TODD-A flood zone permit approved by the Ashe County Planning Department early last month removed one more barrier to Boone’s planned water intake project near Brownwood Road.
The permit is a crucial requirement the town needs to build a road that would allow it to access a planned water intake facility on the banks of the New River. The permit ok’d a culvert and road over a small creek just off Brownwood Road.
“We were pretty much out of options,” Ashe County Manage Sam Yearick said. “The town had basically fulfilled all the requirements for the permit and we were advised by the county attorney that we really couldn’t hold off on approving it any longer. So it was approved on Oct. 6.”
How’d we get here
Boone’s proposed water intake project has been a controversial issue between locals of Ashe and Watauga Counties for years. The project would build a water intake facility on the South Fork of the New River near the Ashe and Watauga County line that would pull some 4 million gallons of water from the river per day. Treated water will be returned back to the river upstream in Watauga County.
The town has said it needs the extra capacity to keep up with demands of a growing population, while other parties like the New River Advocacy group have claimed the project is based on inaccurate, misleading and outdated information and poses an environmental threat to the River.
Since at least 2012, the Ashe County Board of Commissioners has consistently voiced its opposition to the project, and voted unanimously earlier this year to adopt a resolution opposing the project.
Just a sliver of Ashe County
But because the water intake will siphon water from just inside the Watauga County line – and project planners have said in the past no part of the project will extend into Ashe County – Ashe County effectively has no means to stop the project.
“But it turns out a section of the intake facility’s access road, roughly 100 feet, does pass into Ashe County,” Yearick said.
Built on land owned by members of the Cooper family, plans for the road submitted by project engineers detail a two-lane road with two turnouts and a cul-de-sac, Yearick said. The landowners – in a deed recorded in Watauga County – granted Boone an easement that would allow the road to be built across the property to access the planned intake facility.
“There’s already existing law that says a city can’t own property in another county without approval from that county,” Yearick said. “So we pointed that out, that Ashe County wasn’t giving the town an easement for this road, and they went back to the drawing board.”
Crucially, Yearick said the Cooper family, and not the Town of Boone, applied for the flood zone permit for the section of road that crosses into Ashe County.
“We asked them to make some changes to the deed reflecting that they didn’t have an easement in Ashe County, they made those changes and we really couldn’t make other objections to the permit request,” Yearick said. “Everything else was in order, so it was approved.”
Yearick said, without an easement for the section of road, Boone can technically only gain permission to cross that section of property from the landowners.
“As long as they have that permission, I don’t think there will be any problems with the town accessing that facility,” Yearick said. “But if that land ever sells, the way I understand it, they’ll have to get permission from whoever buys it. So there are probably still unanswered questions for all this.”
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr.