Camden City Council devoted part of its regular meeting Tuesday night to wish Municipal Judge Michael E. Stegner a happy retirement after 20 years on the bench. Camden Mayor Tony Scully read a certificate of appreciation to Stegner and his wife, Neal, that noted Stegner took office on Feb. 1, 1994.
“His period of public service has been distinguished by a profound sense of duty and responsibility for the welfare and prosperity for the welfare and prosperity of the city of Camden and its citizens … (and) invaluable service and generous contributions to this community extend beyond the courtroom. His knowledge of law and impartiality was an asset to the city and will be missed,” Scully read. “Members of council … take this occasion to express to (him) our personal appreciation and the deep esteem we have for his unselfish contributions … and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
Scully handed Stegner the certificate and a plaque with a judge’s gavel affixed to it as gifts.
“Thank you for everything,” Stegner said, adding that he would miss working with fellow judge, Rick Todd, and Clerk of Court Belinda Davis.
Also during the regular meeting, council proclaimed September as National Preparedness month; unanimously passed a resolution supporting the Friends of the Archives and Museum’s capital campaign to raise funds for a proposed expansion of the Camden Archives and Museum; and unanimously passed a resolution supporting a Catawba-Wateree River Basin Water Supply Master Plan, developed by the Catawba-Wateree Water Management Group.
Barry Gullet, director of Charlotte-Mecklenburg (N.C.) Utilities and chairman of the Water Management Group, and Kevin Mosteller, vice president of HDR Inc., made a lengthy presentation about the river basin plan during council’s work session earlier Tuesday afternoon.
Gullet thanked the city for its participation as one of 18 public water supply utilities in the water management group. He said Camden Public Works Director Tom Couch and Assistant Director Sam Davis have both been active members of the group.
He said the report is the result of three years’ worth of work, and is the first plan of its kind to cover the entire length of the river basin in both North and South Carolina.
“This water management plan is a process, it’s not a ‘one-and-done’ situation,” Gullet said. “The plan itself will be updated periodically. The water management group will be around and … monitoring progress and we’ll be making adjustments and tweaks as we learn.”
The report’s bottom line, according to Mosteller: a study commissioned in 2006 showed that the Catawba-Wateree River Basin could reach maximum capacity by the year 2050 in terms of residential, commercial and industrial water use. The plan’s purpose is to extend the “life” of the river chain an additional 40 years.
“It starts up in the foothills of North Carolina with Lake James in the Morganton area and then you’re at the southern end of that,” Mosteller said of the basin, which he said includes 11 lakes and reservoirs.
The Catawba-Wateree River Basin, he said, is 4,750 square miles in size, but is actually “not a huge drainage basin” in terms of capacity. Mosteller said the waterway already supports five power plants and roughly 2 million people.
By 2065 -- 15 years past the maximum capacity estimate -- the report estimates that 47 percent of the chain’s capacity will be used for public utility systems such as Camden’s. Another 43 percent would be used by power plants operated by Duke Energy Progress (DEP). Agricultural use (irrigation) would take up 8 percent of the capacity, with the remaining 7 percent being used by industries, including those who purchase water supply from municipal systems like Camden’s.
Mosteller said one of the biggest factors in the study grew out of a 2007 drought. Using a graph with diverging tracks, he differentiated between original water usage projections from 2003, and projections made in this report after 2007.
“That’s a very significant decrease in the amount of water use projected just a few years later,” Mosteller said. “Water use in this region has been reduced, in a lot of cases by 20 percent. There are probably a lot of reasons for that. We drastically changed behavior of how people use water.”
First, he said, utilities such as Camden’s instituted water conservation and efficiency measures that are making an impact over time. Second, utilities have had to raise rates, leading customers to reduce water usage in order to save money. Finally, the study also projects fewer interbasin transfers, where water is taken from one basin and moved to another. During the mid-2000s, a dispute arose where South Carolina sued North Carolina over such a transfer from the Catawba-Wateree River Basin to the Pee Dee River basin. The two states settled the matter in 2010.
Mosteller also said that, in addition to population growth, the plan “seriously” takes climate change into account.
“As far as we know, in the Southeast, this … is the first one to consider that,” Mosteller said.
The study’s authors went through a “sophisticated” set of “what if” models, tweaking water consumption across a number of factors. In the end, the recommended model would extend the available water yield by about 200 million gallons per day, extending the number of years before hitting maximum capacity by 40 to 50 years.
“First, we’re asking utilities to focus on increased water use efficiency and continue what most are doing anyway, which is some level of water conservation with their customers,” Mosteller said. “We have made a recommendation (for utilities to) lower some critical water intakes to elevations … so we can access more water in the reservoirs during drought. Another thing Duke is committing to do is to look at and evaluate how they can raise their target elevations in some of the big reservoir systems … during the summer and then kind of hedge their bets for future consumption.”
Currently, on average across the basin, consumption stands at about 85 gallons per day per person (gpdpp). The plan seeks to reduce that to an average of 70 gpdpp. According to one of the slides in Mosteller’s presentation, Lake Wateree’s consumption is currently 74 gpdpp, which the plan would like to see reduced to 62 gpdpp.
Specifically for Camden, current consumption levels are at 81 gpdpp. The plan would have that reduced to 65 gpdpp. Mosteller said all the reductions are targeted for the year 2065.
“On a normal day, there’s about 3,750 million gpd coming into this system, and … with all the uses, about 3,360 million gpd going out at Lake Wateree. In a drought, the difference is 1,591 (million gpd) going in and 1,110 (million gpd) going out. That’s how sensitive this basin is to drought,” he said.
DEP’s role would be to continue to manage water supply levels, help make its power customers more energy efficient and commit to cutting back on water releases during droughts in order to hold more water in the system.
Councilman Polk said he was concerned that the plan does not include concrete steps to take to accomplish its goals.
Mosteller said the plan provides communities along the basin with a toolbox to meet those goals themselves. Gullet pointed out that the plan is not a regulatory document, but the answer to a problem solved collectively by water management group members.
“It’s going to be a problem for all of us (in the region). We won’t be able to add houses, schools and businesses and continue to proposer. Instead of waiting for someone to drop the regulatory hammer and say ‘you have to go do this,’ we decided it would be proactive … and see what it would take from a technical perspective to make this thing work,” Gullet said.
He said the master plan’s steps are straight forward: conserve water, manage resources, plan and work together, and said there’s enough time to take those steps.
“But the driver for it is that we all have to do it. The unique thing about the water management group … is we’re kind of self-monitoring, we all report our water-use data. So, we’re watching each other,” Gullet said. “We also aren’t trying to proscribe one size fits all. We’re not going to come here and say that what works for Hickory (N.C.) works for Camden. You’re different towns and have different needs and different values and, probably, different customers bases.
“So, we aren’t proscribing, we aren’t regulating and we aren’t forcing. We’re saying, ‘here’s the plan where everyone in the region will work together on this … we’re going to extend the capacity of our water supply well into the next century.’ So, the answer to your question is, there’s nothing in here of a concrete, regulatory hammer that says if you don’t do this, you’re going to jail or you’re going to pay a fine. We decided not to wait until we were in that position.”
Answering a question from Councilwoman Alfred Mae Drakeford, Gullet said the plan places caps on the amount of interbasin transfers, based on the settlement between North and South Carolina.
Like Polk, Councilman Walter Long wondered whether or not a regulatory component would come into play at some point. Gullet reiterated that he hopes the plan will avoid the need for regulation. In addition, Mosteller noted that regulatory agencies are among the stakeholders and assisted with paying for the plan’s development.
Long said he was afraid a participating community might “stray outside the lines” by growing faster than the basin can handle.
“I’ll say that the projections (for) towns like yours -- they will get a lot of scrutiny, but they’re pretty conservative in favor of towns. One of the things that we didn’t want to happen is that the master plan become constricting. We believe that they want to grow and that our charge as public water suppliers is to support whatever level of growth that the towns want on an individual basis,” Gullet said.
Also during the work session:
• KershawHealth Vice President for Marketing and Community Development Joseph Bruce updated council on the LiveWell Kershaw program.
• Joe DeLoach and Kevin Jackson reported on plans to bring back a junior tennis tournament to Camden in May 2015 and add an adult tournament for that fall.
• Council discussed, but ultimately decided to hold off on, creating a King Hagler Clock Tower (buiding) committee in favor of having staff bring forward recommendations first.
• City Manager Mel Pearson updated council of plans to expand Central Carolina Technical College’s I-20 campus.
• Pearson also updated council on design work for possible renovations to Rhame Arena.
The work session ended with other business from Mayor Scully and Councilwoman Laurie Parks.
Scully thanked Camden Media Co. for publishing the first annual Discover Camden - Kershaw County visitors and relocation guide.
“It’s an outstanding publication and, particularly when you read it, it’s a celebration of everything we are here. It couldn’t have been done better. So, I was thrilled to read it,” Scully said.
Parks asked if the city would consider joining the Municipal Association of South Carolina’s “Cities Mean Business” program. She said it has been “very successful” in other cities across the state and would show that city government supports local businesses.