Polk’s plan to use Lake Adger for public water source faces long delay

Published 2:39 pm Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The state told Polk it will not approve a less restrictive class IV watershed that would apply only to Polk County and that Polk must instead seek a class III watershed, which extends into Henderson County and would affect land use there.

However, Whitson explained to commissioners that Henderson County not only voted atgainst Polk&39;s class III watershed request, but pledged to seek state legislation opposing the request even if it is approved by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

If Henderson County sought such legislation, Whitson estimated the county&39;s plans could be delayed up to 10 years.

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Depsite the potential delay, Polk commissioners agreed Monday to proceed with the purchase of Lake Adger for public water use.

County commissioners agreed to tell Henderson County they are seeking a class III watershed and give them one more chance to cooperate. Whitson was directed to get on Henderson County commissioners&squo; next available agenda.

&dquo;It&squo;s sad that politics is getting in the way of what we have done in trying to secure water for our citizens,&dquo; said commissioner Tommy Melton.

Whitson said he practically pleaded with the state to get a class IV watershed and state officials responded that Lake Adger is &dquo;a gem,&dquo; and it needs a class III.

Commissioner Ren´e McDermott and former commissioner Ted Owens touched on how Henderson County residents are misinformed about how the reclassification will affect them. Owens said Henderson County residents truly think that Polk is purchasing the lake to sell water to South Carolina and that&squo;s simply not true.

Owens urged commissioners not to let the threat of legislation stop Polk County. He said 25 years ago officials talked about a county-wide water system and nobody wanted it.

&dquo;If we don&squo;t go ahead now and get Lake Adger, I think we&squo;re going to miss the boat,&dquo; said Owens. &dquo;If we back off, another entity is going to come in and buy it one way or another.&dquo;

Polk had placed in its purchase agreement a clause that it wouldn&squo;t purchase the lake until it was reclassified, but given the possible time frame, Polk voted unaminously to purchase the lake with or without the reclassification. Polk will still wait on a flood study and seismic study to be deemed positive prior to the purchase.

Polk has received the seismic study of the dam and is still waiting on the flood study to be completed. Commissioners agreed for those studies to be researched by an international engineering firm prior to going ahead with the purchase. Polk can likely purchase the lake bed, but could not withdraw water from the lake until the reclassification is determined.