OTHER OPINION: North Carolina regions battle about water

The more than 300,000 people in the western Research Triangle who rely on Jordan Lake for their drinking water got a message from the General Assembly last week: Let them drink blame.

In this case, blame comes in the flavor of blue-green algae that is blooming in the lake because of increasing levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, primarily from Burlington and Greensboro.

State and local officials and citizens worked for years to develop requirements known as the Jordan Lake rules to limit upstream pollutants. Most local governments in the watershed have taken steps to comply, but some in Guilford and Alamance counties have resisted.

Now forces in the General Assembly are pushing an argument that Jordan Lake was poorly designed and will inevitably be subject to algae blooms. Blame the Army Corps of Engineers for designing the lake without building in ways to absorb runoff and nutrients from the explosive development that followed the lake’s opening 20 years ago.

Implementing the rules has been repeatedly delayed, and now some lawmakers want to hold off for another three years, at least.

This delay, approved by a state House committee last week, is supposed to be an improvement on a Senate bill offered by Sen. Rick Gunn that would have just ended the plans.
Gunn, a Burlington commercial real estate executive, proposes using the interim to test whether new technology can prevent algae buildup.
Helping Greensboro and other upstream communities with the costs should be the focus of the General Assembly’s efforts, not eliminating the costs by postponing or killing the rules.

This is an unnecessary water war and one that the Triangle cannot afford to lose. When regional interests are at odds, it is up to the governor to provide the longer view. Gov. Pat McCrory should speak directly to the issue. If the state can’t work this out, the Environmental Protection Agency will.

Raleigh News & Observer