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Next round begins in water wars

LAKE WYLIE--South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster said Friday he now has a timeframe for when his state and neighboring North Carolina could begin arguments against each other in the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2007 McMaster sued North Carolina following a decision allowing an interbasin transfer of water from the Catawba River to another basin north of the state line. Since then three parties--Catawba River Water Supply Project, City of Charlotte and Duke Energy--signed up as interveners on the side of North Carolina. Case Special Master Kristin Linsley Myles agreed the interveners should be allowed, while U.S. Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler argued they should not.

"We sued North Carolina," McMaster said, adding that intervening parties could "quadruple the lawyers and expenses" for both states. "Our contention is the state of South Carolina represents everybody in South Carolina, and the state of North Carolina represents everybody in North Carolina."

While in recent months McMaster could give no timeframe for when the states might argue on the intervener issue, he said Friday that the High Court told him to expect to be in Washington, D.C. in October. McMaster believes the case will result in a "comprehensive decision based on information, evidence and testimony from a variety of expert sources" with even more extensive input than the existing water use modeling used by Duke Energy.

On Thursday McMaster praised a decision by S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control against a Duke Energy certification request for a water quality requirement needed for an upcoming relicensing agreement. If that decision were reversed, McMaster said, the case against North Carolina could be compromised.

"We're hopeful," he said, "but it's a very complicated lawsuit. "