Pine Forest Could Drain Carthage's Water Supply Dry
Testimony regarding water use and legal rights was "eye-opening" to many citizens during the quasi-judicial public hearing regarding Pine Forest on Jan. 18.
It was so startling that one Moore County commissioner, Larry Caddell, a former mayor of Carthage, felt it necessary to recuse himself from the proceedings after testimony was completed. Asked by County Attorney Misty Leland the reason for his recusal, he said it was due to testimony given that he had an affinity for Nicks Creek (which is Carthage's source of water) and could no longer be an impartial judge.
Caddell, in fact, had helped build the water treatment plant on Nicks Creek when he was mayor of Carthage. And, according to testimony, Nicks Creek could be drained to a trickle for the Pine Forest golf course irrigation - and no legal recourse would work to stop that from happening.
Bill Huber, a retired aerospace engineer, offered detailed official water statistics explaining that the numbers Pine Forest is using to calculate water needed for golf course irrigation just don't work. He used past statistics from Dormie Club and Pinehurst No. 2 to illustrate the large quantities of water needed to keep golf courses green.
Interestingly, Huber and Allison Weakley, a biologist and watershed expert, both stated that according to General Statute 143-215.22H, there is no state limit or permit required for golf course water use; users of more than 100,000 GPD (gallons per day) merely have to register and report their use.
And, according to 1977 N.C. Supreme Court case McGuire v. Draughon, it is considered "reasonable" in a legal sense for farmers to have a right to irrigate crops or golf course owners to have a right to irrigate greens and fairways - no matter how much water is required.
The capacity of developer MHK's proposed private wastewater treatment plant will not be adequate to produce enough water for the 2 ? Pine Forest golf courses, as well as the one Dormie golf course, all of which will be connected to one another via water and sewer lines along N.C. 73. This is the problem.
So where will the excess water for irrigation of the golf courses and residential landscaping come from? It cannot come from county-supplied potable water. The developer has said it will not move water south from Little River across N.C. 73, though this remains to be seen. That leaves only Nicks Creek as an additional water source.
Of course, MHK has assured Carthage, whose treatment plant for its potable water is only 8 miles downstream, that it has no intention to withdraw water from Nicks Creek. Nevertheless, as Huber has stated, "this is a promise, not a contract," and any agreement made between the developer and the county would be worthless in court because of the N.C. Supreme Court's ruling.
In the future, if Pine Forest's homeowners' association or golf course superintendent decides that additional water is needed for any reason, such as drought, it can take whatever water it needs from any water source on the property because of the riparian rights to "reasonable use," as announced by the N.C. Supreme Court.
Those water sources are Little River for the Dormie Club and Nicks Creek for the Pine Forest Club; they can be piped between MHK's two tracts via its treatment plant infrastructure.
This developer has the constitutional right to take water from Nicks Creek and drain it dry except for a trickle once rezoning approval is given for Pine Forest. Keep in mind that Nicks Creek ran dry in the drought of 2002, and Carthage had to purchase water on three occasions from Southern Pines.
The reality is: Whatever contract or promise MHK signs not to take water from Nicks Creek, it won't hold up in any court, either state or federal.
Don't you think MHK, a highly sophisticated Florida-based corporation, would have known that fact already? In the future, how would we feel if our commissioners approve MHK's proposal and Nicks Creek is run dry?
Better to deny this rezoning and have water in our streams, not only to preserve our native flora and fauna, but also to safeguard Carthage's ability to provide water to its citizens.
Ruth Stolting is secretary of Save Our Sandhills Inc.
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