Growing concerns over Boone’s proposed water intake project along the South Fork of the New River, prompted members of the newly formed non-profit New River Advocates, Inc. to address the Ashe County Board of Commissioners at the board’s regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 4.
Deborah Greene, who is a member of the New River Advocates’ Board of Directors, made a detailed presentation to the board at the meeting, and the organization also asked the board to consider reclassifying the South Fork of the New River to Class C high quality water status.
Any reclassification would effectively stop Boone’s water intake project from moving forward.
The proposed water intake facility would be located along the South Fork of the New River near Todd. As many as 4 million gallons of water per day would be transmitted along Brownwood Road and U.S. 421 into Boone. The estimated date of completion should plans move forward, according to Boone Public Utilities Director Rick Miller, is slated for mid-to-late 2018, at the earliest.
Currently, that portion of the South Fork of the New River is classified Water Supply-IV, which was a requirement for the intake project to move forward.
“Stopping this intake will benefit the citizens of Ashe County,” Greene said at the meeting. “We’re going to be asking you at the end of this presentation to reclassify the South Fork of the New River to Class C, high quality water.”
Greene and members of New River Advocates are concerned that the water intake project will impair and deliver higher-than-normal concentrations of pollutants into the river. It’s the unknown impacts that give them greatest concern.
“Citizens are becoming more aware of this water grab,” Greene said. “It’s not just happening here, it’s happening everywhere.”
While the board took no action on the matter, most were receptive and appeared to support the resolution.
“This is something that I think we need to dig into and get with our county manager and county attorney to figure out what we can do,” Commissioner Judy Porter Poe said. “I’ve publicly stated before, I don’t like this water intake and I think it will hurt Ashe County.
“I support you wholeheartedly,” Commissioner Gerald Price said.
“The New River is a tremendous asset for Ashe County,” Commissioner Williams Sands said. “I very much favor preserving the quality and quantity of water in the New River.”
County Manager Sam Yearick said he’d spoken with a representative from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources about the possibility of reclassifying the water classification back to its original state. According to Yearick, the representative said that had never happened in the past.
The county and board will continue to study the issue and possibility further in the coming weeks and months.
According to the organization’s mission statement posted on their website at www.newriveradvocates.com, the “mission of New River Advocates, Inc. is to protect the New River Basin’s rivers, streams and tributaries, through study, education and advocacy for the benefit of all those who depend on and enjoy these waters.”
Alan Bulluck can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @albulluck.