Fundraiser against Polk water contract draws 300

Published 9:49 pm Thursday, September 10, 2015


By Leah Justice

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A crowd of approximately 300 rallied last Saturday to raise money for legal fees and expert water advice regarding Polk County’s proposed 75-year water contract with the Inman-Campobello Water District (ICWD).

The fundraiser was held at Harmon Field on Saturday, Sept. 5 over Harry Denton barbecue. The event was put on by Protect Polk Water, a group of local residents who have formed together to stop or at least slow the contract.

Protect Polk Water has started a petition at (Polk NC Water) as well as a Facebook Page (Protect Polk Water).

There were nine local residents who spoke about the proposed contract at the event.

Protect Polk Water is arguing that the water contract is happening too fast and without expert advice. The contract has been amended by the Polk County Board of Commissioners, of which four commissioners are in favor of moving ahead and Commissioner Ray Gasperson is against the contract.

Gasperson said Saturday he hasn’t spoken to anyone in the public who thinks the contract is a good idea. He said every day the contract can be postponed is vital.

Gasperson said the current board of commissioner majority is not going to be swayed against the contract and the best hope is the ICWD board, who, Gasperson said thinks is listening.

Gasperson recently attended ICWD’s board meeting and said they are reasonable and down to earth. He said they have a keen interest in securing long-term access to Polk’s water sources, but Gasperson is convinced the ICWD board knows they are heading into an extremely adversarial situation if the contract should pass.

Polk resident Michael Veatch, who has been an outspoken opponent of the contract, asked fundraising attendees what three things are needed for a nuclear plant.

“Uranium, electricity and water,” Veatch said.

Veatch also said he has never seen such a one-sided contract.

McHenry & Water Protest BBQ 046.JPG

Polk resident Lee Mink said we do not have a future without water, saying the future will be determined by those who have water.

“We may seem like we have an abundance of water today, but our water is going to South Carolina and they can send it anywhere they want to,” said Mink.

All speakers on Saturday spoke of how the contract is being negotiated without adequate legal advice for Polk County. Several spoke of the county’s history of droughts with other comments including Duke Energy’s plan to run transmission lines through Polk County.

The commissioner majority, including Chairman Tom Pack, Shane Bradley, Michael Gage and Keith Holbert have said sharing water resources with ICWD is the best option for Polk County. Commissioners have said Polk County cannot afford its own system, including the costs of constructing and operating a water plant as well as required repairs, estimated initially at $2.5 million to the Turner Shoals Dam.

The contract proposes ICWD operate Polk’s water system, pay for initial repairs to the Lake Adger dam and to fund and install at least $100,000 worth of water lines within Polk County in exchange for withdrawing 8 mgd (million gallons per day) of water out of Lake Adger. Polk would also have access to ICWD’s water sources.

Part of the public’s opposition to the contract is even if the contract is breached by either party at some point in time, ICWD has water rights to Lake Adger and the Green River for the next 75 years.

Opponents also say the contract gives 100 percent of profits from Polk’s water customers to ICWD for the entire term of the contract and a value of Polk’s water sources has not been appraised in the process. The county paid $1.6 million to purchase Lake Adger several years ago.

Pack said following the commissioners’ last meeting in August that what people fail to understand is there are 166 million gallons of water running over the dam every day at Lake Adger. He argues that the contract specifically states if Polk were to ever want to start its own water system by withdrawing from Lake Adger, the county is free to do so with the excess water.

Protect Polk Water members say they are reviewing documents relating to Lake Adger and Turner Shoals Dam, Polk County Commissioner minutes and Duke Energy Modernization plan documents. The group is also working with the nonprofit environmental advocacy group, Mountain True, out of Hendersonville and Asheville for guidance.

The petition at asks the Polk board of commissioners to slow down the contract negotiations until legal and water experts can help ensure Polk County does not “get sold down the river on this deal.”

“A majority of the Polk County NC Board of Commissioners want to sign a 75-year contract with Inman/Campobello Water District which gives ICWD 75 percent of the water available from our Lake Adger and the Green River with none of the income from water sales going to Polk County. Even if either party breaches the contract, ICWD can continue to withdraw water. We want the board to hire a qualified water expert to appraise the value of our reservoir, Lake Adger, the value of the water and to estimate the future water needs and maintenance obligations of Polk County citizens. You can help by asking the board to SLOW down; take the time to make sure we won’t be sold down the river on this deal,” the petition states. As of early Thursday morning, the petition had 221 signatures.

Commissioners finished their amendments to the contract this summer and sent the revised contract to ICWD. It is unknown when ICWD will return to Polk with its own amendments for further negotiations. The county and ICWD have been working on the contract for approximately one year. The county and ICWD currently have a contract for ICWD to operate Polk’s water system, which consists of 142 customers in Polk, with the water source coming from an agreement the county has with Broad River Water Authority.

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Cutline: Protect Polk Water, a group of local residents against the county’s proposed water contract with the Inman-Campobello Water District (ICWD), rallied on Saturday, Sept. 5 at Harmon Field to raise money for legal fees to fight the contract. The event drew approximately 300 residents. (Photo submitted by Margaret Parker)