Report supports need for Boone water intake

Article Published: Dec. 17, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

A U.S. Department of Agriculture environmental assessment currently up for public comment is supporting the town's stated need for an additional 4 million gallons of water per day.

The assessment, released for comment Dec. 4, placed the 2002 per-capita water use at just over 82.3 gallons per day.

Projected to 2030 population levels, that would require the town supply an average of 2.75 million gallons per day. It also adds expectations of 500,000 gpd for Blowing Rock and 1 million for unallocated unexpected growth to put an projected supply of 4.25 million gpd, or a peak daily demand of 6.8 million gallons.

Currently, the town is permitted to draw and treat up to 3 million gpd from two intakes on Winkler's Creek and the South Fork of the New River.

The town is seeking to withdraw an additional 4 million gpd from a location along the New River in the Brownwood community, bordering Ashe and Watauga counties.

It would require about 12 miles of transmission lines to ship the water back to Boone for treatment and use, though the town's water-treatment plant and, eventually, its wastewater treatment capacity, would have to be expanded before the full 7 million gallons per day could be used.

The assessment looks at a number of alternatives, including wells, the Watauga River, three sites on the New River, interconnections and optimization of existing facilities, in addition to the "No action alternative." The town studied 27 different sites before selecting the site near Cranberry Springs Road and placing a purchase option on a parcel of land there, with plans to built a water plant that looks like a barn.

It would lie within a 100-year floodplain but engineers say the plant won't alter flood levels.
The town currently supplies about 1.6 to 1.7 million gpd to its population of 16,400, while the town's treatment facilities are expected to be expanded to 4.5 million gpd.

The assessment says new development is likely to occur whether the plant is built or not, with waterway impacts resulting either way.

"It is debatable whether lower density development associated with private wells or higher density development with public water will have less overall water quality impact," the assessment stated.

It also addresses concerns raised about pharmaceutical drugs, hormones and other untested chemicals entering the water system.

The assessment cites Environmental Protection Agency research that says wastewater treatment "has been shown to aid in the removal" of some of the substances.

It acknowledges some may be broken down easily by the body while others aren't, but says little research has been conducted on their effects.

The assessment also states: "Because significant changes to stream flow and depth will not occur, no permanent impacts to aquatic habitat at the intake gallery site are anticipated."

In the executive summary, the assessment says no direct impacts are expected on federally protected species and that secondary and cumulative impacts "are minimized by town and county ordinance language and will not be significant."

The complete 289-page environmental assessment is available at

Copies will also be available for review during normal business hours at the USDA, Rural Development office at 134 Government Circle, Suite 201 in Jefferson, NC 28640, (336) 246-8818; Boone City Hall at 567 West King Street in Boone, NC 28607, (828) 268-6200; and Boone Public Utilities Department at 321 East King Street in Boone, NC 28607, (828) 268-6250.

Comments should be made by Jan. 4, 2010 to Sandra Lawrence at USDA, Rural Development at 134 Government Circle, Suite 201 in Jefferson, NC 28640, (336) 246-8818.

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