U.S. Water News Online
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The water needs of North Carolina pose no
imminent threat to South Carolina's interest in the Catawba River,
which provides drinking water and electricity to both, the state said
in response to a lawsuit filed by its neighbor to the south.
South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster filed a lawsuit in
June opposing plans by the North Carolina cities of Concord and
Kannapolis to pump up to 10 million gallons a day from the river.
McMaster said a 1991 North Carolina law allowing such a water
transfer violates the U.S. Constitution because it prevents the
states from equitably sharing the river.
In a filing with the U.S. Supreme Court, which has not yet agreed
to hear the case, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper argued
that any lack of Catawba River water stems not from such a transfer,
but from a severe drought that has affected water supplies across the
"South Carolina has failed to allege that it has been deprived of
the reasonable use of the waters of the Catawba River, and, even if
it has been so deprived, has failed to allege that any actions by
North Carolina so deprived it," the complaint states.
Concord and Kannapolis -- two growing suburbs of Charlotte, the
largest city in the two states -- are not currently taking any water
from the Catawba River while a permit allowing the transfer is under
review by an administrative law judge.
The permit would allow the two cities to draw water from the river
and return treated wastewater to a river basin that is closer to
their communities than the Catawba. The cities have said returning
the water to its source river basin would be too expensive.
The Catawba River winds 225 miles through the Carolinas, providing
drinking water to 1.3 million people and electricity to at least a
Duke Energy Corp. owns and operates the river's reservoirs,
hydrostations and power plants. Cooper told the court that a pending
federal license review of Duke's operations would set minimum water
flow restrictions to benefit South Carolina, so "the matter is not
yet ripe for decision and should be dismissed."
North Carolina also said the lawsuit should be dismissed for
several other reasons, including a failure to name the United States
as a defendant. Cooper said that was required since federally
regulated national parks and nuclear plants use water in the region.
Should the Supreme Court hear the case, McMaster expects they
would appoint a special judge to conduct hearings. McMaster's
ultimate goal is to force North Carolina to enter an interstate
compact with South Carolina over water issues.
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