Jordan Lake plans rankle mayor, board
By Kirk Ross
CARRBORO — The Orange Water and Sewer Authority may be based in Carrboro, but that didn’t stop its hometown’s leaders from tearing into a proposal to allow the utility to draw a water allocation from Jordan Lake.
At its meeting Tuesday night at Town Hall, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen refused to agree to amendments to an inter-local agreement on water and sewer boundaries and planning.
The amendments would allow OWASA to draw its five-million-gallon-per-day allocation from Jordan Lake through existing water connections running from Cary to Durham. OWASA representatives have said that the line would be used in the event of emergencies and when water levels are very low. Not applying for the allocation now, OWASA officials have argued, means risking losing it altogether.
Mayor Mark Chilton voiced strong objection to the plan, starting with a sharply worded critique of land-use planning in the Jordan Lake watershed and its consequences in terms of water quality.
“It washes off the streets of Greensboro,” he said. “It includes every parking lot from here to Wake Forest University, practically.”
Chilton said it was a long-running policy in Orange County to seek a much more tightly managed watershed. The community has made difficult and costly decisions like allowing the expansion of the American Stone Company’s quarry off N.C. 54 in order to later convert it to an OWASA reservoir.
Chilton said the Jordan Lake water is not needed. Recent strides in conservation, he said, mean the community can live with its current water supply.
“Conservation efforts have been more effective than anybody would have guessed 10 years ago,” he said.
Board member Joal Hall Broun said the issue was not the lake water, but freeing up OWASA in the event of emergencies and allowing the utility to find ways to keep the cost of water from rising. Many people in the community can’t afford increases in their water bills like those seen in recent years, she said.
The board voted 6-1, with Broun dissenting, to adopt only a portion of OWASA’s proposed amendments and asked that other local governments be contacted regarding their decisions to approve the plans.
On Monday night, the Chapel Hill Town Council approved the OWASA proposal, but not before several council members raised concerns that the additional supply would lead to more development.
On Tuesday, their counterparts in Carrboro expressed a similar worry.
“To live sustainably with the earth,” board member Dan Coleman said, “is more than a catch phrase.”