State agency won't do normal review on reservoir

Aug. 21, 2013 @ 07:39 PM

CHARLOTTE — The state agency that monitors North Carolina waterways has given approval for a reservoir in Cleveland County without the usual review.

The North Carolina Division of Water Quality dropped the requirement that the water system obtain a permit saying the project would not harm water quality, The Charlotte Observer http://bit.ly/13QM2A7) reported. Approval came without the normal public hearings or environmental studies.

Cleveland County Water serves rural residents and has worked since 2000 to get approval.

Environmental rules usually make it hard to build reservoirs because they affect streams, wetlands and rare species.

The newspaper reported the decision last month came after lawmakers ordered regulators to work with communities building reservoirs.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the federal Environmental Protection Agency have raised concerns about the planned reservoir.

The corps says the reservoir would cover 1,500 acres of forest and farmland, destroying 24 miles of streams, six acres of wetlands and a federally threatened plant community.

The EPA has urged the county to look for alternatives.

Federal authorities cannot approve projects that could hurt water quality until the state does.

The likelihood that the corps would deny approval for the project prompted the decision by state officials, said Tom Reeder, director of the Division of Water Resources.

"The state of North Carolina looked at all this and said there's really no value added to us getting involved in this whole thing," Reeder said. "Cleveland County would have had to spend more money that would not go to any good purpose."