The water dispute between North Carolina and South Carolina neared resolution Friday, with a bistate commission approving a joint settlement agreement among the two states, a power company and a public utility, South Carolina's top prosecutor told The Associated Press on Friday.
"This marks enormous progress," Attorney General Henry McMaster told the AP. "It is a model of regional cooperation for the future for other states."
The Catawba River winds 225 miles through the Carolinas and provides drinking water to more than 1 million people and electricity to more than twice that many. In 2007, McMaster filed a lawsuit to stop a plan to allow two North Carolina cities to pump up to 10 million gallons a day from the Catawba and Yadkin river basins, both of which cross the state line with South Carolina.
The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing the case. In January, justices ruled that Duke Energy and the Catawba River Water Supply Project had a role to play in the court battle but said North Carolina could represent the interests of the city of Charlotte, which had also wanted to intervene.
In January, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper rejected McMaster's request for closed-door talks to settle the dispute, saying he wanted the bistate commission to handle discussions publicly.
Cooper's office did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday.
McMaster has said the case may impact other southeastern water disputes. Tennessee and South Carolina have worried Atlanta may look to the nearby Tennessee or Savannah rivers for relief from droughts that often plague the area. And Georgia, Alabama and Florida have fought over how much water can be stored in north Georgia lakes, keeping it from flowing to downstream states.
The court case will continue until the settlement is finalized, McMaster said.
"We're right at the goal line. We're not across it yet," he said. "The progress that we made today would not have occurred if this case had not been accepted by and presented to the U.S. Supreme Court."
The case is South Carolina v. North Carolina, 22O138 ORG.
Associated Press writer Tom Breen in Raleigh, N.C., contributed to this report.