The Catawba River basin has landed on another most-endangered-places list, this one from the Southern Environmental Law Center.
The law center, which has offices in Chapel Hill, Asheville and Charleston, has represented environmental advocates and groups for 25 years. Today's release is its fourth annual list of places in the South that face "immediate, potentially irreparable threats" this year.
The Catawba, SELC says, faces threats from potentially toxic coal ash ponds at Duke Energy power plants and disruption of stream flows and fish migration by dams. It depicts water withdrawals that might not leave enough water for downstream communities, and unneeded reservoir projects that promote more water use.
None of this will be new to folks who care about the Catawba. Elevated levels of metals have been found near ash ponds at all seven of Duke's N.C. coal-fired power plants, the Observer reported this week, although it's unclear whether the metals come from ash or natural sources.
Renewal of Duke's federal hydro license to manage the Catawba, meanwhile, has been delayed for three years by conflicts over the effects of dams on the endangered shortnose sturgeon.
The Carolinas battled over water from the Catawba before the U.S. Supreme Court in a case settled in late 2010. More recently, the law center questioned the need for a new water-supply reservoir
that a project co-owned by Union County and Lancaster County, S.C., plans to build.
The national advocacy group American Rivers has also listed the Catawba in its annual endangered-rivers roundup.
North Carolina's Piedmont also made the law center's list. Exploration companies are buying leases to tap natural gas deposits in counties southwest of Raleigh. The law center says drilling at those sites could contaminate water supplies. The gas industry, it says, is pushing state legislators to lift a state ban on the drilling technique, hydraulic fracturing, that could exploit those deposits.
Here's the full list.