To the Contrary

The Catawba River dispute

North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley recently reiterated his appeal for that state's residents to "be really tight with the water" in light of an ongoing drought. Unfortunately, the water problems in the Tar Heel State have a direct bearing on South Carolina's worsening water woes as well.

That's because major sources of drinking water, like the Catawba River, flow through both states. If North Carolina taps out too much, there's not enough left for South Carolina.

So far, the message apparently hasn't trickled down to North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who recently contended that his state's water needs aren't severe enough to pose an imminent threat to South Carolina's. But even a long-term threat should be a neighborly concern.

Problems certainly would arise under a plan to pump 72 million gallons of water a day out of the Catawba, primarily to alleviate water shortages in Concord and Kannapolis. North Carolina's diversion would diminish the Palmetto State's water supply -- and, in the view of South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster, would be a clear violation of U.S. law.

With that long-term crisis looming, South Carolina and her neighboring states are in this together. Prudent water conservation and management policies are in order.

So is fair sharing of this precious resource.

Conserving land

When Gov. Mark Sanford suggests spending another nickel -- much less $50 million -- you know it's something important.

Sanford used our own Palmetto Bluff as a quiet, woodsy backdrop to announce his proposal to add $50 million to the South Carolina Conservation Land Bank to set aside and preserve land.

He said that will be part of his executive budget for next year. ...

It will be up to the legislature to make it happen. ...

The state Conservation Bank -- which has preserved 134,172 acres from its inception in 2004 through 2007 -- is one of the soundest and most important tools available to deal with growth. ...

As we rip apart the landscape in our frantic grab for the almighty dollar, we should remember that future generations will value what we did not do more than what we did. They will value our open spaces, clean rivers and clear vistas.

That's why Palmetto Bluff is to be thanked.

And that's why the tightfisted governor should be listened to in the legislature when he proposes a financial boost to the state Conservation Bank.

On the Net:

The Beaufort Gazette on parole reform, Dec. 11:

South Carolina has made progress in parole reforms for prisoners over the decades, but South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster wants some eye-popping reforms that could reduce the state's prison population. ...

Under McMaster's plan that he hopes will receive serious debate when the General Assembly convenes, truth in sentencing would prevail while revamping the parole system. ...

The truth-in-sentencing portion of his proposal would ensure judges that sentences meted out would be truthful, which has caused may to exclaim that state lawmakers must provide more money for a system that has less funding than in 1999. An assumption is that the prison population would grow.

But McMaster hopes that South Carolina's prison population will respond as it did in Virginia, where it decreased. ...

This important debate comes at an important time. A February report released by the Public Safety Performance Project, a project of the Pew Charitable Trusts, projects large growth in prison population and the costs for most states through 2011. "Public Safety, Public Spending: Forecasting America's Prison Population 2007-2011" indicates a 13 percent increase in America's prison population. Costs could exceed $27 billion. The report's authors project a 16 percent increase in South Carolina's prison population.

Pay attention, lawmakers.

On the Net: