Leader Blues

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

TOP STORY >>New lines will bring sure flow of water

Leader staff writers

IN SHORT: Central Arkansas Water to pay $13.5 million, while local utilities pitch in $30.5 million, double earlier estimates.

A $44 million water project that will end Jacksonville’s, Cabot’s and North Pulaski Water Association’s dependence on well water is underway with a transmission line that is heading north from Little Rock-based Central Arkansas Water.

All the work, including a bid of $6.7 million to lay two 30-inch steel pipes under the I-430 bridge spanning the Arkansas River, has been about twice as much as expected, but all those involved say they will pay their part to keep the project moving ahead. CAW will pay $13.5 million for its part of the $44 million project and Jack-sonville, Cabot and North Pulaski Water Association will pay $30.5 million.

When the Lake Maumelle project first started three years ago, Cabot and Jacksonville expected to pay about $7 million each and North Pulaski expected to pay $800,000 for their part of upgrades to a CAW pumping station and to lay water lines under I-430. Now, all three will have to pay twice that amount and none say they are willing to pull out of the project because they have no other good option for water for the future.

A sign stands on the site where a water tank will be built between the Redmond Road railroad tracks and the south end of the newly-developed Hidden Oaks subdivision in Jacksonville. The sign reads that upon completion, the elevated tank will hold one million gallons of water. The cost to build the water tower is set at $2 million and is not included in the $44 million to connect to CAW.

One of two transmission lines taking water north (called the Northbelt transmission line) that will connect CAW to Jacksonville at this site in about four or five years, said Ken Anderson, Jacksonville Water Department general manager.

It will follow the route of existing railroad tracks toward the Brushy Island area. Going past the Two Pines landfill, this transmission line will tie into one of CAW’s existing lines. Anderson estimated the cost to lay the water pipeline at $4.5 million. This part of the project requires easements as well. “There are only three or four major landowners on this side, and the landfill has already agreed to it,” Anderson said.

A second, more costly transmission line heading toward Gravel Ridge to the west of Jacksonville must also be completed, but its exact route has yet to be determined. “At the end of the project, Jacksonville will have four tanks and maybe a fifth one, depending on the Sher-wood annexation,”Anderson said.

At the request of property owners, Jacksonville plans to annex undeveloped land, which includes an area to the north and east of Bayou Meto.

Local funding to cover expenditures for the project has already begun. In 2005, Jacksonville’s water rates increased 28 percent. Cabot’s doubled at about the same time.

This year, Jacksonville raised its rates another 12.5 percent and a 10.5 percent increase is planned for 2007. Cabot borrowed $21 million from the Arkansas Natural Re-sources Commission (then called Soil and Water) to pay its part of getting CAW water to Gravel Ridge and to build a 30-inch transmission line from Gravel Ridge to Cabot, but Tim Joyner, general manager of Cabot WaterWorks, said about $10 million more will be needed.