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Gaston, Mecklenburg Leaders Want To Revive Mountain Island Lake Commission

County commissioners from Gaston and Mecklenburg agreed in principle Wednesday to push for restarting the Mountain Island Lake Marine Commission, which was disbanded after a disagreement six years ago. And they agreed to cooperate on other shared issues, like state legislation and transportation. 

The agreement came during a joint meeting of the two boards that Gaston County Commission Chairman Tracy Philbeck called "historic." 

"I do not think we have ever had a meeting together quite like this," Philbeck said. "I think there's a lot of good things that can come out of working together."

All of the Gaston commission's members are Republicans. All of Mecklenburg's are Democrats. While there may be areas of disagreement, Philbeck said the idea is to cooperate on those issues they agree on. 

Both county commissions had passed resolutions in advance of Wednesday's meeting that listed those priorities, including supporting state and federal legislation that benefits counties, pushing for federal policies and funding for regional transportation projects, and opposing the General Assembly's proposal to privatize the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, which lets counties operate and generate revenue from liquor stores. 

Mountain Island Lake Commission 

One of the first results of this new cooperation could be to revive the Mountain Island Lake Commission, which operated from 1997 to 2014. 

A Duke Energy dam in 1924 created Mountain Island Lake between the two counties. Today it's the main water supply for the region, supplying 103 million gallons of drinking water daily to 15 water systems. 

The original lake commission, which included representatives of Mecklenburg, Gaston and Lincoln counties, was dissolved in 2014 after Gaston County quit. Officials at the time complained the commission was overregulating the lake and that its members were not elected officials.

Now Mecklenburg and Gaston county leaders have agreed to bring it back to help protect water quality. They plan to helped draft and lobby for state legislation that would revive the commission, with at least two of the three original counties. 

Mecklenburg County Commission Chair George Dunlap says the counties are on the same page. 

"Now we have interest again from Gaston County to say that, yeah, these were the concerns which is why we stepped away from it, but now we're willing to work together on some things that we can agree on that will help put a path forward to us reestablishing that marine commission," he said.

Commissioners also said they want to work together to monitor a major mixed-use development proposed on Mountain Island Lake called the Riverbend Reserve.    

Transportation Projects

Commissioners also agreed to jointly support transportation projects that benefit both counties. Those include plans to widen Interstate 85 and build a third bridge over the Catawba River; Charlotte's planned Silver Line light rail project, which could stretch to Belmont; and the proposed Atlanta-to-Charlotte high speed rail line.

Philbeck suggested the two boards meet again in the fall to discuss progress on their goals. 

David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.