Editorial: Kerr Lake deserved better

Apr. 26, 2014 @ 11:57 PM

State Rep. Nathan Baskerville heard statements, questions, answers and plenty of emotion. His legal pad was filled with scribbled notes.

Unfortunately, when it comes to representation for those of us in Henderson and Vance County, he sat alone. He was at a meeting about coal ash and our beloved Kerr Lake, with environmental advocates rallying against Duke Energy.

The small room in Perry Memorial Library was packed with 75 to 100. Our elected representation was mostly absent.

One member of the Henderson City Council arrived in the last half hour. Until then, the total number of council members, county commissioners or even representation from the top two rungs of the respective city and county manager’s offices was zero. Neither did we have a state senator or a member of our Washington delegation.

How a meeting about one of our most prized resources could not draw in more elected officials who represent us should be a glaring message to citizens.

The nation’s largest power company is worth $50 billion. It has the money and can generate the resources to properly clean this mess and protect our asset. We’re going to need one heck of a slingshot against this Goliath. Consumers are right to worry about future bills.

Kerr Lake is testing fine at this point. We’ll worry for decades, not days or weeks, down the road. And if or when evidence arises there is a problem, a failure to act quickly to clean up its mess will be the responsibility of Duke Energy.

That’s why the meeting was held — for stakeholders who benefit from Kerr Lake to rally together, write letters and make phone calls to elected representatives for action now. Advocates were primarily targeting Duke and the General Assembly.

The target should include Washington representatives, who can tighten the screws on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that oversees Kerr Lake.

About 60,000 in the Tri-County area get drinking water from the lake. Vance County tourism counts about 1.2 million annually using it recreationally.

Demands to clean the river and protect our lake, independent testing, protection from unfair higher consumer costs — there is plenty to be done by Henderson and Vance County representatives. We can’t afford for them to sit this one out.