Governments: Catawba can't handle water transfer

LAKE JAMES, N.C. -- Representatives of 21 local governments in the upper Catawba River basin signed a letter Wednesday asking the cities of Concord and Kannapolis to withdraw their request to take 10 million gallons a day from the river.

The current drought, which has depleted the Catawba and its lakes, shows that the water transfer would stretch the river's resources too far, said the cities, which comprise the Protect the Catawba Coalition.

The letter also will be sent to N.C. Gov. Mike Easley and the N.C. Environmental Management Commission, which approved the two cities' request -- and a request to take a similar amount from the Yadkin River -- in January. Shortly after, the cities along the Catawba River formed the coalition.

In March, the group filed an appeal of the EMC's decision, asking an administrative law judge to overturn it. The coalition also worked with state lawmakers from the area to introduce bills tightening controls on such transfers.

Now, coalition members are hoping that one of the state's worst droughts will sway Concord and Kannapolis leaders to change their minds.