A state grant is being sought and a local group established, spearheaded by the city of Clinton, to monitor Sampson County’s long-term water supply in an effort to ensure that a limited resource is gauged and protected for the future.
“It’s part of our long-term planning to make sure we have an adequate water supply for our citizens,” said city manager John Connet.
Last month, Connet presented a proposal to create a countywide water advisory group made up of all major water users within Sampson County. The proposal recommended that the group apply for a grant from the N.C. Rural Center to develop strategies to implement better groundwater monitoring, system interconnections and long-range planning.
He gave an update on the progress being made during a recent City Council meeting.
“Over the last month, I have met with Sampson County manager Ed Causey and the county is very much interested in being part of this group and being co-sponsors with us as we apply for a grant to do some long-term planning work,” the city manager said. “We feel that we should take the next six months to develop this group and grant applications.”
Specifically, the grant from the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center would a matching $45,000 grant that requires $22,500 in local funds. The grant would be for the purpose of developing an intergovernmental water supply consortium to develop and implement a long-term water supply management program. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Environment Management Commissioner have shared concerns for overuse of the groundwater aquifers in the Southern Coastal Plain.
“Most of the money will be spent putting monitoring wells down and putting monitoring devices on all of our well systems, so we can ensure we all have adequate water supply in the future,” said Connet.
The proposed local program is designed to help county water stakeholders to more closely monitor groundwater levels; evaluate existing use of groundwater resources and the extent of any regional drawdown impacts; and make recommendations for optimizing continued and future utilization of the major aquifers supplying the region.
The group, which would be called the Sampson County Water Supply Advisory Council would provide guidance and oversight to the program. The role of the Council will be to develop an overall strategy for future water availability, including the review of any regional studies or system interconnections.
Through that joint effort, it is hoped groundwater levels can be monitored and trends identified concerning major aquifers supplying the region, but that working relations between various stakeholders can also be fostered. That includes not only public water supply, but commercial and industrial users, as well as agriculture and agribusiness.
Without vested interest from the major users, a program will not be as successful, Connet stated.
“We would like for this to be a partnership,” said Connet. “We would reach out to other entities to come up with the matching funds, it would not all come from the city. I think it would be appropriate, since we started this, for us to be the lead agency.”
Connet introduced the effort toward a comprehensive county water council last month and said last week that efforts were continuing. The next several months will be spent meeting with other water providers in the county, including Harrells, Garland, Salemburg, Roseboro, Turkey to start building support before making an application for the grant in April or May “and move full steam in July,” he said.
The group will be prepared to implement the planning process on July 1, 2013.
By developing the water council and working closely with the Lumber River Council of Governments (LRCOG), which helped draft the proposal for the water supply planning program, it would additionally aid in the city of Clinton’s efforts in “comprehensive planning toward 2030 and beyond,” Connet stated.
The local group would utilizes existing database and map server programs with LRCOG and the N.C. Division of Water Resources.
It is estimated that the program would cost approximately $45,000 over an initial 18-month timeframe. The expenditures would include consultations and work products from a hydro geologist, at $30,000, technical writing and research/planning staff to conduct project work, at $15,000, and any incidentals for the Advisory Council at a minimal cost. The Rural Center grant proposal would cover 50 percent of the project costs, with $22,500 to be paid locally.
“We would like to obtain some grant money to do some additional monitoring, some 5-year data projections to really look at the availability of groundwater in Sampson County,” said Connet. “We have limited surface water opportunities in Sampson County. We would have to buy water or reach out to our neighbors in Harnett County or Cumberland County or Bladen County for surface water. So we want to do some projections and a lot of monitoring.”
Connet said the goal was to move forward, with any red flags or concerns brought to Council as they come up.
“We feel like it’s moving forward,” Connet said. “We don’t really need any action at this time, just let you know that if City Council feels this is something we need to do — which I think you do — we’ll just continue moving on and keep you updated as we move through the process.”
The board accepted the update as informational, but noted it was the right direction to move.
“I think Council is 100 percent behind this,” said Mayor Lew Starling.
Councilman Steve Stefanovich said he appreciated the initiative taken.
“I think we really do need to push forward in a big way,” said Stefanovich, “to do all we can to find out where all our water resources are.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.