Kannapolis, Concord may get less water than they hoped for

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

By Joanie Morris

Salisbury Post

KANNAPOLIS — Officials here are disappointed with a news release from the three-member committee charged with making a recommendation to the Environmental Management Commission. The release issues the committee’s recommendation on an interbasin transfer between Concord and Kannapolis and the Catawba and Yadkin river basins.

The hearing officers recommended that the two cities be allowed to withdraw significantly less water than they requested from the Catawba River basin. The committee also recommended that a number of protective conditions be put on the transfer.

The recommendation was for the cities to be allowed to withdraw 10 million gallons from each basin. The request by Concord and Kannapolis was for up to 36 million gallons of water per day with 26 million gallons from the Catawba River Valley and 10 million gallons from the Yadkin River Basin. The cities are requesting the transfer to address projected water supply shortfalls during the next 30 years.

According to a press release from the hearing officers, they found that the reduced transfer will be sufficient to meet the cities’ needs during that period. The recommendation is based on the findings of the final environmental impact statement, numerous public comments and the hearing officer’s independent assessment of the impacts of the transfer, the release said. Extensive modeling shows that under normal conditions, the recommended withdrawals of 10 million gallons per day from each basin would have no measurable impact.

City Manager Mike Legg said at Monday’s city council meeting that the recommendation from the committee wasn’t good news.

“I will say we are disappointed in the news,” Legg told council at the end of the meeting. “It’s clearly not the news that we wanted.”

The city has spent nearly six years answering questions, providing scientific data and attending meetings, Legg added.

“We think the data supports our request,” he said. “If it stands, we’ll have to address significant changes in future growth.”

No other council members spoke at the meeting, but in a press release from the city of Concord, Mayor Bob Misenheimer also expressed his disappointment.

“This recommendation is considerably less than the preferred alternative amount we have requested based on our projected needs over the next 30 years,” Misenheimer said in the release. “We are disappointed in the recommendation and this is clearly not the news Concord, Kannapolis and the people throughout our region hoped for.”

Concord Mayor Scott Padgett agreed.

“We realize this is the recommendation of the hearing officers and not the final decision,” Padgett said. “If, however, the amount approved by the full EMC is less than our request, as proposed by the hearing officers, we will have to make adjustments to our long-range plans. Until we have the opportunity to consult with our technical experts and leadership in the community, we do not know what changes will have to be made to meet our community’s needs.”

The recommendation also states that the interbasin transfer certificate could change based on the conditions placed on three energy companies that are seeking to renew federal licenses in the river basins.

The recommendation was mailed Monday to the full 19-person commission, which will consider the proposal at the Jan. 10 meeting in Raleigh.

A copy of Monday’s recommendation, as well as other commission information, can be found at www.ncwater.org.

Contact Joanie Morris at 704-932-3336 or jmorris@salisburypost.com.