GEORGE LANE: Why Pinehurst Wants the Wagram Plant
Why has the village of Pinehurst moved to acquire the water and wastewater plants of the former WestPoint Pepperell mill facilities near Wagram, N.C.?
To understand that, you have only to look back a few years to see what a negative impact a limited supply of water has had on our community and its economy. We are making this purchase primarily to help ensure a sustainable and adequate water supply for the village and the greater Sandhills region. Upon acquisition, the council intends to facilitate partnerships that will supply regional water and eventually wastewater services.
Moore County imposed Stage III Severe Mandatory Conservation measures on Pinehurst residents in 2002 and 2007, and Stage II Moderate Mandatory Conservation measures in 2008. Other communities also faced similar water conservation measures.
Because of these mandated conservation measures, Pinehurst Resort's Carolina Hotel was forced to serve its guests with disposable paper products, and Moore Regional Hospital has had to drill its own private wells to ensure a constant supply of water for health-care needs.
In addition, residents have periodically been restricted from outside use of water, which has resulted in the loss of residents' landscape materials.
Adequate water supply has long been an important issue for Pinehurst. We have actively sought regional solutions, participating on the Water Task Force of the Moore County Summit since its inception. This group was the impetus for the completion of the 2008 McGill Moore County Water Source Evaluation and Plan.
That study was issued almost two years ago and identified the WestPoint facilities as a viable source of water. It also indicated that partnerships between units of government in Moore County and Scotland County may be necessary for this to be a viable alternative. Without question, erasing both municipal and county boundaries is what is needed if we are to ensure an adequate long-term supply of water for our residents.
There are two primary reasons why the village thinks McGill's recommendation is a good one: (1) There is a tremendous capacity in this water source; and (2) It is in the same river basin as southern Moore County.
Today, the facilities are permitted to draw and treat up to roughly seven million gallons per day (mgd) and have a current capacity of four mgd. Both the water and wastewater plants are also expandable. Any water removed from the Lumber River and consumed in Southern Moore County would be only temporarily "borrowed," because any treated wastewater is discharged right back into the same river basin.
The village believes it's important to get these water and wastewater assets in public hands and then form the partnerships that will bring that water to southern Moore County and other Scotland County jurisdictions. The village, along with the Lumber River Council of Governments (COG), is in a position to help facilitate these partnerships.
Jim Perry, executive director of the Lumber River COG, has worked diligently to form a consortium of governments to acquire the WestPoint facilities for the past two years and has laid the groundwork necessary for serious partnership discussions to occur. I commend him for taking a regional approach.
To date, Scotland County, the city of Laurinburg, the town of Southern Pines and the town of Aberdeen have indicated to the village they have an interest in partnering on this project. With populations and water demands expected to increase, it's important not to let this valuable water resource sit idle and possibly slip through our fingers.
Acquiring the WestPoint facilities is the first of many steps in tapping the Lumber River as a regional water resource. Steps that lie ahead include obtaining Scotland County's approval of the sale, creating a separate entity or partnership, determining capacity allocations and installing transmission lines.
The village's elected officials and staff are committed to doing what's right not only for Pinehurst, but for the region as well. I am confident that with solid relationships and mutual intent to serve the needs of the region, the partnership created to access the Lumber River water will benefit many for years to come.
George Lane is mayor of Pinehurst.
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