environmental damage, as a small aside I would like to suggest something to Mrs. Katrin and Mr. Hampton regarding their comments on Mr. Packard’s letter. Please read over this. And my previous letter regarding these assertions.



Short version. any claim that this intake will cause Environmental damage to the river is a lie. Any claim that intake will steal water from the river and “good rural” Watauga county is a lie. And any claim that the intake will damage the surrounding area is a lie. If anything the intake proposal grants the area around it a higher standard of protection from pollution and construction in the area. Despite what people like the so called “friends” of the New River would have you believe. And despite the opinion as fact assertion that “I’ll know it when I see it.” regarding environmental damage.

Regardless of that I think there is one thing that can be agreed upon. And that is everyone here is working off projections and assumptions, it could be lower, it could be higher, and we don’t know. But one thing any smart person/ town / county does is proactively plan ahead to solve a problem instead of reacting after it’s already happened. Because waiting till 2030 to see what demand is then trying to deal with emergency needs, future drought, or a shortage that chokes the growth of Boone would be the height of short sighted foolishness.

Unless of course your goal is what many of us “assume” the Watauga GOP’s agenda to be. To see Boone’s growth stopped at any cost, to have us dirty liberal townies punished in every way possible, and to oppose anything Boone is doing not on the debatable aspects of it, but simply because it’s Boone attempting to do it.

Come to think of it my old letter’s ending can be used to end this one as well. To quote myself.

I feel this has nothing to do with protection and everything to do with pushing a political agenda. I feel that the New River intake project is just the latest pawn in the right wing “war” on the town of Boone for the crime of voting while Democrat. Isn’t the end goal supposed to be about cleaner water for all Watauga County citizens? Or is casting blame and scoring political points more important?

Good question, and I’m still waiting for an answer. Along with a real debate on the merits of the intake project. Not people who through letter after letter after meeting are still spouting fallacy filled nonsense, and trying to push their baseless Boone Derangement Syndrome fueled opinions off as a serious argument.

Jesse Steele 
(Resident Oracle of Boone and amateur dowsing rod operator)



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