It’s time for state to fix Jordan Lake

Two fishermen chat with each other near the Seaforth boat launch on Jordan Lake Friday Nov.15, 2013.
Two fishermen chat with each other near the Seaforth boat launch on Jordan Lake Friday Nov.15, 2013. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Here’s a resolution for Triangle voters in 2018: Fix Jordan Lake.

That resolve will mean voting out any local state lawmaker who does not make protecting the quality of this crucial drinking water supply a top priority.

The General Assembly’s Republican leaders, ever eager to serve the interests of developers upstream from the lake, have made a mockery of protecting the drinking water source that serves more than 300,000 Triangle residents. The legislature has now twice tried to prevent harmful algae blooms in the lake by treating the lake rather than limiting the flow of fertilizers and other phosphorous-rich sources that go into the river that feeds the lake, the Haw River. The nutrients lead to algae blooms, which affect water quality and degrade the lake for fishing, swimming and boating.

The legislature’s first effort involved a $1 million project that placed floating, solar-powered devices in the lake to stir the water. The devices, known as “SolarBees,” didn’t work.

The latest proposal, buried in the state budget, is to spend $1.3 million to have a contractor chemically treat the water and dump up to 350 tons of chemically treated clay into a 300-acre portion of the 14,000-acre lake. In November, as originally reported by NC Policy Watch, the Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over the lake created in the 1970s, rejected the treatment plan. The Corps said the chemicals could damage aquatic life and the clay would reduce the reservoir’s storage capacity.

Triangle legislators, particularly those representing Apex, Cary and Morrisville, need to take a stand. They should insist that the so-called “Jordan Lake rules,” standards that limit upstream sources of pollution, finally take effect. The legislature suspended imposition of the rules in 2013 after opponents argued that compiling with the standards would be too costly for developers and municipalities in Triad area.

Elaine Chiosso, executive director of the Haw River Assembly, a group that advocates for the river’s water quality, welcomed the Corps’ decision and said it’s time for lawmakers to address the cause of the algae blooms rather than treat the problem in Jordan Lake.

“They just need to get serious and get back to the Jordan Lake rules. It pretty shameful that it’s gone to this point with these ridiculous ideas,” she said.

The cost of compliance – largely a matter of expanding buffers along the Haw River – need not be borne entirely by upstream counties. The cost can be shared statewide in the interest of protecting not only the quality of drinking water, but also the economic health of a region that is an economic engine for North Carolina.

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