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Catawba IBT challenge comes to a close

Posted: December 21, 2010 5:30 p.m.
Updated: December 22, 2010 5:00 a.m.

It’s official. The U.S. Supreme Court case revolving around inter-basin water transfers from the Catawba River -- which streams into Lake Wateree -- is over, S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster announced Tuesday.

“This agreement will allow the state to flourish economically, and it serves as a model for similar cases in the future,” McMaster said Tuesday via telephone. “Water is a precious resource in this state, and this ensures it will be protected.”

The settlement -- which leads to the court case being thrown out -- was actually reached last month, at which point McMaster said the “conceptualized agreement” would have to be put down on paper. This week, the signature of all four parties -- North Carolina, South Carolina, Duke Energy and Catawba River Water Supply Project – made it official.

Calling it a “model for regional cooperation,” McMaster said he believes the settlement represents an excellent result for South Carolina and all the citizens in the Catawba Basin. It also employs Duke Energy’s Comprehensive Relicensing Agreement as a foundation, he said.

“We are pleased to report that this settlement addresses the fundamental question of inter-basin transfers, raised by the litigation, in a fair manner for everyone,” stated a press release from McMaster’s office. “Through the terms of the settlement, both North and South Carolina will be close neighbors rather than a plaintiff and defendant in a lawsuit.”

In November, the two states agreed on a compromise that McMaster said would detail a mechanism outlining a series of steps to communicate any water transfers from the Catawba River.

“We hope this accomplishes the original objective, which is to protect the water supply from the Catawba,” McMaster said in November.

The accord also provides for there to be a re-evaluation of water usage every 10 years. In essence, it ensures communication between North Carolina and South Carolina when it comes to withdraws from the Catawba, said McMaster.

Gary Faulkenberry, a spokesman for the Lake Wateree Association, said he was very proud of McMaster’s aggressive position in the case.

“Him taking this case forward was really what brought about the decision,” said Faulkenberry “This doesn’t put our state at the mercy of the court, which could’ve said the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area needed the water more than South Carolina since it’s more developed … and it guarantees a certain amount of water will be flowing into our state.”

South Carolina filed a Supreme Court case in 2007 after the N.C. Environmental Management Commission approved up to 10 million gallons of water a day to be withdrawn from the Catawba for use in Concord and Kannapolis, N.C. The Supreme Court’s acceptance of the case was critical in reaching the settlement, according to McMaster’s office.

“It was gloomy for a couple of years there. Things moved extremely slow … but I’m very proud we were finally able to reach this agreement,” McMaster said.

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