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Charting a Cooperative Course for Complex Environmental Permitting of the Dempsey E. Benton Water Treatment Plant: Regulatory Dynamics Between Federal Protection of an Endangered Mussel and Public Health and Safety

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This project focused on the process of obtaining the required environmental permits necessary to construct the Dempsey E. Benton Water Treatment Plant and reactivate the City of Raleigh's original raw water supply source, Lakes Wheeler and Benson, in the environmentally sensitive Swift Creek watershed. Swift Creek is classified as a special case stream per the current North Carolina Dam Safety Law due to the presence of the federally endangered dwarf wedgemussel and eleven other state and federally listed species. The presence of the federally endangered mussel and the potential for direct impact to this species significantly expanded the complexity of the permitting process and resulted in an unprecedented level of analysis for a municipal project. A significant Environmental Assessment for the new WTP was developed with a tiered minimum flow release from Lake Benson dam and reactivation of the reservoirs. The EA required extensive state and federal agency coordination, a comprehensive water resource and water quality analysis, an extensive discussion of the growth and development issues, and a comprehensive evaluation of secondary and cumulative impacts in the service area. A specialized Instream Flow Study was used to evaluate impacts to the federally endangered dwarf wedgemussel. Ultimately, the project resulted in a Biological Assessment and a Biological Opinion in support of the project as mandated by the Endangered Species Act. The Dempsey E. Benton WTP project resulted in not only the successful permitting of the project, but helped to create several new approaches to protect endangered species. A key outcome was the development of a comprehensive Sampling and Monitoring Program in the City's 309 square mile service area.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-01-01

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