The Planning Board, during its scheduled meeting on Thursday, June 5, brought up in discussion the potential expansion of the water line from the town of Jefferson to the Ore Knob mine area in the Laurel Springs area of the county.
“I think we have talked about utilities in every section we’ve discussed, whether it was commercial or jobs or housing,” said Ashe County Planner Adam Stumb. “The EPA is looking at running a water line from Jefferson to the Ore Knob mine to serve 13 houses.”
Stumb said he had been in contact with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about the project and what their plans were for the water line. From there was a talk about what that line could mean for planning in the county.
“The (EPA’s) obligation is not to move people or to kick them out of their houses, but to provide them with safe, clean drinking water,” he said. “Right now, they are probably going to do a 12 inch water line. It wouldn’t serve industrial growth, but it could serve more homes and less water-intensive businesses.”
In a meeting of the Jefferson Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, May 27, members of the EPA and N.C. Department of Natural Resources discussed with the Board moving a line from Jefferson to Laurel Springs. There had been no official vote on having the water line, but Stumb expressed confidence it would be approved.
“I don’t know if they have signed the dotted line, but they have essentially agreed to do it,” he said.
The pipe would follow N.C. 88 to Laurel Springs and then service the affected houses. Board member Rick Surber asked if the water would be serviced by Jefferson and Stumb said yes.
“The federal government will be footing the bill, but Jefferson will be the owner when it is done,” Stumb said.
Tentatively, the project could be started as early as 2016, but there is no official funding in place for the project yet.
“(The year 2016) could still be a generous figure,” Stumb said. “The project is to the point now to where they can ask for money from the federal government.”
Stumb said the potential water line will continue to be a planning department matter of interest and a source of future discussion for the planning board.
“It is a good thing to put in our plans,” Stumb said. “It may still be two years off, but it’s worth talking about.”
Board member Priscilla Cox ended the discussion by saying it would also be worth talking to the N.C. Department of Transportation about their future plans along the N.C. 88 corridor between Jefferson and Laurel Springs.
“It kind of changes the way we might think (for the future use),” she said.
The next meeting of the Planning Board will take place Thursday, June 19.
Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.