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Title: Oral History Interview with Daniel Okun, October 22, 1985. Interview K-0021. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Okun, Daniel, interviewee
Interview conducted by Drey, Laura
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Kristin Shaffer
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2004
Size of electronic edition: 100 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2004.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2008-00-00, Wanda Gunther and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2008-12-08, Kristin Shaffer finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Daniel Okun, October 22, 1985. Interview K-0021. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0021)
Author: Laura Drey
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Daniel Okun, October 22, 1985. Interview K-0021. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0021)
Author: Daniel Okun
Description: 116 Mb
Description: 33 p.
Note: Interview conducted on October 22, 1985, by Laura Drey; recorded in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Jean Houston.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series K. Southern Communities, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Daniel Okun, October 22, 1985.
Interview K-0021. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Okun, Daniel, interviewee


Interview Participants

    DANIEL OKUN, interviewee
    LAURA DREY, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
[Laura Drey briefly describes project and the students' topics]
[audio missing]
LAURA DREY:
Could you tell me something about your educational and experiential background?
DANIEL OKUN:
Well, I'm an engineer by background. I have specialized throughout my career in water: water supply, water pollution control [audio resumes] , everything that has to do with water quantity, and more especially, water quality. You see, water quality issues have become of great importance as the population grows. It's a very big issue. I've studied in this area.
LAURA DREY:
When did you move to Chapel Hill?
DANIEL OKUN:
1952.
LAURA DREY:
[Talks about what Okun's resume covers]
DANIEL OKUN:
As general background, before World War II I did some graduate work, and I also did some work in the Haw River Pollution Center, studying the Haw River. [This was] the first river where there was major studies made in the kinds of pollution. Then when the war came, I joined the Army. Enlisted for four years, doing work, most of the time, in drinking water until I left with troops and did some infantry duty. When the war was over, I went back to school and got my doctorate. I worked for a consulting engineering firm, doing water work, and

Page 2
then I came to the University of North Carolina. This is the only place I've ever taught.
I do a lot of consulting. I did before I came here, and I still do a lot of consulting work. I've been involved in the impacts of development on the water supply. In fact, I just came back yesterday. I was in Houston. The last time I'd been in Houston was 35 years ago. At that time they were beginning to have a very serious problem which foretold the problems they're now having, which are very, very serious indeed. The city is sinking, and the [unclear] . It was known 35 years ago. They just didn't do anything about it. So I have a lot of experience over the years throughout the United States and other countries in the world. So I'm sort of narrowly focused, but in that, I have a lot of experience.
LAURA DREY:
How did you become involved in the Cane Creek reservoir issue?
DANIEL OKUN:
Well, in the first place I live here, though I don't use the OWASA water. We live out of town, but when the Cane Creek issue began, we were living in town. [Laughter] The way it began is very interesting. When I came here, in my course I had a case study. I realized at that time [that] the University owned the water system.
When the water system was built, it was planned in 1930. It was completed in 1932, the present system that we have now. It was, at that time, quite large enough, but when I got here in '52, twenty years later, it was clear that it was inadequate. In the postwar period the University was very happy with it.

Page 3
I had my class every year studying. . . . The title of my class was Additional Water Supply for Chapel Hill. [Discussion on class] So I gathered a lot of data and kept it, and I provided them with a lot of data. Then they had to take the data and conclude [what] the best thing to do was.
In fact, I wrote a letter to the University. I'd been telling them about this, but then I felt I had better put it on paper. So I wrote them a letter saying they needed to do something, or there would be a very serious problem [because of the rate the student and community population was growing]. Really, nothing too much was done until we had this very serious drought in 1968. [Continued discussion about class] the fact that the University wouldn't let them in the fall. The football would have to be canceled. Anything else doesn't matter but when you can't play football. . . . [The University was talking of closing for a time]
One of the options for our water supply, based upon the information that we had—the best option, the one that seemed the most appropriate—was enlarging University Lake. The reason for that was. . . .
LAURA DREY:
That was back in '68?
DANIEL OKUN:
That was in the 50s and 60s. The reason that that was the answer that we used was because. . . . We were not being paid. We had no money to go out and do surveys. At that time there weren't any maps of the area west of here. So our students could only work with the maps that existed. [Discussion of maps] Those that existed were of Chapel Hill-Carrboro. So we had the

Page 4
drainage area here. We had choices. We could put another reservoir in the Northern Creek drainage area or enlarge this one. We studied many choices. We also considered the Haw River, and, of course, at that time we knew about the Jordan River Reservoir being done. So we studied all of these options, and generally, the one that seemed to be most appropriate at that time was increasing University Lake. However, as soon as the mapping was done, we got copies of the preliminary maps. [Discussion of maps]
Then many of our students used new maps, and it became quite clear that there were some additional [reservoir sites] west of here. You need not only a watershed drain, you need a place that's a suitable place for a dam. At that time also the new Council of Governments made a survey of water resources. As soon as the maps were finished, they did this. And a good reservoir site existed out at Cane Creek. There were a few others also. So we were able to enlarge our field of study at that time. [Discussion of maps] But once we had the new area [mapped], it became clear that Cane Creek was a very good option, and it was a good option from many, many standpoints. The students, after that, added to the Cane Creek option. They added a few other reservoirs. After that [mapping], Cane Creek, enlarging University Reservoir, and Jordan Reservoir were the three major options that were evaluated.
So Cane Creek seemed very desirable. Of course, one of the reasons it was very desirable was that it was of adequate size. But the more important reasons—because Jordan Reservoir is of

Page 5
adequate size too, much more than adequate size—the far more important reason was that there was no development out there, no urban or industrial development. The quality of the water out at Cane Creek promised to be as good as University Lake. University Lake is a high quality of water, but, of course, University is also a protected watershed. In fact, one of the ideas that made Cane Creek attractive was that you didn't have to build a pipeline all over town because of hooking water to University Lake.
That would be one of the proposals for taking water out of Jordan and putting it into University Lake. But the problem there is that you're taking a very good lake and putting very bad water into it, and that's not desirable. In this case, with Cane Creek [having] as high quality of water as University Lake, and having high quality yield, and it's [being] much more economical than enlarging University Lake. . . . University Lake would be very expensive, and we would not have much additional water, because we would be just adding to what exists now. Whereas, this [way], we keep what exists and we're getting—if we enlarge University Lake, we grow to the maximum yield. The maximum yield for about 30 square miles is about 10 million gallons a day. We had about three in University Lake, and if we enlarge it, we can get about ten. Going to Cane Creek we get a whole new ten, because it's a different watershed. So we add the ten to the present, and pretty soon we've got more, and the cost for the construction is even less than [for] University Lake. It always costs more to enlarge an existing lake than to [unclear] in the

Page 6
new. If it turns out that that should not be enough, then we've still got the option of enlarging University Lake [unclear] while it still exists. So it seemed to be, on engineering measures and from all other measures, the best solution. For years, every year, we'd study and the students would discuss it and evaluate it. So over the years I knew quite well what was going on and quite a bit about it.
In fact, I was on a sabbatical leave in '68-'69, and when I came back, I found that the University was beginning to consider what was happening [and looking for an] additional water supply. They were considering Jordan Reservoir because when the Corps of Engineers were planning on that, they were looking for customers. When I found that out, I objected strenuously. I went to the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees said, “Well, doesn't Jordan Reservoir meet the standards?” I said, “Sure, it meets the standards, but that's not adequate standards. The standards are way behind the times,” and I urged them to go to Cane Creek.
LAURA DREY:
Had the standards been improved since then?
DANIEL OKUN:
They'd been improved. They'd been changed. They'd gotten more restrictive. They added more chemicals. Yes, they'd been changed since then, but they're still way behind the times. Jordan Reservoir would meet the drinking water standards today, but that's not the issue. The drinking water standards are based upon very little knowledge. It takes 10-20 years before the information you get is finally embodied in standards. I have a report, let's see if I have a copy, which illustrates the problem. I have another case where I am a consultant, which

Page 7
I'll show you, for the area east of San Francisco Bay which is facing exactly the same problems as we face here, the identical problem. In fact, even the layout is the same, except there we're dealing with a population of one million and a half people. In trying to demonstrate to them that they ought to go for the highest quality of water. I used this chart which shows that in 1925 there were only four contaminants. In 1946, it was increased to six; in 1962, 14; 1976, 24. And we're waiting for the new ones to come out. It'll probably be something like 60.
LAURA DREY:
So that's contaminants versus the number of industries that are dumping into the. . . .
DANIEL OKUN:
No, no, it's got nothing to do with. . . . These are the standards.
The point is that this is how they're increasing. In the year 2000 there may be 100-120. We're aware that these are new things that are health problems. If we build a new water supply today that is going to serve until way past the year 2000, the 1930 reservoir is going to serve until 2000, University Lake. . . . So the standards really have to be planned, not for what they are today, but what they're going to be far into the future.
So there doesn't seem to be any question that we ought to take the highest quality source. Then the standards also say one other thing which is very clear. It says that priority should be given to selection of the purest source. Polluted sources should not be used unless other sources are economically unavailable. Well, that's clear—Cane Creek is a much purer source than Jordan Reservoir, and economically the difference in cost is almost no

Page 8
difference. They're about the same cost. Cane Creek may actually be a little less. Even though that reservoir exists, the pipeline is going to have to be a lot longer and the [unclear] is going to be greater.
So the objective of the thing we're pointing out in this report, which is going to the East Bay area—Berkeley, Oakland, that whole area—we're pointing out the same thing there. That the best thing is to take the highest quality source. For this area that is quite clear. University Lake is the high quality source, and we have to get additional water from Cane Creek because Cane Creek is a high quality source. So it'd seemed to us an open and shut case. It really is not relevant whether Jordan Reservoir is good for drinking or not for drinking. Jordan Reservoir is clearly more polluted than Cane Creek. Jordan Reservoir receives all the wastes from Greensboro, from Burlington, from Mebane. There are 130 some odd sewers discharging into Haw River which flows into Jordan Reservoir, and there are no sewers discharging into Cane Creek, no sewers discharging into University Lake. So if you just look at those two things, it's quite clear that according to the principles involved in providing water supply we go to the purest source that's available.
Of course, this makes a real problem for the people who live on the watershed, which is what you're concerned about. There's no question that if people need to have a road to go from here to there that some people who live along that road are going to be discomforted. But we have to build things, and individuals are

Page 9
always going to be somehow impacted. There's no way we can build anything today without having an impact on some people. When Jordan Reservoir was built—and that reservoir is really an unnecessary reservoir, that's not serving much of a purpose, [other than] as good recreation and so on—that displaced a lot more people than here.
LAURA DREY:
Do you know how many people it displaced?
DANIEL OKUN:
I don't really remember but they were in the hundreds, many more than Cane Creek, in the hundreds, in the high hundreds. Randleman Dam is another one that they're proposing that's going to displace a lot of people, and here I think there were only two families that were physically displaced.
But it's not the question of displacing two people or not displacing two people. If we didn't need it, then certainly there's no reason to displace two people. But what you are benefiting is the population that's served by OWASA. That's 50,000 people now, and possibly by the end of the century may be 100,000. They're going to be guaranteed getting good water at the sacrifice of two people being obliged to move somewhere else. For those two people, they're going to be recompensed. But still if we could get the water without doing it, that'd be better. But it's not likely you can do anything for the general public without impacting on some one thing. Roads, if you build a school somewhere, somebody's going to be affected. If you build anything, someone's going to be affected. There are no projects that I know of, in recent times, that impact people as little as

Page 10
Cane Creek. It's hard to build a reservoir today, anywhere, that has as little impact as this one does.
LAURA DREY:
I think the farmers' response would be, which is one of the things I wanted to ask about, that there are standards for runoff. I guess my question was how compatible is dairy farming with water supply? There are organic things, I guess, from manure but also then there is the fertilizers.
DANIEL OKUN:
Pesticides. There is no question that there has to be, and there would have to be anyway, more and more improved farming practices. Because if you have a lot of pesticides draining into the water, this is going to have an impact on the fish, whether the people are impacted or not. If you're going to have a lot of fertilizers, you're going to have a detrimental impact, and these practices are wasteful. So you have to have improved farming practices, and that's required whether it's in the drinking water supply or not. So as far as drinking water is concerned, if it's just agricultural practices, we know that fertilizers are not harmful with [unclear] . There's no danger at all. Pesticides can harm, and we know which pesticides they are, and knowing which ones are being used, it's easy to monitor for them and protect ourselves against them [unclear] which should be necessary. Agriculture is certainly compatible with drinking water.
Now certainly it'd be nice if we had a watershed. Some cities do. Asheville does; San Francisco does. Some cities in Connecticut own the whole watershed, and there is no development. They have no development and that's fine. But that's not

Page 11
feasible today, really, to have a watershed which is going to be, for our very small town, 30 square miles, or 50 square miles, or 100 square miles, without any development whatsoever.
So the question is what kind of development is the most compatible. Well, of all the kinds of development that can take place, of all uses, if there's going to be any use at all, certainly recreation would be the best. Recreation would do very well, but you can't dedicate 30 square miles to recreation and that sort of thing [in Orange County]. So you're going to have some kind of development. Well, of all the kinds of development, of all the uses it can be put, the most compatible is agriculture. Because if you look at the other kinds—[they] would be industrial development, urban development—those produce waste that are far less manageable than what is produced in agriculture, because there are new chemicals being used in industries every day. And there are so many, in one industry you can use 100 chemicals. Whereas in farms, the pesticides are registered. They're known. We can examine what they do. Industry, there's so many kinds of different things. Urban runoff is a very serious problem because [of what is] in the homes, and automobiles and the exhaust from the cars. The stuff that washes in from the rain from the streets, you get a lot of detrimental impact from urban development on watersheds—a very, very serious impact. It's very hard to control because there's so many contaminants. It's hard to measure them. So if we look at it from a water supply standpoint. . . if the farmers there are worried about protecting the water supply, we have to say if

Page 12
there's going to be any development at all, agricultural development is the best for the water supply.
But there's another issue which is far more important for the people of Cane Creek, and that is. . . . They had a sign—Save Cane Creek, Save Cane Creek Community, Save Cane Creek. If you really want to save Cane Creek, the only way it can be done in our modern, social/economic development in North carolina is to build the reservoir. Because building the reservoir will force the county, and the regulatory bodies, to restrict the kinds of activities that take place on the watershed. In other words the Cane Creek area will be very restricted now in what can take place.
LAURA DREY:
Is that state regulations or local regulations?
DANIEL OKUN:
Local regulations, county regulations. The counties are doing it because [of] the fact that you have drinking water there. As we keep perceiving that we need to get a good quality drinking water, [unclear] . If you go and you drive through Carrboro, you see a lot of multifamily housing. But as soon as you get into the University Lake watershed, it becomes rural because [the regulations are] protecting our watershed. It becomes an obligation to the public.
Also, it is important to keep in mind that there have been many court cases, and the court cases have all demonstrated that any local, state, or federal organization has responsibility [to protect the watershed]. Whenever they have made a regulation about the use of watershed lands, to restrict development, they've been sued. This has happened everywhere. Developers

Page 13
have got a lot of land, and all of a sudden the county says you can't build what you want. You can't build a condominium. So they sue. “What you mean we can't? We bought the land.” Well, if the county wants to restrict the development, the courts will protect them. They have the right, the powers of the local government and the powers of the state—these are police powers, the health and safety powers. This is protecting the health and they're entitled to do it. We had a big case that's just been decided in Virginia where they took a watershed area, in northern Virginia, and rezoned it from two acres to five acres, to protect the water quality. They were sued, and they won. I had another case in Connecticut where a water company wanted to sell their land. They owned the land, and they wanted to sell it for development, and the state wouldn't let them. It was their obligation. [They were] not allowed to use development because the health of the people required that it be protected. In other words, if the county commissioners want to do anything on that watershed that can be justified as protecting the water quality, they can do it.
If there were no Cane Creek Reservoir, if there was not a drinking water supply, you could have developments like you have all over. Agriculture would disappear. With [a reservoir at] Cane Creek, we can preserve agriculture indefinitely. If agriculture can be preserved, if agriculture's economically viable, then the reservoir will help preserve the agricultural nature of that community. If there were no Cane Creek reservoir, in ten, or fifteen, or twenty years there'd be no agriculture

Page 14
there. They'd all have sold because that land would become so valuable, and the taxes on it would be so high that the people would say, “Look,” farming isn't that [unclear] , “people are leaving the farms.” So they'd sell the land off to some developer, and you'd have no agriculture at all. What you'd have is a sprawl. As you go west on 54, it'd be one continuous development. The development of Cane Creek is protecting the western entrance to Chapel Hill-Carrboro community. And it will be rural and agricultural forever. So that if you're concerned with the quality of community life, with sustaining a farm community and the practices that go on in that community—whether it's making cheese or butter, or clog dancing, or whatever it is—it will survive now. If [a reservoir at] Cane Creek were not built, it would not have survived.
I'll say this. I wouldn't say that in a public meeting but I don't mind, you may as well know it—some of the people most vociferous against the Cane Creek reservoir are those who had an economic stake. They owned the land, and the Cane Creek reservoir is going to keep them from making a killing of it. I'm not saying that the opposition of the most of the people wasn't real. They wanted to preserve their community.
I'm really the most troubled of all by the Stanford family. They're the ones on the site. They had to give up, they were the ones that were completely displaced. What bothered them—they were willing to sell right at the beginning—what bothered them was extending this battle, not knowing which way it would go. They couldn't make an investment in their farm because they

Page 15
didn't know whether they would have it long. So they went through 10-12 years of uncertainty. Well, for them that was unbearable, but that wasn't the fault of the project. If the project had gone ahead, if there hadn't been all of these questions, they'd know right off the bat. There would have been no problem for them. But so far as that community is concerned, if that community wants to be sustained, it'll still have every reason to be sustained. It'll still be attractive for development, but not nearly the intensity. And it won't be of the high value, so that those who want to keep it can still keep it.
I live right out here, not far, not on the watershed. There are some farms between Chapel Hill and where I live. I live about a mile south of town, not yet in Chatham County. The farmer there is keeping it as a farm. But one of these days he's going to sell it to a developer, and we're going to have intensive development. That farmer's not going to be able to last, and I don't expect it to last. The only way you can get it to last is to have the activities reinforce each other. The agriculture reinforces. . . .
END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A

TAPE 1, SIDE B


Page 16
START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B
DANIEL OKUN:
[I was] highly, not highly, a little bit embarrassed because my daughter joined the Cane Creek cloggers [laughter] [Tells about daughter's wedding.] She was a little embarrassed. In fact, at the very beginning when the issue first came up, she didn't at all agree with me. In fact, she did some literature for the Cane Creek community, did some designing of pamphlets and that sort of thing. So I may have embarrassed her, but I think I was able to get her to see it my way. Or at least if she doesn't see it my way, she doesn't say so [laughter] . But I think in time the people in that community who really want the community to remain as an agricultural community, will be grateful to the development of Cane Creek. They'll still be able to make a lot of money from selling their land. You can still sell it to somebody who wants to build a fancy house. It can become developed. There's no question it can be developed, but it won't be developed with all these condominium and that sort of thing. It'll be developed as individual houses and still have a rural impact.
LAURA DREY:
You'd said a little earlier about being able to know what pesticides and herbicides the farmers were using. Would the farmers be required to disclose that sort of information?
DANIEL OKUN:
Yes, yes.
LAURA DREY:
How would it. . . ?
DANIEL OKUN:
Well, the pesticides are registered. They're required to do this in any case. It didn't used to be the case, but now certain pesticides are pretty tightly regulated. The way

Page 17
in which they're applied is regulated, and people have to be licensed to apply it. An individual farmer has to be able to manage a pesticide. That's going to be required for all framing to avoid the problems of eutrification, where they put too much fertilizer out, or fish kills. The greatest concern of pesticides has not been on drinking water, it's been on fish. So the Congress has been obliged to press those issues in any case.
What the farmers may have a right to worry about, but it's not likely in this area that this would be a problem. . . . In the Middle West they have cattle feed, intense cattle feeding, where you have a farm where you put the cattle feed, and there you get waste from the cattle, and that has to be handled. That can be a real nuisance. But I don't think that's the kind of cattle raising we're going to come to here. This will be dairy farming and pasturing, and that doesn't really create a serious problem. The bacteria that come from cattle manure and that sort of thing, that's easily managed. We can disinfect the bacteria. The bacteria are not really a problem.
What is a problem, and why I was so much opposed to Jordan Reservoir, is that Jordan Reservoir receives a lot of chemicals which we can't even detect, and chemicals which we also have good reason to believe are responsible for health impacts. Well, that doesn't hurt them, dairy farming. The farmers will be obliged to employ sound practices. They may be obliged to employ them somewhat quicker, although I don't think so. In fact, what OWASA has done—and this was not only for Cane Creek but for University Lake, and they did this also for Jordan Reservoir—they are

Page 18
providing some funds to assist farmers in establishing better practices and that sort of thing. But to agriculture, the biggest one of the major pollution problems we have now in the United States is from agriculture pollution. This is a serious problem. There's no question about it. It's not a serious health problem, but it does degrade the water for aquatic life and for recreational purposes and so on. I don't think we've identified much of a health problem. Agricultural run-off, which has been in this state, is a serious problem.
LAURA DREY:
Could you address a little bit more why Cane Creek was chosen over. . . . I guess I've heard about University Lake and Jordan Lake and Haw River. My understanding from reading some newspaper articles is that there now exists a waterline between Chapel Hill and Durham, [and OWASA has] been using that some more, and there's supposed to be some rock quarry that has been. . . .
DANIEL OKUN:
Yes, that has been used.
LAURA DREY:
But here are other ones. Originally, I heard 15 in these. . . .
DANIEL OKUN:
Yes, that's right. There were about 15 options. We included going to Durham, several small reservoir sites that were good, some that I won't admit. We examined all of them. The reason that Haw River and Jordan River Reservoir were thrown out is because the quality of the watersheds is suspect. It will always be suspect. It goes through the city of Greensboro. Now they've got textile industries. The textile industries are in trouble, so there'll be other kind of industries, microelectronic

Page 19
industry. There's going to be industry in Greensboro. You know there's going to be industry in Greensboro. A lot of these industries, even microelectronic industries, produce a lot of pollution. So that eliminated the Haw and Jordan River. And going to Durham is much more costly. The distance to Durham is much greater. University Lake is going to be more costly for the addition. There was an engineering study made—the engineering study followed much along the lines of our classroom study—the engineering study evaluating the various options found that Cane Creek was. . . there is no better source for the amount of water that's required than Cane Creek, in this area. Now, if Cane Creek, if the demand for water in this area should increase beyond what Cane Creek and University Lake can provide, then we start examining other options. And other options are feasible. One of the ones I mentioned, we could still increase University Lake which would help. That'd be expensive. Another option, which we're a long way from doing here but we're doing it in other parts of the country, is to develop what we call a dual distribution system.
LAURA DREY:
Could you explain what that is because I've. . . .
DANIEL OKUN:
A lot of the water that we need does not have to be of drinking water quality. You don't have to have drinking water quality to water your law, and a lot of the water we use is for watering your lawn. So you can use other water, poorer quality water, to water your lawn. Well, if we get so tight on high quality water, we can have a separate line for watering our lawn, and even a separate line for flushing our toilets. So in the

Page 20
long run, if it really get tight, we can do that. But I doubt that's going to be a reasonable requirement around here because we have a lot of water. We have a tremendous amount of water in this area. We're water rich, a lot of water and very few people. So we're not going to get in a bind.
LAURA DREY:
Could you say something about what water is currently being used besides University Lake?
DANIEL OKUN:
In this area?
LAURA DREY:
Yes.
DANIEL OKUN:
There's some ground water being used, but that's not in very big supply. But no, in this area right now we're using University Lake. Now, we're taking a little water from Cane Creek. The quarry was used, and we had a connection to Hillsborough, and we had a connection to Durham. These interconnections are always wise to have, because we may have a shortage here, and Durham may have excess. But in the future, when Cane Creek is built, we may have an excess and Durham may need the connection. A regional water supply makes a lot of sense, and I very much believe in that.
LAURA DREY:
What extent would Cane Creek be a regional water source, because it sounded to me more like it was local, only for Chapel Hill-Carrboro?
DANIEL OKUN:
As soon as we connect, as we have connected to Chapel Hill and Durham and Hillsborough, it becomes part of a regional source, because it all feeds into the same tripod. So if Hillsborough runs out, then Cane Creek can be used to provide water to Hillsborough. Also, Hillsborough is connected to

Page 21
Burlington. So if you have interconnections, it becomes part of a regional supply. It doesn't necessarily need to be local, and it would be used as a supply only during periods of real water shortage. Another option for the very long run is the possibility of using Jordan Reservoir during periods of very extreme droughts, maybe a month or two every twenty years.
LAURA DREY:
Has the Jordan been allocated out?
DANIEL OKUN:
No, none of it's been allocated. But that water supply, if there was a very serious drought, even if it hasn't been allocated, it would be used to, or is reserved for, agricultural purposes and other purposes. Facing a real serious drought, [unclear] human use. So that the consequences of using Jordan Reservoir, if it were used for a few weeks or months out of a 10-20 year period, is much less serious. Because the problem with the chemicals in water is not a problem of acute toxicity, we can [unclear] acute toxicity. It's a problem of long term ingestion, of drinking this water for a lifetime. Well, if the Jordan Reservoir were used in a emergency, every 10-20 years, there'd be no problem. Just as you go and spend two months in Cincinnati, you're drinking pretty cruddy water, but if I drink it one day, occasionally, [instead] of drinking it all my life, it's a different problem. But why should we force the people here to drink that cruddy water for a lifetime? That's the problem.
So we have many options for the future, and I'm sure there'll be other things that will develop. So the thing was that if we had developed Jordan Reservoir and not developed [a

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reservoir at] Cane Creek, what would happen? Cane Creek would be developed. So when we did want it, it wouldn't be available any longer, once you had housing all over it. Once you had all that, you couldn't build a reservoir. So the reason we can enlarge University Lake is because once it's there, the development is being controlled. But if you don't have development, it would have been lost.
So one of the policies I'm espousing around the state and the nation—in fact, we just made a recommendation to the federal government that they take some initiative in this regard, but it's important to the state to do it—is to identify all of the Cane Creeks in the state, all of the good sources of water. Identify them now and begin to preserve them now for the future. Even if you don't build a reservoir now, at least pass the regulations to protect the quality of the water in that area and to prevent the development of urban and industrial surprises and that sort of thing. So it would seem to. . . . [Interruption]
I think that Cane Creek, the selection of Cane Creek, was by far the best thing for the people of this community, for the people of the Cane Creek community, and for the state of North Carolina. I think there's no question about it. And it's a good model, I think, for other communities to do the same thing.
LAURA DREY:
Could you talk a little bit about different governmental bodies, like the Chapel Hill Town Council, and the Corps of Engineers and EMC [Environmental Management Commission]. What have their roles been? Do you know about that?

Page 23
DANIEL OKUN:
Oh yeah, I know. The Chapel Hill Town Council, of course, Chapel Hill in general has been supportive of this. OWASA in general has been supportive of it, I think, and OWASA is made up of representatives of Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Orange County. Of course, I think part of the agreements that OWASA made when they took over the water supply was. . . . The state more or less obligated, the University more or less obligated, them to go in this direction because they had already made some investment along this line. And being the biggest customer, the University would have been very unhappy to have been obliged to take Jordan Reservoir water. So [laughter] that I think there was an obligation from the biggest customer but. . . .
LAURA DREY:
What investment had they already made?
DANIEL OKUN:
Well, they had already started to collect some money from people against this, and a lot of the engineering had been done. The engineering report had been done. They had employed the engineers. So this was all [unclear] . And also OWASA was interested in protecting the quality of the water. The water had been [unclear] , and they didn't want to turn over to somebody and immediately go to Jordan Reservoir. So the University, and the towns, I think they've all agreed we have had no difficulty with the people in town, other than the editor of the Chapel Hill newspaper, which for some strange reason still wants us to go to Jordan Reservoir. He's the only—I don't know why, it beats me. But more or less all the people in the community, the mayors, and the town council, they've been no problem at all. I've been in

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this since the beginning, and by and large, there's been no problem.
The Corps of Engineers, of course, was in an ambivalent position. They were really in a very sorry position because they built this reservoir. And the Corps of Engineers—I don't know how much you know about the Corps of Engineers and how it operates—but in order to get a project like the Jordan Reservoir, they have to prove to Congress that the benefits outweigh the costs, because Congress provides all the money. That didn't cost the University. It was built without a penny of money from this area. It all came from Washington. But in order for it to come from Washington, they have got to prove to people that the benefits will be greater than the costs. Well, among the benefits they counted were water supply. They didn't know that anyone wanted the water supply. They said, “We've got a water supply.” The Corps of Engineers doesn't care a damn about quality. They didn't in the past. [Talks about being on a committee that reviewed the Corps' studies for providing water to the Washington metropolitan area.] But what makes their position ambivalent, they were required to approve Cane Creek, because the law requires that the Corps of Engineers approve any dredging or filling in a navigable river. I don't know if you've seen Cane Creek, but it doesn't look very navigable to me, but by definition it's a navigable river. So the Corps of Engineers had to give a permit to build Cane Creek Reservoir, to build a reservoir. So here they were asked, required, to give a permit to build something which would make it unnecessary to use their

Page 25
reservoir, which they were trying to push people into using. So they should of somehow, they had a conflict of interest, but finally, of course, they came to a permit. [Describes a representative of the Corps of Engineers who preferred Cane Creek over Jordan Reservoir.] So the Corps' position is clear.
The problem with the state agencies is that they have not in the past given much leadership. The Environmental Management Commission doesn't play much of a role. The State Health Department, interestingly enough, is the primary agency responsible for water supply, the problem of human resources. But in Raleigh that Department is about as wishy-washy as any Department I've ever seen. They have never taken a stand on anything. They're afraid of their shadow. On the other hand, one of the regional representatives has testified on behalf of Cane Creek. He's always been a strong witness.
LAURA DREY:
Could you say who that person's name is?
DANIEL OKUN:
His name is Venrick. If I remember, he has an office in Fayetteville. Wally Venrick, I think that's his name. Incidentally, you can go to OWASA and get copies of the hearings and oral testimony, and everything I'm saying is in the testimony. But the state, generally, if you meet the regulations, they have nothing more to say. And that applies to EMC. In other words, the EMC is now in a difficult position. The reservoir's been built, and they were asked to classify the drinking water, and they have done that. [Discusses colleague who was on the Commission] The members of the Commission were pretty well convinced by our arguments. So that while they

Page 26
didn't classify it for drinking, they put in a prohibition. They said it couldn't be allocated for drinking until we have more information, because they were [unclear] . So far they have not authorized any application.
Now there is a city that wants it very badly. That's Cary. Cary gets water from Raleigh now, and they want to be independent. Of course, that's the wrong direction to go. I'm always in favor of regional relations. Now they get it from Raleigh, and they want to be separate only for damn real estate purposes. That's the only reason. It has nothing to do with what's good for the people or anything. [It has only to do with] what's good for the real estate agents and what's good for Cary making more money. So they want that water, and they figure they can grow a lot faster if they had that water rather than depending on Raleigh. So they want the water. Meanwhile, they haven't been given it yet. I expect it'll eventually be given because regulatory agencies go by strict rules, and their rules say that if it meets these standards, we've got to give them the water. It's that simple. They don't have to. They could be more far-sighted, but I don't expect that much from a state agency. So far they've shown more courage than I expected.
There is a new classification system being promulgated. It hasn't passed yet. It hasn't been adopted yet. It's a system which will characterize water sources differently, according to their quality. I have to leave in a few minutes. Right now University Lake, and Cane Creek, and Jordan Reservoir would all be classified exactly the same, as A-2 waters. Any water

Page 27
Pittsboro takes out of Haw River, that stretch of water is A-2. The water coming into that stretch is Class C, leaving that stretch is Class C, but magically, by some kind of wand, the state has declared that as it passes Pittsboro, it automatically improves in quality and it becomes A-2. It's nonsense, but that's what the state has done. So any water you want to use for [unclear] water becomes A-2. Well, we have a new classification system that will characterize it by the nature of the watershed. And in that classification, a watershed that has no pollution in it—no sources of pollution, no sewers, and that has good land use planing—will be a Class 1 water supply. If it has some sewers in it, some residences, it will be Class 2. If it has sewers and industrial waste, it will be Class 3. Under that classification system Cane Creek and University Lake would be Class 1. Jordan Reservoir would be Class 2, and we'd see a clear difference. Then if some community says, “Yes, we're happy to have Class 3 water,” well, be my guest. If some other community wants to have Class 1 water, wants to have high quality water, okay. They have that choice. Right now there's no choice. They perceive all water as being the same. The state has not, up to now, given much guidance and much leadership. With the new classification system, when it's adopted, I think it will be able to be used somehow.
LAURA DREY:
There's another whole area I'm curious about, but before that, did you read the Environmental Impact Statement and Environmental Assessment? There's also those couple of consultants reports, not only the Hazen and Sawyer. And also, I

Page 28
guess the Corps asked for another opinion besides the Hazen and Sawyer. What is your opinion of that?
DANIEL OKUN:
It's a long time since I've looked them over. Those assessments, in general—you can go into a lot of great detail, and I think the main thrust of the arguments are the ones I've given. I brought Mr. Hazen into this town. I invited him to be a visiting professor, and he happened to be a visiting professor here during the 1968 drought. He's a very good friend of mine. So when the time came, he happened to be here. He's now retired. His firm is a very reputable firm. So his firm was employed. It had nothing to do with that, but I just put him on the scene. They now have an office in Raleigh. They more or less have the same views I have. There can be all kinds of Environmental Impact Statements. Environmental Assessments are not really worth all that much. They force you to look at something, and they may reveal something. I just don't remember what it said. But by and large, as far as I'm concerned, there's no question but that Cane Creek is a higher quality source than Jordan Reservoir can ever be, and will continue to be into the future.
LAURA DREY:
Could you tell me something about your feelings about the whole Cane Creek controversy?
DANIEL OKUN:
Well, I think the environmental movement caught up a lot of people who call themselves environmentalists, and I'm sorry to say often don't really understand the issues. And certainly dams—and the Corps of Engineers have given dams a bad name, so they lump all dams together. You want to build a dam, obviously, you're against the ecology; you're against the

Page 29
environment. You're obviously a bad guy. You're wearing a black hat. A lot of people responded here in Cane Creek. Here are these people who are going to be disposed. Their way of life is going to be destroyed. Well, that's nonsense. They just didn't have all of the facts. They didn't understand what was going on. As I said before, the only way you're going to sustain their way of life is by building the reservoir, because that way of life is being destroyed, not by building this little dam, it's being destroyed by the rapid rate of development in this area and by what's happening to farming practices. The farmers can't make a living. That's destroying it. But to point to Cane Creek, that's nonsense. Environmentalists get caught up. . . . I have been on both sides. I've fought environmentalists when I thought they were wrong, in my youth. On the other hand, I've gone and testified on behalf of environmentalists. I went down to the coast to testify against the building of a marina on the coast, on Beagea Sound. So they're not always wrong. They're not always right. But basically, they just have knee-jerk—they're lumped together.
There was a groundswell, when this thing began, of environmentalism. That's what got this whole thing mixed up. And what happened as a result of that, and it was really led by a very few people. As far as they were concerned, they didn't lose anything. They got a lot more money for their land as time went on, land value increased. OWASA wanted to get the land, and they paid high prices for it. So they did good for themselves. But what they hurt were all the people who live in this community

Page 30
now. These people are going to pay a lot more for water. The project is costing a lot more, for delays. Court costs were very, very high. All of this has cost quite a bit of money. This battle was not won without a heavy cost on the part of all of the people of Chapel Hill—a much greater cost to the people of Chapel Hill than to the people of Cane Creek community by far. But there are more people here to absorb the cost. Their water bills are going to be higher. All the students who come here are going to pay more, and not only more now, but more for the next 30 to 40 years. That's part of the costs of this Cane Creek battle. It's costing everybody a lot more money. That's too bad. Because had they been allowed to go ahead in '68 when the proposal was made. . . . Well, it wasn't '68 that stopped them. What stopped them was the sale of the University's—the University was really at fault. Had the University gone ahead with the project when they should of, there would have been no problem.
LAURA DREY:
When was that?
DANIEL OKUN:
Well, the report came out in '69. If they would have started right away, but they dilly-dallied. And then they began to see that they were going to sell the water services, so that held it up again. If the University had moved when they should have moved, there would have been no problem. So if you had to point to one guilty party, it was the University. It was the nature of the University owning the water supply. The University ought not to have been in the water supply business, but there was no one else to be in the water supply business so [unclear] .

Page 31
But had the University moved, had this water supply been, had OWASA existed in 1968 (when the drought occurred) and employed an engineer and moved, it would have been built quickly. And that would have been the end of it. Had the University moved quickly as a water authority should have. . . . They were a water authority. It would have been no problem. But they delayed, and that delay allowed a lot of time for the opposition to build, and the environmental movement.
END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B

TAPE 2, SIDE A


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START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A
[Drey goes over questions not asked]
DANIEL OKUN:
I think I've addressed all of those issues.
LAURA DREY:
Yes.
DANIEL OKUN:
I don't think there's anything now.
LAURA DREY:
I guess another one was, what is the likelihood of the Cane Creek project being completed?
DANIEL OKUN:
Well, it's going to be completed. I don't see any reason it shouldn't. We're already getting water out of it now. I don't think there's anything to get in the way now. They've got the pipeline in. We're drinking water out of it now. Building the bigger dam is going to take a little more time. They have to buy some land still. They have the power of condemnation, so they can condemn it if they want to. I don't see why they don't. See, that was another thing that hurt them. Had Chapel Hill been the water purveyor, they wouldn't have had a lot of the problems. But when OWASA was created—it was the only agency of the kind of the state—it was not given much, it did not want to establish a precedent. They were not given the power of eminent domain. Well, if Duke Power had owned that and were going to provide the water supply. . . . In other words, if the University had sold it to Duke Power, they had power of eminent domain. They could have taken that land over without. . . . The only thing the farmers could have complained about was the price. The only reason is that every agency that could have provided water supply, except OWASA, had the right of eminent domain, had the right to take that land. The only agency that could not was

Page 33
the agency that owned it. We were even dickering with the idea of OWASA selling the reservoir to Chapel Hill, and let Chapel Hill build the reservoir. Chapel Hill could have. But in the long run it would not have been a desirable thing to do it by eminent domain. You want to give people time to. . . . But it still. . . . I have to go now.
LAURA DREY:
Could you give me some names of people that would be good to talk to?
END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A END OF INTERVIEW