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Originally published: 2013-05-02 19:16:22
Last modified: 2013-05-02 20:02:21

Group mulls Boone intake, water needs

by Anna Oakes

The Boone Water Use Committee on Wednesday agreed by straw poll to recommend that the Boone Town Council seek written confirmations from the town of Blowing Rock and Watauga County about the entities' interests in future water allocations from Boone's water system.

Committee member Pam Williamson proposed that the town reaffirm its anticipated future water needs. In planning for the new 4 million-gallon-per-day water intake on the South Fork New River near Todd, Boone calculated 500,000 gallons per day for Blowing Rock and an additional 1 million gpd for unincorporated areas, public utilities director Rick Miller confirmed.

Last month, Williamson suggested that the town may need to reassess its water needs, given that state legislation could eliminate extraterritorial jurisdictions and because it difficult for North Carolina towns to grow via annexation because of legislation enacted last year.

"I keep wondering who we're going to sell water to if we don't have an ETJ and we can't expand the boundary anywhere," Williamson said.

But Miller and Boone Planning Director Bill Bailey said that the town could still use the 1 million-gpd reserve even if growth does not occur outside of the town's current boundaries.

"It's a moving target. Until you need it, I can't tell you (how much you'll need)," Miller said. "I'm glad it's included. Maybe nobody will ever have to fight this fight again."

Miller said the GIS system identified 620 vacant parcels in the town of varying acreage sizes, with some partially in the town limits and some falling within the town's viewshed zoning map. He did not have a figure for the total acreage of the vacant parcels.

Bailey said that Appalachian State University and Boone being a retirement destination ensures that growth will continue.

"You're going to have demand for water. Demand for water will increase," he said. "The only thing you can do to grow ... you've got to go up."

Town manager Greg Young noted that even if the town decided to scale back its future water needs estimates, doing so wouldn't change the planned water intake project very much.

Young said engineering for the project is between 75 to 80 percent complete, and right-of-way acquisition for the project's transmission line is ongoing. He said the town is at least six months away from seeking Local Government Commission approval to issue bonds to finance the project.

"Then you're into it big time," he said. "That's when the big question comes. When you're going to that point, you're going into debt."

As requested by the committee at its meeting, town attorney Sam Furgiuele reviewed a host of proposed bills in the state legislature that could potentially impact Boone's water intake project or other water and sewer facilities across the state.

But Furgiuele cautioned the committee against taking any recommendations based on bills as currently proposed.

"Things are changing fast," he said.