RALEIGH, N.C. -- As a four-year drought parched North Carolina into the middle of 2002, then-Gov. Mike Easley and his administration called it a major disaster. The governor urged people everywhere to save water, and he imposed stiff restrictions.
Except at Easley's exclusive private golf club in northeastern Chatham County.
New records and interviews show that Old Chatham Golf Club pumped millions of gallons from a creek leading to Jordan Lake, diverting water from one of the region's major sources to keep greens alive.
The records show that a state water resources chief questioned the pumping, but that higher-level officials --including at the Governor's Office -- got involved.
It all took place a year after golf club leaders provided Easley, a Democrat, with a major benefit: Club directors had voted in 2001 to waive the governor's monthly membership dues. That saved Easley about $50,000 while he was in office, a break he didn't reveal on financial disclosure forms.
The pumping for the golf club hasn't been previously disclosed, officials acknowledged in interviews, and records from the time reflect concern and discussion about what would happen if the public found out.
"This is just a total shock to me that they would give up that water then," said Lynn Featherstone, a board member of the Haw River Assembly, an advocacy group that monitors Jordan Lake issues. "That was a very bad year. ... This is the first we've heard of it."
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