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A view of Lake Tillery, which is considered a valuable resource for Stanly County. The county's abundance of water is regarded as critical to its future growth and prosperity.

Stanly, Norwood, Union County settle Tillery lawsuit

Stanly County’s lawsuit against the town of Norwood and Union County Public Works over the sale of 23 million gallons of water from Lake Tillery has been resolved.

All of the parties reached an agreement Monday, ending the year-old lawsuit. Stanly’s leaders opposed Norwood selling the water to Union County as well as the state’s issuance of an inter-basin transfer certificate. The IBT allows Union to siphon water from Tillery and out of the Yadkin-Pee Dee River in a move to meet the demands of growth.

In a joint statement, the parties advised Union County, Stanly County and the towns of Norwood and Wingate had reached an agreement to settle the lawsuit.

“The settlement supports long-term water supply needs and cooperative planning in the region. The parties are pleased to put the lawsuits behind them and believe this settlement benefits the residents of Union, Stanly, Norwood and Wingate,” the statement read.

Although Wingate was not a party of Stanly’s lawsuit, the IBT certificate benefited Wingate. Therefore, Wingate intervened to defend the certificate.

Monday’s settlement does not end the legal challenges surrounding the water deal. Other entities, including Montgomery County and the Yadkin Riverkeeper are challenging the state’s decision to issue the IBT.

In July 2017, Stanly filed a motion with the Office of Administrative Hearings to contest the collective decisions of the Environmental Management Commission and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality to allow the IBT.

Monday’s settlement also resolved the above challenge as well.

Because of the remaining litigation, stakeholders with Stanly, Union, Norwood and Wingate announced they would not make additional comments about the settlement, including the terms of the agreement, the statement read.

Stanly County has paid $408,713 in legal fees toward its litigation with UCPW and Norwood. Those fees are expected to grow to $525,000 for recent legal services. The settlement, however, calls for UCPW to reimburse Stanly up to $500,000 for legal fees and expert consultation within the next 30 days, according to County Manager Andy Lucas.

Both the Board of County Commissioners and Norwood’s commissioners met in closed session Monday before emerging with unanimous votes in favor of the settlement.

The agreement between Norwood and UCPW originated in May 2013. An IBT certificate was awarded in 2016. Stanly County filed its lawsuit in August 2017.

Stanly’s counsel previously argued the deal between Union and Norwood threatens the county’s future water source, which is projected to increase 135 percent over the next 20 years, according to the lawsuit. It contends the deal addresses Union’s need for water, but at the expense of Stanly County.

Per the contract, Norwood’s raw water intake pump is to be expanded at the expense of Union. Both will jointly own the intake and the aboveground housing.

However, sole ownership of the raw water transmission line belongs to UCPW.

Union County has already paid Norwood $525,000, which included a $150,000 payment in 2013 and annual payments of $75,000 from 2014-18. Installments are scheduled to be capped at $1 million. Once operational the contract calls for Norwood to receive 5 cents per 1,000 gallons of water on a monthly basis, with an annual escalation rate of 0.25 percent on the 5 cents starting at the sixth year of operations.

Contact Ritchie Starnes at 704-754-5076 or ritchie.starnes@stanlynewspress.com.