Salisbury asks for state, federal action to protect water supply
By Liz Moomey
SALISBURY — The city council passed a resolution Tuesday requesting help from federal and state leaders to protect the water supply for Salisbury-Rowan Utilities customers.
The resolution asked the state and federal government to require the flood protection measures that the State and Federal Government mandated in 2015 and 2016 to prevent the disruption and destruction of infrastructure essential for the operation of Salisbury’s water supply system.
On Feb. 6, rising Yadkin River levels threatened to destroy Salisbury’s water supply pumping equipment at the Yadkin River, according to the City of Salisbury. The city was forced to turn off power to its water supply pumps from Feb. 7-9 due to the danger of water reaching electrical equipment. Salisbury engineers estimated the flood was only about a “10-year” event — meaning it is inevitable that there will be more severe floods and that pumping equipment will be destroyed, according to a news release.
According to the resolution, High Rock Dam, built in 1927 and about 19.4 miles downstream from the pump station, disrupts the natural sediment transport function of the Yadkin River. That means a build up of sediment, a water pollution problem.
Councilman David Post said the resolution and the sediment issue is a “big deal.”
“When you think of water coming down, it’s sort of like closing off half the interstate, saying traffic will move just as easily,” Post said. “We know that’s just not true. That’s what’s causing this.”
The flood threat would be eliminated if federally-required and state-required flood protection measures were in place, according to the resolution. They are not.
Although the flood protection measures have been required by both North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission since 2016, the necessary infrastructure construction project has not begun, and so far there is no plan in place for the project. The project is supposed to be completed by Cube Yadkin Generation LLC, the owner of High Rock Dam.
The severity of the flooding in February was caused by a massive “sediment delta” that restricts river flow. The sediment delta, caused by High Rock Dam, is several miles long and continues to grow. The prior dam owner, Alcoa Power Generating Inc., argued High Rock Dam does not cause the flooding and sedimentation problems.
However, the city of Salisbury commissioned studies and took the step of asking federal regulators to obtain independent, scientific peer reviews of the city-commissioned studies. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission did so and concluded the studies were reliable. In 2007, the commission published a document that explained in detail how High Rock Dam causes the sediment delta, flooding and sedimentation problems.
In fall 2018, Cube Yadkin proposed to implement some but not all of the required flood protection measures. Salisbury asked FERC to require implementation of a plan that is better-engineered and that meets all requirements. FERC has not published a decision.
The Salisbury City Council requested help from President Donald Trump, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., U.S. Reps. Ted Budd, R-13, Richard Hudson, R-8, federal regulators, Gov. Roy Cooper, and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.
Mayor Karen Alexander said she would talk to other Rowan County boards to pass a similar resolution.
“All of their citizens are just as affected by this as our own here in Salisbury,” she said.
By Liz Moomey email@example.com SALISBURY — Three projects for Salisbury-Rowan Utilities, along with a revenue bond, were approved and awarded... read more