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Charlotte

A river runs – for its life – through it 

It’s not always good to be No. 1. In April, the waterway that courses through the center of the Charlotte region was at the top of America’s Most Endangered Rivers, compiled by American Rivers, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group. The Catawba-Wateree faces an “uncertain future,” it says, because unwise public policies have focused on siphoning off water to sustain and promote development. “Lawmakers in the Carolinas are among the first to reach this ominous fork in the road, and the direction they choose to take will affect water policy in the Southeast for generations.”

The 295-mile-long river rises in the Blue Ridge Mountains east of Asheville, skirts Charlotte and becomes the Wateree in Kershaw County, S.C. It provides drinking water for about 1.3 million people and electricity for around 2 million customers through 13 hydroelectric stations. An ongoing drought, record growth and a decision to divert up to 10 million gallons of water a day to Kannapolis and Concord — which are not in its watershed — have exacerbated environmental groups’ concerns. It also has caused a conflict with the Palmetto State, which sued North Carolina for diverting water it believes it has a legal right to. The case is pending in the U.S. Supreme Court.

This isn’t the first time the river, or at least part of it, has made the list. In 1991, the Catawba was No. 13, after being nominated by the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, the Charlotte-based group that nominated it again this year. The Neuse River ranked eighth in 2007, and the New River has placed twice, ninth in 1989 and 10th in 1991. In each case, development was listed as the cause for concern.

However, regional boosters claim the list doesn’t take into account recent efforts to curb water usage, including a joint North-South Carolina water-management committee, legislative groups in both states dedicated to studying better water use and conservation methods in the Charlotte metro area. But more concrete actions will need to be taken — and soon — to protect the river from continued population growth, says a spokesman for the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation. “We need the residents of the Catawba basin to understand that we have a finite amount of water,” David Merryman says. “The states of North and South Carolina have dragged their feet and stuck their policies in the 1800s when it comes to water-plan implementation.

 

HICKORY — A subsidiary of San Francisco-based retailer Williams-Sonoma plans to open a $2.7 million factory and distribution center. Sutter Street Manufacturing employs about 50 here and will add 820 workers in the next five years. The factory will make upholstered furniture for Williams-Sonoma brands.

CHARLOTTE — IBM plans to add 600 jobs during the next four years in a division that supports mortgage lenders. That will increase the Armonk, N.Y.-based computer giant’s employment here to about 2,350. Pay for the new jobs will average $59,000 a year. The Mecklenburg County average is $48,724.

KANNAPOLIS — Pharmaceutical Product Development will open an office at the North Carolina Research Campus and hire up to 300 workers within three years. Wilmington-based PPD helps drug, biotech and medical-device companies shepherd products through the regulatory-approval process.

CHARLOTTE — Wachovia agreed to pay as much as $144 million to end a federal investigation into allegations that the bank failed to question suspicious transactions and allowed telemarketers to use its accounts to steal millions of dollars. It did not admit wrongdoing.

CONCORD — Speedway Motorsports named the drag strip under construction near Lowe’s Motor Speedway the zMax Dragway@Concord — after a brand of engine lubricant it makes. The $60 million strip should be ready in September.

CHARLOTTE — UNC Charlotte hired Joseph Mazzola, 56, a professor at Georgetown University’s business school, as dean of its Belk College of Business. He replaced Claude Lilly, 62, who left a year ago to become dean of Clemson University’s College of Business & Behavioral Science.

NEWTON — General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies won a $109 million contract to make satellite-communications radios for the Army. It employs about 240 locally and is part of Falls Church, Va.-based defense contractor General Dynamics.

CORNELIUS — The town approved plans for The Village at Lake Norman, 2.4 million square feet of restaurants, offices, shops, homes and hotels. Construction will last six to 12 years, says developer Cornelius Bromont. It’s a partnership of Bromont Investments of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Carlsen Douglas Development of Huntersville.

MAIDEN — Duluth, Ga.-based Delta Apparel laid off 62 workers. It still employs about 290 here making fabric for T-shirts.

CHARLOTTE — Speed Channel paid $7 million for a one-story building that it will convert into a high-tech broadcast center and headquarters. It hopes to move in by January and plans to add about 35 employees, giving it about 115. The motor-sports television network has leased space since it moved here from Connecticut in 2001.

CHARLOTTE — SportsOneSource moved its headquarters here from West Palm Beach, Fla. It produces trade publications for the sporting-goods industry and plans to double employment here to 30 by the end of the year.

MOORESVILLE — Michael Cowling replaced Paul Smith as CEO of Lake Norman Regional Medical Center. Cowling was former CEO at Lancaster Regional Medical Center and Heart of Lancaster Regional Medical Center in Pennsylvania. Smith, 45 left for a job in Nashville, Tenn.

CHARLOTTE — Moore & Van Allen added nine lawyers to its office here, giving it more than 230. The firm has more than 300 lawyers and other offices in Research Triangle Park and Charleston, S.C.

SALISBURY — Performance Fibers plans to cut an unspecified number of jobs at factories here and in Moncure to reduce costs. The Richmond, Va.-based fabric maker couldn’t say when the layoffs will happen. It employs more than 950 here and in Moncure.

MONROE — City and Union County officials offered American Wick Drain more than $100,000 in incentives for a $4 million factory expansion. It employs about 50 making products that improve drainage. No deal had been reached by early May.