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Letters / So Lets Go Down The List

Dear Editor, 

So lets go down the list.
Over 70% approval of an intake plan in 2008 
The U.S. Department of Agriculture granted $1.8 million for the project based on a 2004 water study. 
The grant will be supplemented by a $20 million USDA loan.
 $2.3 million from the Town of Boone 
A $450,000 grant from the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center.
Four years and an estimated $1.5 million already spent.
And yet all it takes is one state representative with an axe to grind against the town of Boone to derail it all. And for what, Representative Jordan? Since Dan Soueck’s obvious attack on Boone failed, you decided you had to join in?
Blame Canada! *cough* I mean Boone. They’re gonna destroy the River! We even have a Facebook group AND a petition!

Yeah about that petition that the “Friends” of the New River and Volunteer River keeper Micheal Williams are pushing,.. let’s go down the list of lies, distortions, and logical fallacies within it.

You can find the full text of it here. 

Every response to it you can find here from the official NCDENR website, and the minutes from the public hearing where the water intake proposal was discussed. 

According to Michael Williams, the Blowing Rock and Boone Waste Water Treatment Plants and the very antiquated and non-functional storm water systems of Boone and Blowing Rock and other permitted effluent discharge points have contributed to, have caused pollution and continue to pollute the Headwaters of the New River.

This is a lie.

According to the NCDENR  Adverse Impacts of Current and Projected Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) Discharges and Lack of Monitoring – The Town of Boone’s WWTP discharge point is located nearly 23 river miles above the proposed site for the intake. The WWTP’s permit and its monitoring requirements are based on current state and Federal regulations and standards, including water quality standards, for operation and treatment. Water quality sampling by the Division of Water Quality shows that the water at the proposed intake site and in the proposed water supply watershed is meeting current water supply surface water quality standards.

Williams claims that the withdrawal of up to 4 million gallons per day, along with the introduction into the Town of Boone and Blowing Rock’s waste water treatment systems will further create harm to these Headwaters of the New River.

Another lie

As NCDENR points out Adverse Impacts of the Project Related to Volume, Flow, Tourism, Recreation, Economy, Ecology, and Land Rights – Information on the impacts of the proposed project was reviewed during the EA process, and that the Division of Water Resources did review quantity related potential impacts of the project during that process. In addition, the consumptive use for the Town of Boone is smaller than one percent, and thus, the overall reduction in volume of flow at or downstream of the new intake will be nominal, below one inch even throughout times of low flow

Furthermore, the proposed reclassification is designed to afford further protection to the subject watershed, and thus, indirectly will also afford further protection to the watershed of the river downstream of the intake and local groundwater resources.

Williams also claims that these two townships are not able to clear the waste water discharges of pollutants and chemicals as it is, a problem that will only be increased should this project be allowed to be constructed. He feels that this would create an open cesspool in a class “C+” river and one that is designated as an American Heritage River, a National Scenic Waterway and believed to be the 2nd oldest river on the earth.  

Yet more lies and distortions as Williams leaves out the highly pertinent fact that the proposed reclassification of the area around the intake plant would bump the new river from C+ to WS – IV. A higher grade of protection as described here.

As addressed in the concern. River Is Designated as State and National Scenic River and American Heritage River the NCDENR points out that a portion of the South Fork New River is already classified as High Quality Waters (HQW) and that a special management strategy applies to the rest of the proposed water supply watershed in recognition of and to provide protection for the area’s waters with excellent water quality. The WS-IV classification includes additional water quality standards and land use management restrictions to protect the water quality. The WS-IV regulations require implementation of restrictions on activities such as new development and wastewater discharges in water supply watersheds, in order to assure that water quality standards continue to be met for water supplies. The proposed reclassification will allow a section of this river to gain further protection, therefore allowing additional protection of the environment and natural resources in agreement with the American Heritage Rivers initiative.

Williams is trying to claim that just in the last few days of February 2012, the State of NC Division of Water Quality has downgraded these Headwaters to “Impaired”, next to the lowest possible water quality rating. These findings are related to the negative impact on Benthic Macro invertebrates. He cites page 85 of the State of NC findings at the following link:   http://portal.ncdenr.org/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=41297d6f-4ab1-4225-b218-ec507aa2435a&groupId=38364  

This is a flagrant distortion and a red herring.

On page 85 of the cited link, there are six locations where the new River is listed as impaired. However what Mister Williams leaves out is that is one is near the Armory and Moose lodge in Boone, one is in Blowing Rock (Chetola Lake), one is in Jefferson  (21 miles away outside the WS- IV area), one (SR 1524) is on Bamboo road past Samaritan’s Purse, and the final location (little river) is (as far as my map searching can tell) 51 miles south near Lenoir. This just leaves the location in Meat Camp, which is 9 miles in the wrong direction as well…so far in the wrong direction as to not even be on the map of the area around the proposed intake. 

But in his petition Williams feels that this doesn’t matter because “It is obvious that the causal problems of the pollution to the river are already showing up just downstream of the Boone Waste Water Treatment Plant.

Classic logical fallacy, Saying something is so does not make it true. Opinions are not facts. You have an opinion, Mr. Williams; an opinion that you fail to back up with any evidence whatsoever as to the damage you claim Boone is causing. You claim that “The New River is a vital natural resource in this area and home to several protected and many declining species of aquatic life. It provides a natural habitat and is home to hundreds of species of animals, plants, fish and birds (native and migratory). It also provides recreational use for thousands and is a place where many more thousands visit for its peace, beauty and tranquility each and every year. This section of the river, especially being the Headwaters of the New River must be protected. We must preserve it for our children and for future generations to come.” All of this is indeed true. However, The NC Division of Water Resources (DWR) does not object to the proposal. The project was required to complete an Environmental Assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act. A Finding of No Significant Impact (FNSI) was issued for this project, indicating that the project as proposed will not result in significant impacts to the environment. In addition, the waters to be reclassified meet water supply water standards according to 2010 DWQ studies.

I’m not impressed with the sob story you use. “Oh please, won’t someone think of the children!” If you’re really serious about protecting the future of our children or our water supplies, perhaps you’d like to join me in protesting the current fracking proposals being fast tracked through the state house? Or is that perfectly fine since Rucho, Tillis, and Romney are for them? Not enough of a “Boone-doggle” for you?

You claim that this project will “create an eyesore in this community,” and be a noisy disruption, possibly having a negative impact on local economy. Again, this is a personal opinion, ignoring the NCDENR’s finding that: “The project’s intake would be the first of its kind in North Carolina, due to its location nearly five feet below the stream bed elevation; it will sit in a bed of gravel on top of an impermeable liner and be covered by about four feet of stone and rip-rap…furthermore, the consultant states that because of the kind of intake chosen, there will not be any substantial long-term adverse impacts to recreation, flow, or aesthetics.”

You also claim that the Hellbender Salamander and Mussels in the river are declining. According to the state’s own findings, the adult populations remain OK at this juncture, but that researchers are finding considerably less new offspring and young. Many species of fish have already been found to be carrying parasitic worms and male fish have actually turned into female fish due to EE2 type Estrogens which is one of many unregulated pollutants by the EPA that are being legally dumped into the New River by the Town of Boone and Blowing Rock’s waste water treatment plants. Quoting you. “These are factual scientific findings and materially important in this matter.” 

Evidence given being this. 

It is proven scientifically that Waste Water effluent concentrated for a long enough time will pollute the environment. (Please watch the EPA’s very informative video at the link provided below).

For starters, Mr. Williams, please–if you’re going to make a claim–link your evidence and cite your source. You can’t just claim Boone is dumping pollutants and claim that’s the problem without proof. Also your video is a prime example of a snow job fallacy, that is, it tries to prove a claim by overwhelming an audience with mountains of irrelevant facts, numbers, documents, graphs and statistics that they cannot be expected to understand. This is called “Lying with Statistics.” And a total false analogy unless you want to compare EPA superfund sites (some of the most polluted areas in the USA to this day) to the town of Boone? 

Now that is a leap, particularly as the NCDENR states that “Reclassifying the waters will help protect the water supply for human consumption by decreasing the risk of contamination via invocation of wastewater discharge and stormwater management requirements for new developments and discharges. Land use restrictions that protect water quality through stormwater management strategies and other narrative and numeric water quality standards benefit and protect ecosystem health and environmental assets. The protective management criteria will help to mitigate impacts from new discharges and development, and will benefit fish and wildlife. More specifically, portions of the area proposed to be reclassified may experience lower levels of development density as well as decreased pollution, which may increase and improve aquatic habitat and in turn propagation and survival of wildlife and fish.”

Translation: You’re fighting against the very thing you claim to want; less pollution in the river, a safer river, and in the long term a more protected river!

So there you have it. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, why is Representative Jordan pushing this bill? Is it to protect the New River?

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. It’s about  Jordan drumming up votes in his home of Ashe, ignoring the wishes of a too democratic yet still in his district Watauga (Isn’t that claim of a lack of representation exactly what the good folks of Ashe were so ticked off about?) and hopefully getting his Republican cronies re-elected by pitting the “Good rural folks” of Watauga County  against the “Bad urbanites” of Boone and ASU,” Isn’t the end goal supposed to be about cleaner water for all of Watauga County citizens? Or is casting blame and scoring political points more important?

Jesse Steele