by Matt Saldaña
Chatham County's elected officials have called on the N.C. Environmental Management Commission to "reconsider" a decision by state regulators to approve a controversial survey of Jordan Lake. In February, the Division of Water Quality--which acts as a watchdog on behalf of EMC--approved the survey, which was paid for by a private developer who owned land affected by the results.
In an April 2 letter to EMC (PDF, 127 KB), Chatham County Board of Commissioners Chairman George Lucier writes:
We believe that allowing the developer to set normal pool levels jeopardizes the integrity of the results, even if they are accurate. We feel that the developer's primary interest is in developing a residential community, but this may or may not be in the best interest of water quality for Jordan Lake...and the many people in the region that depend on its water quality for drinking and recreation.
Lucier notes that the majority of Jordan Lake falls within Chatham County, and its residents rely on the reservoir as their drinking-water source.
In December 2008, the board appealed to the DWQ directly to reject Hunter's survey, in order to preserve “the public health and welfare of those who utilize Jordan Lake and drink its waters, and in the principles of environmental stewardship.”
According to Julie Ventaloro, the state watershed program coordinator at DWQ, if Durham County accepts Hunter’s survey, it will be the first time watershed maps have changed in North Carolina, based on a private developer’s partial surveying of a water supply.
A vote by the Durham County Board of Commissioners is scheduled for April 13.