Henderson County questions Polk’s planned Lake Adger buy

Published 2:59 pm Monday, July 21, 2008

But the Henderson County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday raised concerns about how Polk&squo;s plans affect Henderson County, and planned to write a letter to the state expressing those concerns.

Henderson County Manager Steve Wyatt said in an interview Thursday that his board is particularly concerned about the property owners in the Green River community of Henderson County.

If Polk County uses Lake Adger for a drinking water source, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources must declare the Green River Basin a water supply watershed.

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The potential extent of the Green River Basin watershed, depending upon what level of classification the state chooses, could affect 4,000 to 5,000 acres of land in Henderson County, Wyatt said.

&dquo;And the comment was that that estimate was probably low, based on GIS mapping,&dquo; Wyatt said. &dquo;The commissioners are concerned that there is not a general awareness by those property owners as to how their property would be affected, how their development rights would be changed and what stricter restrictions might do to their property values.

In the meeting Wednesday, however, Henderson County Senior Planner Autmn Radcliff said Henderson County&squo;s recent adoption of the land development code already placed limits on development in the Green River Basin and said the watershed designation would have a &dquo;pretty limited effect.&dquo;

But commissioners wanted to hold a public hearing to hear what people in Green River community think.

Commissioner Chuck McGrady, who owns a significant amount of property in the Green River community, said people there do not know about the proposed water system at Lake Adger. He said he would talk to the Green River Community Association.

&dquo;The board&squo;s biggest concern was a lack of public involvement,&dquo; Wyatt said.

In addition, the Henderson County commissioners are concerned about the future of their own water needs, and how Polk&squo;s plans would affect their county&squo;s water future.

&dquo;Water is getting to be more and more of a touchy issue,&dquo; Wyatt said. &dquo;We are concerned about diesel and gas this year. It may be water next year.&dquo;

At the county meeting on Wednesday, Henderson County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bill Moyer expressed concern that Polk County would be allowed to sell water to South Carolina.

Polk County has announced plans to run a water line through Green Creek, which will basically pass 3.5 million gallons per day of water from the Broad River Water Authority in Rutherford County through Polk County to the Inman-Campobello Water District in Spartanburg County. Polk County will keep 500,000 gallons per day of that water to sell to Polk County customers along the water line.

But Polk County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tommy Melton said Thursday in an interview that the county has no plans to take Lake Adger/Green River water and sell it in South Carolina.

&dquo;There is no agreement, no discussion, nothing in our plans to sell (Adger) water to South Carolina,&dquo; Melton said. He lamented the fact that Polk County officials were not invited to speak to the Henderson County Board, where they could have cleared up that misunderstanding and answered questions.

Nevertheless, Wyatt said his board is concerned that there is nothing in the plans now that would prevent Polk County from selling water to South Carolina.

&dquo;It is one thing to be a good neighbor,&dquo; Wyatt said. &dquo;But another when your water is shipped and sold to Spartanburg. Is there anything to prevent that? No.&dquo;

To prevent a sale of Lake Adger water to South Carolina would take an act of the N.C. General Assembly, Wyatt said.

In addition, Wyatt said commissioners asked him, looking five and ten years down the road, particularly if drought conditions were to persist, whether or not Polk County&squo;s use of Lake Adger might affect Henderson County plans should they wish to build a reservoir on the Green River.

&dquo;Would Polk County&squo;s plans complicate that? Absolutely,&dquo; Wyatt said. &dquo;This is hypothetical, yes. But you have to think about everything. Right now we have more questions than answers.&dquo;

Wyatt said Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson did call him about Polk&squo;s Lake Adger plans some weeks ago, but he said that was just a &dquo;casual conversation.&dquo;

Polk chairman Melton said he hopes soon to have Whitson, Polk County engineer David Odom, Polk County Planning Director Cathy Ruth and himself meet with Henderson County officials to talk over all concerns and questions.

&dquo;We are open to all discussions,&dquo; Melton said. &dquo;We are not trying to slip anything through. We want to be in good standing with all our neighbors. We want to answer all questions.&dquo;