Polk, Henderson counties agree to cooperate on water needs

Published 5:52 pm Monday, October 6, 2008

Henderson County officials asked that Polk either reserve 500,000 gallons of water per day for Henderson County or support Henderson County&squo;s possible future efforts to reclassify Lake Summit&squo;s watershed so it can use that lake for public water use.

Henderson County Chairman Bill Moyer said there are problems with water availability in the southern end of Henderson County, and the county may eventually need additional supply.

&dquo;We will be very interested in what you have to say,&dquo; Moyer told Polk commissioners.

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Polk commissioners said at first look they see no problem with reserving water or with Henderson County pulling water 20 years down the road from Lake Summit.

Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson said he doesn&squo;t see any negative impact for Polk County if one day Henderson County draws water out of Lake Summit. Whitson says he threw out the figure of Polk reserving 500,000 gallons per day for Henderson County based on the expected capacity of the planned&bsp; Saluda/Tryon line that could eventually connect Polk and Henderson counties.

&dquo;We want to reach across county lines and be good neighbors and maintain that spirit of cooperation,&dquo; said Polk County Chairman Tommy Melton. &dquo;We&squo;re going to help you anyway we can. &dquo;

Officials also discussed the state&squo;s current push for interlocal agreements on water due to drought concerns. Henderson and Polk officials said that it would be better to regionalize locally than to have the state come in and mandate it for counties.

&dquo;I think the big thing is, we could say no (to support of the watershed), and the state could come in and say too bad,&dquo; Moyer said. &dquo;So I think the best thing is to negotiate.&dquo;

Moyer said Henderson County and its towns have recently agreed to establish a joint committee on water and said his county will take the information from Tuesday&squo;s joint meeting to that committee and speak with residents. Henderson County plans to meet again with Polk County once decisions there are made.

Polk County is currently waiting on Henderson County&squo;s support in order to reclassify the Lake Adger watershed. Polk County aimed to reclassify it as a class IV, which would have only affected Polk County properties, but the state decided it needed to be a class III, which affects much of Henderson County and Saluda. The Saluda Board of Commissioners recently gave its support on the reclassification.

Whitson says that Polk is waiting on Henderson County&squo;s support and hopes that Henderson County will send a resolution to the state. The state will then make its decision on the reclassification, which Whitson says he hopes will be within four to six months.

Moyer noted that the Lake Adger watershed reclassification will affect about 50,000 acres or about 20 percent of&bsp; Henderson County&squo;s land.

Henderson county officials said they do not expect any impact from the reclassification since the Class III Lake Adger watershed would still be less restrictive than Henderson County&squo;s current land use regulations.

The critical watershed area, which is in the immediate vicinity of Lake Adger (see map, page 8), will have the most restrictive regulations as part of the reclassification. But Polk County officials say the Lake Adger Development restrictions are more stringent than the watershed restrictions.

Polk County plans in the near future to close on the deal to purchase Lake Adger. The county has made a down payment on the $1.6 million purchase with the purchase agreement saying the closing will be done by next March. Whitson says Northbrook Hydro, which is selling the lake to the county, is nearing completion of a flood study, while a seismic study of the Lake Adger dam is just beginning.