Polk applies for class IV for Green River watershedPublished 10:41pm Thursday, February 6, 2014
Reclassification could be complete by September
by Leah Justice
After struggling to get the Green River watershed reclassified to a class III, Polk County is now moving swiftly with a class IV request in order to use Lake Adger as a future source for drinking water.
A class IV watershed would only affect Polk County, where Polk previously was getting resistance from Henderson County applying for a class III watershed, since much of the watershed would have been located in Henderson County.
The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday, Feb. 3, and heard from county engineer Dave Odom, who said in June he provided N.C. Rep. Chris Whitmire information to provide justification for requesting a watershed IV classification rather than a watershed III classification in order to be able to utilize Lake Adger as a water supply intake.
Whitmire approached the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) on Polk’s behalf, said Odom, and was successful in getting the state’s concurrence on a watershed IV
classification being sufficient.
“The reclassification request went before the environmental management commission last Thursday (Jan. 30) where it was unanimously voted to proceed to a public hearing,” Odom said. “DWQ (Division of Water Quality) will hold the public hearing in the county over the next few months. After that, the request goes back to the environmental management commission. Should the process continue smoothly, the reclassification should be completed by September.”
Odom said the regulations in the new class IV watershed would be less restrictive than the current restrictions in the area. He said it does have a 30-foot buffer from streams, where currently the buffer from streams is 25 feet.
Commissioners heard from four residents regarding the reclassification of the watershed.
Sky Conard, with Green River Watershed Alliance, said she’s been studying the division of water quality guide for standards and classifications of surface waters in North Carolina. She said classifications of surface waters are a tool that state and federal agencies use to manage and protect all streams, rivers and lakes in the state with each classification carrying with it certain water quality standards and rules.
Lake Adger watershed class IV will be protected so that its new use, providing safe public drinking water, can happen and continue, she said. The older class C designation, such as for recreation, aquatic and wildlife and agricultural uses also will remain.
“Green River Watershed Alliance is in support of moving in the direction of more protections and management of our vital waterways, especially in light of the recent 2013 Green River/Lake Adger Watershed Assessment report findings,” Conard said.
She showed commissioners pictures from the report, particularly showing how sedimentation has changed the lake over the years.
“The assessment documents the mounting, 90 years worth, of sedimentation concerns that are now critical in the (lake) public marina area, the Green River entrance and the tributaries entering the lake.”
Conard continued to tell commissioners “if” this reclassification is presenting an opportunity to change this downward course of events, then she is in favor of it.
Tom Fitzgerald said he represented the Lake Adger Board of Directors and was encouraged to see commissioners seeking protections for the lake.
Renée McDermott said a class IV designation is much too liberal. She said according to the information in the county’s packet, a class IV designation would allow industrial waste to be discharged in the watershed and with no use restrictions in the watershed, industrial facilities and landfills can be built there.
“In addition, having a watershed IV designation will not adequately protect the waters from pollution from sedimentation,” said McDermott. “Lake Adger is already rapidly filling with sediment. There are sediment sandbars. The way out into the lake from the marina has closed into a narrow path because of sediment. It will continue to rapidly get worse if the watershed IV designation is used.”
She also said the current and future sedimentation will increase the water processing costs when the county starts selling drinking water from the lake, which will raise the water rates.
“The water distribution plan commissioners (Tom) Pack and (Ted) Owens wrote with one of their former boards is designed so that the distribution of water in Polk County will always cost significantly more than will be obtained from the rate payments water customers will pay,” McDermott said. “The water distribution plan that commissioners Pack and Owens wrote and approved intentionally does not recoup the capital costs of the water system. Rather, the millions of dollars of capital costs are now being paid by all the property taxpayers, most of whom will never be served by the Polk County water system. And when the water treatment plant is built, the burden of up to $10 million additional dollars of capital costs will be paid by all the Polk County taxpayers. You’re shirking your duty to the people of Polk County.”
McDermott also said she was disturbed by the secrecy by which the whole plan was carried out with commissioners going to Rep. Chris Whitmire, going to DENR and now the county is ready for a public hearing. Through six to eight months the public was not made aware to do something different from what DENR had advised, McDermott said.
Commissioner Pack said McDermott is wrong about landfills being allowed. He asked her to read the regulations saying landfills are not acceptable.
Stewart Reid said his family has lived on land above the watershed for more than 100 years and he thinks this is a good move for the county to make. Reid said it serves its purpose but at the same time doesn’t choke people who have lived there.
“People that have lived there know how to take care of their land,” Reid said. “They know how to take care of the property.”
Reid also said he doesn’t believe there are any plans to put any nuclear power stations in the area, but when he hears of one, “I’ll let you know.”