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Union County lands long-term water deal

Union County has finally secured a long-term water source for residents in the eastern part of the county.

Officials made a 60-year deal with the town of Norwood in Stanly County to run a pipeline from Lake Tillery into Union County. Engineers for the county are now working on the necessary permits and conceptual designs, said Ed Goscicki, the county’s public works executive director.

Union County has no natural water source. It purchases Yadkin River water from Anson County and has a joint venture agreement with the Lancaster County, S.C., Water and Sewer District for water from the Catawba River.

About 80 percent of Union County’s water comes from the Catawba.

North Carolina has strict regulations about transferring water from one river basin to another. That inter-basin transfer issue was the main reason Union County looked to use more Yadkin water, Goscicki said.

Anson County was unable to provide much more water than it is currently delivering. The Norwood deal enables Union County to eventually have about a 50-50 usage of Yadkin and Catawba water. “This will help create a balance” between Yadkin and Catawba water, Goscicki added.

Union needed more water for future growth.

“This has been a monumental task,” Commissioner Todd Johnson said when the deal was unanimously approved this spring. “I don’t think folks understand the magnitude of this agreement ... (which) helps set the availability of water for Union County for years and years.”

Commissioner Jonathan Thomas agreed, saying the deal will help the county improve quality of life and economic development.

As part of the plan, Union County will build a raw water intake facility on Lake Tillery that will replace Norwood’s intake system. There will be two pump stations, one for the county and one for Norwood.

A pipeline from the site will run to the New Salem community in Union County, although an actual location has not been chosen yet.

The permitting, design and construction work could take roughly seven to 10 years, Goscicki said. During that period, the county will pay Norwood annual payments that combined would total up to $1 million.

The county is not buying the water, which belongs to the state. It is essentially paying for Norwood’s “good will,” Goscicki said, since the plant is on Norwood property.

Union would make a monthly payment to Norwood of 5 cents per 1,000 gallons, or $125,000 a year, whichever is greater, with a small increase in the monthly costs starting in the sixth year.

A six-member advisory board will get updates on the project and provide advice on its operations. Members will include two elected officials from Union County and from Norwood, Norwood’s town manager and the county’s public works director.

After the initial 60-year period ends, the deal will automatically renew for 40 years at a time unless either party gives a 10-year notice it wants to end the agreement.

Bell: 704-358-5696
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