Protect Polk Water hires expert for Polk/ICWD water contract

Published 11:17 pm Thursday, September 24, 2015

By Leah Justice

Protect Polk Water, a local water advocacy group, has decided to seek expert advice about a proposed water contract between Polk County and Inman-Campobello Water District (ICWD).

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The group met on Tuesday, Sept. 22 and decided to seek advice from McGill & Associates Engineers out of Asheville.

Engineer Keith Webb, with McGill, is familiar with several of Polk County projects, as he has worked with the county in the past.

Polk County and ICWD have been working on a water contract for the past year in an effort to share water resources and for ICWD to operate Polk’s water system. The proposed contract is currently for a 75-year term, with the contract currently in the hands of ICWD. ICWD proposed a draft and commissioners amended the draft and sent it back to ICWD in August. ICWD has since hired a consultant Black & Veatch to give opinions on the contract.

Many residents have spoke to county commissioners in opposition of the contract over the past year. Some of the main concerns raised by residents have been that the county needs to seek expert advice, that the county never will see revenues from its water system and that ICWD can continue to withdraw water from Lake Adger for the next 75 years even if the contract is ever dismissed.

Protect Polk Water was formed because of the proposed contract.

“Having spent dam repair monies on pet projects, the board of commissioners is rushing into an ill-advised contract with ICWD,” said Protect Polk Water member Michael Veatch. “They have put the cart before the horse and we, hundreds of Polk County taxpayers, are trying to correct that problem. This effort requires expert advice and we feel this is a wise first step in that process.”

Protect Polk Water members say McGill & Associates will prepare a report within a week.

“We intend to share the report with Polk taxpayers, the county manager and attorney and even with the commissioners in case they are willing to listen and consider expert opinions,” said Veatch.

Protect Polk Water is a grassroots group of Polk residents who say they united to ensure all contracts and agreements relating to the county’s water resources protect and manage the county’s valuable assets in a responsible, informed and open manner. The group says they believe contracts must protect the citizens of the county in terms of continuing resource availability and financial benefit.

Protect Polk Water formed this spring in response to the proposed water contract with ICWD.

Polk commissioners’ amendments to the proposed contract include ICWD maintaining the Turner Shoals Dam at Lake Adger for 75 years, in exchange for ICWD withdrawing water from Lake Adger and running at least $100,000 worth of water lines within Polk County as well as operating Polk’s water system.

Protect Polk Water recently held a barbecue fundraiser at Harmon Field to raise money to seek expert water and legal advice on the contract.

“The donations of concerned citizens made this meeting and the forthcoming report from McGill possible,” said Protect Polk Water member Pat Salomon.

Protect Polk Water has also applied to MountainTrue, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group to act as its fiscal sponsor and advisor. MountainTrue will monitor Protect Polk Water’s expenditures and ensure the group adheres to nonprofit guidelines so future donations can be tax deductible.

Donations to Protect Polk Water can be mailed to Hometrust Bank, 341, North Trade St., Tryon, NC 28782.

There is also a Protect Polk Water Facebook page and a petition to Polk commissioners at by searching Polk NC Water.

As of early Thursday morning, Sept. 24, the petition had 235 signatures.

Polk commissioners have not discussed the contract since sending the contract to ICWD in August. Commissioners will meet again on Monday, Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. in the Womack building, Columbus.