Eastern Wake News

Reservoir likely on hold until 2029

Raleigh Assistant Public Utilities Director Kenneth Waldroup makes a presentation on the proposed Little River Reservoir to the Wendell Town Board in Wendell, N.C., on Monday, July 25, 2016.
Raleigh Assistant Public Utilities Director Kenneth Waldroup makes a presentation on the proposed Little River Reservoir to the Wendell Town Board in Wendell, N.C., on Monday, July 25, 2016. mgoad@newsobserver.com

Raleigh Assistant Public Utilities Director Kenneth Waldroup told the Town Board on Monday, July 27, that construction of the Little River Reservoir, once expected to begin this year, will likely be put off “a generation.”

Because the project would destroy wetlands, the federal permitting process requires the project to be assessed for environmental impact in relation to all options for meeting the region’s water needs.

The region must go with the option that has the lowest environmental impact at a reasonable cost, Waldroup said in an interview after his presentation to the board, and three other options have been identified. “Only when we eliminate all other options can we build the reservoir,” he said.

The top option now, Waldroup said, appears to be a reallotment of Falls Lake water currently reserved for water quality purposes. Raleigh leaders are contending that since 90 percent of water from the lake in the northwest portion of Wake County is reclaimed and reused, the city should be able to use the water now held in the lake for water quality purposes.

That would delay the need to dam the Little River until 2029 or 2030, Waldroup said. “We will need that reservoir one day,” he said, “but these are generational choices.”

One of the other options would be to remove floodwater from the Neuse River below Falls Lake and store it for use, Waldroup said, but a quarry that owns land that would be necessary for this option has expressed that it is not interested in cooperating, and it could cost between $200 million to $900 million to buy the land.

The fourth option is to remove water from the Neuse downstream, near the junction of Johnston and Wake counties.

Waldroup said a public meeting is planned for next week on proposed changes to agreements made between the county and the towns affected by the creation of the reservoir.

The 2008 inter-local agreement prohibits nonresidential development in the reservoir watershed outside of six designated “activity centers,” an urban planning term for areas of commercial mixed use, mostly along the edge of the watershed. The new agreement would allow parks; fire, emergency services and law enforcement stations; recreational uses for subdivisions; solar farms; and telecommunication facilities outside of the activity centers.

The changes would have to be approved by Wake County, Raleigh and other regional municipalities.

The project calls for a 39-foot dam on the Little River that would create a 1,150-acre lake. The reservoir could hold 3.7 billion gallons of water and yield 13.8 million gallons per day. Wake County began acquiring property for the reservoir in 1995.

Matt Goad: 919-829-4826

If you go:

Wake County will hold an open house on proposed changes to the Little River Reservoir inter-local agreement from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 2, at the Wake County Eastern Regional Center, 1002 Dogwood Ave., Zebulon.

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