Tues Dec 17, Protecting the Watauga River – Wear Red
UPDATE WITH GOOD NEWS! After a heartfelt hearing with powerful testimony only in support of protecting the integrity of the Watauga River, the Commissioner’s vote was unanimous!
We in the High Country are graced by the presence of the scenic Watauga River and the rugged Watauga River Gorge. The Watauga originates from Grandfather Mountain, the most biologically diverse mountain in North America, and the entire length of the River qualifies as High Quality Waters per NC Division of Water Quality. The River is beloved by people here for wading, swimming, fishing, and whitewater paddling. I’ve spent many a hot summer day cooling off in the beautiful clear waters, watching fish swim by below and herons fly by above.
The Town of Beech Mountain is seeking approval from Watauga County Board of Commissioners to move forward with an effort to change the classification of the Watauga River and to locate a new surface intake on the river at Guy Ford Road to withdraw waters as supplemental supply for their Town. Thanks to the Western North Carolina Alliance environmental advocacy group, Donna Lisenby serves as our Watauga Riverkeeper to watch over our beloved river and has been done a great job investigating this new proposal. Below is my understanding of some of the issues.
Town of Beech Mountain ALREADY Displays Poor Water Stewardship:
The Town of Beech Mountain is already BY FAR the most profligate water user in the region. Beech Mountain’s longtime per capita per day water demand is 16 times higher than Sugar Mountain, 9 times higher than Boone, 3 times more than Blowing Rock, and 2 times more than Seven Devils (per www.ncwater.org).
Beech is now proposing a new intake on the Watauga River RATHER THAN fixing 53 miles of old lines losing at least 56% of their water (documented by the 2011 Water and Sewer Study for Beech Mountain by Rothrock Engineering, available upon request). According to Rothrock, Beach Mountain loses 67.2 million gallons of water per year due to leakage. Seems prudent they should first stop their leakages.
Not only do they have old, poorly maintained water lines that leak 67.2 million gallons per year,Beech Mountain also has failing sewer lines that routinely pollute our creeks with raw sewage. The NC Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR), reports that in 2013 alone the Town of Beech Mountain allowed at least 168,925 gallons of raw sewage to pollute our steams.
Other Notable Conflicts of Interest:
If Four Eggers is indeed attorney for both Watauga County and Beech Mountain, that clearly presents a conflict of interest for matters at hand.
Further, a new lease obtained in June 2013 by Four Eggers on behalf of Beech Mountain to build a new intake on private lands by Guy Ford Rd on the Watauga River, is in direct conflict with the 2011 Outdoor Recreation Plan of Watauga County Tourism and Development Authority.
This Outdoor Recreation Plan included master plans for a Watauga River paddle trail with access area acquisitions or improvements all along the river to benefit the public. Specifically at Guy Ford Road, the plan called for establishing a formal access area with a property lease agreement, parking, signage, kiosk, river launch and landscaping at the low water bridge. All people would benefit from the public recreation opportunities at the site.
But building a water intake there that benefits the Town of Beech Mountain would not only impair the current primitive and unimproved river access at that site, it would further pre-empt and prohibit Watauga County from realizing the outdoor recreation plans to improve the access area for use by the public at large.
The North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources went on record in a letter to the Town of Beech Mountain supporting their effort in general to seek a supplemental Watauga River intake without performing any environmental impact assessments regarding river ecology and drought.
Please attend, WEARING RED, the Public Hearing this Tuesday at 5:30pm at the County Administration Building on King Street. As the Lorax once spoke for the trees, let us now speak for the river. Part of the problem with the proposal is that the Town of Beech Mountain seeks to withdraw Watauga River waters DURING periods of DROUGHT when precious riverine critters so critical to a healthy ecosystem are also the most stressed.