EMERALD ISLE — Emerald Isle commissioners ended 17 months of discussion and occasional debate Tuesday night, voting 5-0 to lease a portion of McLean-Spell Park to Bogue Banks Water Corp. for a new well.
The board’s monthly session was in its meeting room beside the police department off Highway 58 and virtually on GoToWebinar.
The lease site is 44,000 square feet, just larger than 1 acre. McLean-Spell Park is behind the police department and town recreation center and is a heavily wooded natural area with hiking trails.
Wednesday, BBWC Executive Director Seola Hill said it “obviously feels great” to be able to move forward with the well and begin planning and designing the new reverse osmosis water plant it will serve. He said the well construction should begin this winter and be complete by spring. However, “the well won’t go online until the plant is built,” he said, meaning it will sit idle until then.
A lot depends on the timing of permit approvals, chiefly by state agencies, he continued.
“We have to drill a test well to make sure the quality of water is suitable,” before that can happen, he said.
The town bought the 30 acres for the park in 2017, using money from the U.S. Department of Defense, grants from two state agencies and an internal loan. The town reserved the right to use up to 10 acres in the interior of the park for a dog park and ball field. Neither the DOD nor the state grant agencies opposed the lease to the water corporation, according to town manager Matt Zapp.
The land had previously been zoned for multifamily residential development, and part of the reason for the purchase was to prohibit development in a flyover area for Marine Corps Landing Field Bogue. In addition, the town wanted to provide a vegetative buffer for Archers Creek to limit stormwater runoff and help protect water quality.
There were no comments by commissioners or the public before the vote Tuesday night on the lease agreement. However, when Mr. Hill first proposed the lease in February 2020, some environmentalists and residents of nearby Sound Drive voiced strong opposition, saying it would seriously fragment the maritime forest and be an eyesore to nearby homes.
At that time, Mr. Hill said the new well was essential to supply the new treatment plant necessary because of saltwater intrusion into the Castle Hayne Aquifer, especially in the Coast Guard Road corridor.
Opposition to the lease has faded in recent months.
The plant will remove salt and other undesirable substances from water. The corporation, which also serves Indian Beach and Salter Path, already has one reverse osmosis plant in Emerald Isle. The new well is supposed to be silent and odorless, with no generator on site. It will be screened and 60 feet off the nearest trail.
BBWC raised water rates in 2020 in an effort to slow what Mr. Hill called an alarming increase in water usage and the saltwater intrusion into the aquifer.
The lease with the town is for $1,000 a month for the first year, increasing by 3% each subsequent year of the 20-year term. The company would have the option to automatically renew the lease for three additional 10-year terms.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.