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Federal officials halt Boone water intake project

Anna Oakes/WD

Originally published: Feb. 10, 2013
Last modified: Feb. 10, 2013

Adam Orr

Federal authorities have effectively shuttered Boone’s proposed water intake project, at least for the moment, because Boone has not provided Ashe County with documents authorities say the county needs to make an informed decision on the project’s impact, according to letters provided by Ashe County Manager Pat Mitchell.

Town of Boone officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to a Feb. 9 email, following several attempts to obtain information about the project from Boone, Mitchell said she participated in a Nov. 13, 2012, conference call that also included Ashe County Emergency Management Coordinator Patty Gambill, and officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the North Carolina State Division of Emergency Management (NCDEM). 

“As a result of that phone call, FEMA directed the NCDEM to go back to Boone and obtain updated maps/plans/information and provide them to my office,” said Mitchell. 

Mitchell said she later contacted NCDEM on Jan. 10 that she had received no information from Boone in the nearly two months since the conference call. Mitchell also said three emails were also sent to NCDEM with no response. 

“A request was (then) made to the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Public Safety - the attached letters are the result of that contact,” according to Mitchell. “The letters, in summary, state that FEMA is not moving ahead with the Water Intake Project as the Town of Boone has not provided the information that Ashe County needs to make an informed decision about signing the MT-2 form, and Ashe County’s signature, as an “impacted community,” is necessary to move ahead.”

According to FEMA’s website, MT-2 forms are used by community officials, or individuals via community officials, to ask that FEMA revise the effective National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) map, and Flood Insurance Study Report for a community.

Forms are also used for requesting FEMA comments on a proposed project issued in the form of a conditional Letter of Map Revision. 

“These forms assure FEMA that all pertinent data relating to the request is included in the submittal,” according to FEMA’s website. “They also ensure that 1) data and methodology are based on current conditions 2) qualified professionals have assembled data and performed necessary computations and 3) individuals and organizations affected by proposed changes are aware of the changes and have an opportunity to comment.”

“The FEMA letter states this project is terminated and any additional data submitted regarding this project will be treated as a new submittal and subject to all fees and will be assigned a new case number,” wrote Mitchell, meaning Boone could be required to pay $4,400 - $7,150 to resubmit the MT-2, according to a current fee schedule available at the North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Program’s website. 

In October of last year, Mitchell contacted Boone Town Manager Greg Young in an attempt to clear up uncertainty surrounding the intake project - including a proposed access road that could enter Ashe County.

Mitchell requested a meeting with Young to obtain current maps and plans for the intake project, according to an Oct. 19 email, including the access road, and the route of the plant’s proposed transmission line. 

Young’s response came six days later in an Oct. 25 email. 

“At this time, the rights-of-ways on Brownwood Road are still in the early stage of acquisition,” wrote Young. “As far as your remaining questions go, I'm unable to provide any definite responses at this time other than reiterating that the town of Boone does not own any real property or any property interest in Ashe County, and would not attempt to acquire one without the Ashe County Commissioner's approval.”

Young further wrote, “I'm not sure that meeting will be beneficial to you as I don't think I would be at liberty to provide the information you're seeking. Is the county reconsidering their position on this matter? I don't understand why you're asking these questions now.”

The 4 million gallon-per-day raw water intake facility is planned for a 10-acre site on the South Fork of the New River between Todd and Brownwood in Watauga County and will transport water to Boone's water treatment plant via a transmission line along Brownwood Road and U.S. 421. 

The deed for the sale of the 10-acre property guarantees the town a 45-foot-wide, 3,000-foot-long right-of-way and easement on adjacent land owned by the Cooper family from the water intake property in Watauga County to Cranberry Springs Road in Ashe County for an access road to the water intake site.

For more information and stories, see Ashe Mountain Times.