South Carolina has settled a pending U.S. Supreme Court case against North Carolina over water use in the Catawba-Wateree River Basin.
Attorney General Henry McMaster announced the agreement, which he said will give state residents, businesses and agencies a voice in future river use, at a Tuesday press conference. Both states and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to dismiss the case.
The agreement will not set specific limits on water use, McMaster said, but will provide a framework for long-term planning. The agreement also allows either state to return to court should some significant future water use or demand issue arise that can not be worked out otherwise.
But McMaster said the agreement includes several protections for state interests:
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Residents, businesses and state agencies must be notified before a permit can be issued to draw water from the Catawba-Wateree River Basin, which includes an opportunity to appear at a public hearing.
Before any permit is issued, an environmental impact study must be completed.
North and South Carolina must conduct a 10-year study of water use, with the first study to be completed by 2018.
Anyone with a permit to draw water from the river must comply with drought response plans.
"South Carolina is serious about protecting its future," McMaster said of the importance of water supply to economic development and growth. "This shows a way through the morass -- on how states can work together."
The state spent $3.2 million on the lawsuit -- including outside attorney fees, experts, research and other costs -- out of a total of $6.2 million set aside for the case. McMaster said the agreement can be used a guideline for other states, including resolving water issues between Georgia and South Carolina.