Opinion

Water lawsuit welcome

S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster's request that the U.S. Supreme Court decide whether North Carolina has the right to take millions of gallons of water from the Catawba was the next logical step in this legal battle. We hope the high court will take the needs of South Carolinians more seriously than the state of North Carolina did.

At issue is a proposal by North Carolina to draw 10 million gallons of water a day from the Catawba River and divert it to the fast-growing cities of Kannapolis and Concord. The cities would use the water to fuel new residential and industrial development.

A large coalition of diverse groups has formed to fight the plan. York County has joined with 16 towns and counties in the Catawba River basin to appeal the decision by the N.C. Environmental Management Commission to allow the transfer. The proposal also has prompted calls in the legislatures of both North and South Carolina to overhaul water policies to prevent such transfers in the future.

McMaster argues that once the commission made its decision, South Carolina has no right of veto and few avenues left to reverse the decision. He favors formation of an interstate compact to decide this and other water issues.

The largest hurdle will be convincing the Supreme Court to hear the case. If it does, however, the ruling could set precedent for future water disputes nationwide.

The case, however, probably would not be heard until October at the earliest. Then, it could take months before the court hands down its ruling.

Whatever the ultimate resolution, a delayed ruling also might keep the transfer of water from the Catawba basin in limbo for some time. That could provide North and South Carolina lawmakers an opportunity to work out a solution of their own. The Southern Environmental Law Center, representing the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, also has filed an appeal challenging the transfer.

We are gratified that opponents of the transfer are pursuing any and all available avenues to stopping it. Most satisfying, however, would be a Supreme Court ruling in favor of South Carolina.

IN SUMMARY

Dispute over transfer of water from the Catawba may be settled by Supreme Court.

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