More than 40 municipalities around the state have passed resolutions against state government control of municipal water infrastructure. Now, the North Carolina legislature plans to seize control of Asheville’s water system. The issue goes back to when Asheville entered into a regional water authority with Henderson and Buncombe counties. As time passed, the partnership dissolved and Asheville retained authority of the water system. The legislators backing the takeover say the new system would protect non-city customers from having to pay more than city customers, while keeping Asheville from using the water as a tool for controlling growth. Opponents of the legislative push say that the move would discourage cities and towns from building their own water systems, thereby allowing privatization of a vital resource.
The North Carolina trust fund used to help local governments and conservation groups finance restoration and land protection projects faces a questionable future. The state legislature has cut the Clean Water Management Trust Fund’s appropriations nearly 90 percent below their $100 million peak in the past two years. The program is currently seeking $40 million for the next two years. Legislators also dropped the fund from the state’s recurring budget, such that the fund now has to fight for unspent money. This year, the program approved only $11.6 million of $122 million in grants that were requested. The clean water fund, which has laid off nearly half its staff since 2009, has spent more than $1 billion since its inception in 1996 to buy land and protect waterways, fix failing sewage treatment plants and perform restoration projects.