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Water Production Projects Could Be Expedited at State Level

Gov. Mike Easley said he would like to see what could be done to expedite projects that could help increase water output for the future.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — As local leaders across the state continue to monitor water levels amid worsening drought conditions, Gov. Mike Easley said Wednesday they also need to begin looking now at long-term drought relief.

In Raleigh, the projection calls for doubling production in 13 years from 86 million gallons to 160 million gallons. Officials believe the $500 million plan would help guard against drought for the next 30 years.

Projects were under way "that will provide an extra measure of, I'll say, drought resistance," Ed Buchan, a water conservation specialist with Raleigh's Public Utilities Department.

The Dempsey Benton Plant in Garner, which will add a capacity of 20 million gallons of water every day by adding new lakes to the system, will be completed in 2010.

An expansion of the E. M. Johnson Plant at Falls Lake will be finished in 2015 and will pump in 34 million more gallons every day.

It will be at least 2020 before the Little River Facility, which will produce about 20 million more gallons, comes on line in eastern Wake County. As of mid-October, however, construction on the plant had not started. Paperwork from the state level ties up the projects, Buchan said.

"That's the issue – trying to get all the proper permits," he said.

Easley said Wednesday he would like to see what can be done to speed up the process.

"We need to start looking at going on and getting those systems in place, now, for situations like these (the dwindling water supply) so they don't happen again," he said.

State officials say they are ready to work with Raleigh leaders when, and if, they make a request to speed up some of that paperwork. The funding for the three water projects will not come from tax money but from water and sewer fees.

The state has announced plans to meet with local government and business leaders about the drought and ways to conserve water. Three meetings will happen in Raleigh, Greensboro and Asheville on Oct. 30.


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