County OKs long-term water supply deal
In six to ten years, Union County will have a new water source — a pipeline to Lake Tillery.
Monday night, the Union County Board of Commissioners approved a 60-year contract with the town of Norwood in Stanly County. For the past year and a half, county officials negotiated with the town on an agreement to run a pipeline from the lake to the the county’s eastern side.
The agreement guarantees Norwood a minimum of 2 million gallons per day to begin with, but allows an expansion of 8 MGD in the future. The total daily capacity of the project will be determined based on both government’s combined 30-year water supply needs.
“It really is a significant
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undertaking in terms of securing our long-term water supply,” Union County Public Works Director Ed Goscicki said.
There is no native water source in the county large enough to support the population. The county depends on agreements with other counties to buy a certain amount of water from their lakes and rivers each day.
But county officials projected that soon the county’s population would need even more water. But Union County is limited in how much it can buy from Anson County and Lancaster County, S.C.
Anson County rejected Union’s offer for a joint-owned water treatment plant on the Yadkin River. Since the Yadkin is the most practical water source to supply the county’s eastern side, county officials approached other governments along the river.
Norwood officals were open to a partnership, Goscicki said. To provide for its growing population, Norwood needs to do costly improvements to its raw water intake point on Lake Tillery.
So the town and county agreed that Union would built a new water intake large enough for both governments’ needs. Union agrees to pay for operation of its own pump station and Norwood agrees to operate its own.
The county would also pay for a pipline running from Lake Tillery to a new, to-be-constructed water treatment plant in the New Salem area.
“So we’re going to build all of this. One hundred percent of the construction is at our expense,” Goscicki said.
Union County will also handle all the design and permitting needed to begin. In exchange, Norwood agrees to cooperate in getting right-of-way for that construction.
“We cannot own real estate in Stanly County,” Goscicki said. “So all the property, the easements that are currently by the town of Norwood, all the real estate will be owned by Norwood. The pipes will be owned by Union County.”
Permitting may take between five to seven years, he said. Construction could add another two to four years.
“We could be looking anywhere from six to ten years from today before the first drop of water starts to flow,” Goscicki said.
During that time, Union County agrees to pay Norwood annual installments adding up to $1 million by the project’s completion.
Payments to Norwood would continue, but not to pay for the water, Goscicki said.
“It’s important for everyone to understand, it’s not a purchase agreement. We are not buying water from Norwood,” he said. “Norwood does not own this water. It’s waters of the state.”
Instead, the payments are for Norwood’s “good will, cooperation, for the fact that our intake structure will be sitting on their property,” he said. But that cooperation payment is based on how much water Union uses. Goscicki explained a formula of 5 cents for every 1,000 gallons, or $125,000 a year, whichever total is higher. In the sixth year, the rate increases by one quarter of one percent each year after.
There are other details to the agreement. Union agreed that water from Lake Tillery cannot be used for hydraulic fracture mining. Both parties agreed to establish a governance board and implement a dispute resolution process. Union will maintain the joint-owned intake, but each party is responsible for its own pump station. Norwood can also buy finished water from the county in the future at a wholesale rate.