Feds delay Boone water intake project
by Adam Orr
Federal authorities have terminated an application necessary for Boone's proposed water intake project because Boone did not provide Ashe County with documents the county said it needs to make informed comments about the project's impact, Ashe County Manager Pat Mitchell said.
"The FEMA letter states this project is terminated and any additional data submitted regarding this project will be treated as a new submittal and subject to all fees and will be assigned a new case number," Mitchell wrote in a Feb. 9 email. That means Boone could be required to pay $4,400 to $7,150 to resubmit the MT-2, according to a current fee schedule on the N.C. Floodplain Mapping Program's website.
Boone Town Manager Greg Young was not available for comment Monday and Tuesday.
The 4 million gallon-per-day water intake facility is planned for a 10-acre site on the South Fork New River between Todd and Brownwood in Watauga County and will transport water to Boone's water treatment plant via a transmission line along Brownwood Road and U.S. 421.
Mitchell said she made several attempts to obtain information about the project from Boone before participating in a Nov. 13, 2012, conference call with Ashe County Emergency Management Coordinator Patty Gambill and Federal Emergency Management Agency and N.C. State Division of Emergency Management officials.
"As a result of that phone call, FEMA directed the NCDEM to go back to Boone and obtain updated maps/plans/information and provide them to my office," said Mitchell.
Mitchell said she later contacted NCDEM Jan. 10 to say she had received no information from Boone in the nearly two months since the conference call. Mitchell said three emails were sent to NCDEM with no response.
"A request was (then) made to the deputy secretary of the Department of Public Safety," Mitchell said. "The letters, in summary, state that FEMA is not moving ahead with the water intake project as the town of Boone has not provided the information that Ashe County needs to make an informed decision about signing the MT-2 form, and Ashe County's signature, as an 'impacted community,' is necessary to move ahead."
According to FEMA's website, MT-2 forms are used by community officials to ask that FEMA revise the effective National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) map and Flood Insurance Study Report for a community. Forms are also used for requesting FEMA comments on a proposed project issued in the form of a conditional Letter of Map Revision.
The forms ensure that data and methodology are based on current conditions, that qualified professionals have assembled data and performed necessary computations and that individuals and organizations affected by proposed changes are aware of the changes and have an opportunity to comment, the website states.
When asked if Ashe County is required to sign the MT-2 form, Gambill said that "FEMA has the final determination on the (application)."
In October 2012, Mitchell contacted Boone Town Manager Greg Young in an attempt to clear up uncertainty surrounding the intake project -- including a proposed access road that could enter Ashe County.
"The Board of Commissioners ... are opposed to having any portion of the project located in our political jurisdiction," Mitchell said in a letter last fall.
Mitchell requested a meeting with Young to obtain current maps and plans for the intake project, according to an Oct. 19 email, including the access road and the route of the plant's proposed transmission line.
The deed for the sale of the 10-acre property guarantees the town a 45-foot-wide, 3,000-foot-long right-of-way and easement on adjacent land owned by the Cooper family for an access road. A map in the 2009 environmental assessment for the project shows the access road crossing over the county line into Ashe County.
Young's response to Mitchell came six days later in an Oct. 25 email.
"At this time, the rights-of-way on Brownwood Road are still in the early stage of acquisition," wrote Young. "As far as your remaining questions go, I'm unable to provide any definite responses at this time other than reiterating that the town of Boone does not own any real property or any property interest in Ashe County and would not attempt to acquire one without the Ashe County Commissioners' approval."
Young further wrote, "I'm not sure that meeting will be beneficial to you as I don't think I would be at liberty to provide the information you're seeking. Is the county reconsidering their position on this matter? I don't understand why you're asking these questions now."
Boone Public Utilities Director Rick Miller said on Tuesday that he was not aware of the request from Mitchell.