The South Carolina v. North Carolina case over the amount of water being drawn out of the Catawba River is about to take a major step. The U.S. Supreme Court allowed South Carolina to file its lawsuit on December 1, 2007. 22 months later on October 5. The U.S. supreme court will hear the question of the intervenors in the case Duke Energy, the city of Charlotte, and the Catawba River Water Supply Project. The intervenors want to join on the side of the defendant North Carolina.
South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster objects to the intervenors being allowed to join in the case because he says their inclusion will only prolong the proceedings and that will lead to more money and resources being spent on the case.
“They should not be allowed in because their interests, their positions, their points can all be made by the sovereign state of North Carolina which is making the points for everybody else in North Carolina including them and that we are making all the points for everyone in South Carolina including businesses large and small and all the people concerned.”
The Special Master the Supreme Court assigned to the case Kristin Myles initially recommended that intervenors be allowed to join in the case. South Carolina’s objection to that recommendation has led to the October 5 hearing on that objection.
McMaster says the actual case may not be heard for months or even longer because the question involving the intervenors must be decided first. “It will not be brought up soon because this question of intervention by these three additional parties has brought us almost to a standstill. We have had to wait for months in order to have this question resolved. Until this question is resolved, the rest of the case can’t move forward.’
McMaster says eventually when the case is heard, a number of experts are set to offer their testimony on how the daily permanent withdrawal of tens of millions of gallons of water from the Catawba River by the state of North Carolinawould adversely affect business and industry and overall quality of life of the citizens of South Carolina served by the river.
“We’ll hear from the experts, the economic historians, the hydrologists, the people that will talk about business and industry and life on the river, agriculture, the environment. Every conceivable angle and piece of the puzzle will be put together as to the relative needs and dependency of each of the two states on the river now and well into the future.”
McMaster says he was compelled to bring the suit when the Environmental Management Commission of the state of North Carolina granted a permit to the cities of Kannapolis and Concord to permanently withdraw a significant amount of water from the Catawba River. “They gave them a permit to withdraw up to 10 million gallons of water a day out of the Catawba River to pipe it over to those two cities, which are miles away, to use it, clean it, recycle it, and put it back not in the Catawba, but over in the Yadkin Basin which does not flow into the Catawba Basin. They have not yet turn on that pipe.”
McMaster says it must be pointed out that the state of North Carolina spurred by the tremendous growth of Charlotte as a major metropolitan area has been permanently withdrawing tens of million of gallons from the Catawba for a number of years. “62 million gallons a day were permitted previously and that water is being drawn out. That’s just that we know of that has been permitted by the Environmental Management Commission of North Carolina. We don’t know how many interbasin transfers have been made prior to the creation of that management commission, and we don’t know how much water is being taken out by power plants and others that use water for their production purposes.”
McMaster, who is a Republican Candidate for governor in 2010, says if the case is prolonged for months or years, no matter what office he holds he will fight this fight because the future of South Carolina is at stake considering that water is an invaluable resource.
“If the state of North Carolina is able to keep doing as they’ve been doing and that is making decisions about their water usage and having a free hand at taking whatever they want out of rivers that flow through North Carolina into South Carolina, that is if they can deprive us of water at will with no voice by us, which they can do now, then Georgia can do the same thing with the Savannah River and we will be in deep, deep trouble.”