Green River watershed reclassification could be on state agenda next spring

Published 12:50 pm Thursday, August 12, 2010

The process of reclassifying the Lake Adger watershed could heat up again next spring, according to Polk County engineer David Odom, of Odom & Associates Engineering, Inc.

Odom was asked about the reclassification effort last week by Polk County commissioner Tommy Melton. Polk County is seeking a Water Supply Level III classification for the Green River watershed, which covers 87,470 acres, 36,825 acres in Polk County and 50,645 acres in Henderson County.

After several joint meetings with Polk County commissioners and a public hearing in Henderson County, the Henderson County Board of Commissioners in September, 2009 voted 3-2 to oppose Polk Countys reclassification initiative.

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Nonetheless, the process has been moving forward.

The N.C. Division of Water Quality has been taking water samples from the Green River and has been running tests for the past year, as part of the standard process of reclassification, Odom said. The state has one more sample to take in September.

That last sample will be analyzed and then the division will write its report by the end of the year, Odom said. That report will be reviewed, and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Public Water Supply Section will sign off.

The Division of Water Quality should be ready to place the reclassification of the Green River on its environmental management committee agenda next spring, Odom said.

The City of Saluda, which will also be affected by reclassification, has already given its blessing. It would be best if Henderson County also would give its approval, Odom said, but the state could act without it.

We just have to wait and see, Odom said. We have to go through the process and see. A watershed reclassification can be approved without letters of support from all the affected property owners. It has been done.

Polk County decided to purchase Lake Adger in May, 2008 from Northbrook Carolina Hydro LLC, and closed the $1.6 million purchase late last year. The county plans to seek the proper permits to draw as much as 8 million gallons per day from the Green River, using an intake on Lake Adger.

The countys longterm plans call for construction of a multi-year, multi-phase water system to serve county residents, most of whom, 80 percent, get their water from wells now.

In an early phase, the county plans to build a 1- or 2-MGD treatment plant on property at the county transfer station in Mill Spring, expandable for future needs. One or two million gallons per day will be plenty large enough to serve the countys needs for the forseeable future, commissioners have said.

No water can be drawn from Lake Adger, however, until the Green River is reclassified as a public water supply.

Polk County originally asked the state to reclassify the Green River watershed as a Water Supply Class IV, which would have affected only the acreage in Polk County. However, the state insisted on a WS-III classification, calling the Green River a gem which should be protected.

The county set aside $10,000 last year and has budgeted another $200,000 this year to create a fund for future repairs to the Turner Shoals Dam on Lake Adger.

The county needs to set aside at least $200,000 per year for many years, said county manager Ryan Whitson, as engineering reports have estimated future repairs running into the millions will be required.

However, those engineering reports also said that to build an impoundment the size of Lake Adger today would cost over $30 million.