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Originally published: 2013-02-16 15:30:18
Last modified: 2013-02-18 11:52:18

Hearing on Boone intake project Tuesday

by Anna Oakes

The next item on the to-do list for Boone's water intake project comes at the Watauga County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday, when a public hearing will be held to allow citizen comments on new watershed protections near the proposed intake site.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the Watauga County Administration Building, located at 814 W. King St.

The N.C. Environmental Management Commission last year approved a reclassification of an area 10 miles upstream of the proposed intake site -- between Todd and Brownwood in Watauga County -- to Water Supply IV. Sources used for drinking water are classified Water Supply I through V, with WS-I carrying the most restrictive standards.

The reclassification affects about 1,200 par cels in Watauga County, as well as some properties in Ashe County.

Legislation filed by Rep. Jonathan Jordan of Jefferson last year would have blocked the reclassification necessary for the water intake project to move forward, but the bill did not pass.

Although citizens may comment on the new standards at Tuesday's commissioners meeting, the county does not appear to have much leverage at this stage in the process.

"The county is required to implement watershed protection rules for the newly classified segment by March 30, 2013," County Manager Deron Geouque wrote in a board agenda memo.

The state Water Supply Watershed Protection Act requires local governments to adopt and implement appropriate watershed protection ordinances and maps within 270 days after reclassification, a July 12, 2012, letter from Julie Ventaloro of the N.C. Division of Water Quality stated.

Watauga County Planning & Inspections Director Joe Furman said the state would enforce the watershed regulations and could impose civil penalties upon the county if it does not adopt and implement the new watershed map and minimum standards.

Meanwhile, the town of Boone is currently negotiating with property owners along Brownwood Road on the right-of-way acquisition for a transmission line that will carry water from the 4 million gallon-per-day facility on the South Fork New River to the town's water treatment plant in Boone.

The project hit a stumbling block last week when, according to letters distributed by Ashe County Manager Pat Mitchell, the Federal Emergency Management Agency terminated an application from the town for flood map revisions for the project.

Mitchell said FEMA terminated the application because Boone failed to provide Ashe County with information it needs to make informed comments about the project's impact.

"Ashe County's signature, as an 'impacted community,' is necessary to move ahead," Mitchell said.
Since October 2012, Mitchell said she made several requests for updated maps and plans from 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.

Phone calls and emailed requests for comment have not yet been returned by Young, who was out of the office for part of last week.

The project continues to face strong opposition from residents of Todd and Ashe County.

"As I have always asked regarding all aspects of this project, what is there to hide?" said Frank Packard, a Todd resident opposed to the project. "Why not make all information and steps in the process fully public? Why continue to meet in closed session?"