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State environmental panel grants interbasin transfer certificate

Raleigh, NC

A state environmental panel has granted Union County a certificate to transfer a maximum of 23 million gallons of water a day from the Yadkin River Basin to the Rocky River Basin to meet Union County’s projected water demands through 2050.

The water would be transferred from Lake Tillery in Stanly County into northern Union County, where officials have proposed building a water treatment plant. The Environmental Management Commission voted 11-1 to grant the interbasin transfer certificate. One commissioner abstained from voting.

By state law, the Environmental Management Commission decides whether to grant or deny an interbasin transfer certificate based on factors established in state law. The commission is required by state law to consider the necessity and benefits of the transfer and the degree to which the transfer is reasonable. The commission must also consider the water supply needs, the detrimental effects on the source and receiving river basins, wastewater assimilation, water quality, fish and wildlife habitats, hydroelectric power generation, navigation, recreation, flooding and all reasonable alternatives. Then, the commission must decide whether the benefits of the proposed transfer outweigh the detriments and if the detriments have been or will be mitigated to a reasonable degree.

Union County submitted a notice of intent for its plans to apply for an interbasin transfer in 2013. The draft interbasin transfer certificate underwent a thorough public review and comment process. As required by state law, Union County prepared and submitted an environmental impact statement on the proposed transfer of water to the state Department of Environmental Quality. The state agency approved the environmental impact statement in April 2016.

By law, challenges to the certificate decision may be filed with the Office of Administrative Hearings within 60 days of when the chairman signs the certificate.

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