Council gets water line replacement rolling


Photo By Rick Harris
An unstable bridge supporting a water transmission line that moves one-third of the potable water to Elizabethton customers has city officials racing the clock - and government bureaucracy - to relocate the line.

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com
An unstable bridge supporting a water transmission line that moves one-third of the potable water to Elizabethton customers has city officials racing the clock - and government bureaucracy - to relocate the line.
Elizabethton City Council voted 6-0 Thursday night with Councilman Pat "Red" Bowers absent to approve an agreement hiring the J.R. Wauford & Co., Consulting Engineers firm to oversee design and construction of a new Doe River water transmission line.
While the water line itself is working fine, the line extends 240 feet across a decaying bridge crossing the Doe River on the abandoned U.S. Highway 19E. City officials hope the bridge holds up long enough to keep the water line that feeds potable water from the city's Hampton Spring source.
The difficulty regarding the line's relocation came with waiting for state and federal authorities to approve access to the river, said city Planning and Development Director David Ornduff.
"It will take 90 days to get the necessary permits to get in the river," Ornduff told council members. Before the line can be moved or even touched, the city must secure an Aquatic Resource Alteration Permit and get regulatory clearance from state and federal agencies including the Tennessee Valley Authority and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
The Flood of 1998 effectively destroyed a 14-inch water transmission line to the Hampton Spring. That water line was located beneath the Doe River. The city constructed a 16-inch water line across the abandoned bridge in 1998 when all indications were that the bridge was stable.
An evaluation report released by Wauford & Co. consultants last month found the bridge has suffered heavy decay since 1998. Wauford consultants found that the bridge was experiencing a "very rapid deterioration, is somewhat unstable and could possibly fall in the immediate future."
The evaluation found if the water line's service was disrupted the city was not capable of supplying its approximately 10,500 customers - which consume approximately 5.5 million gallons of water per day - with potable water. The Hampton spring provides one-third of the city's potable water, according to the evaluation.
City Manager Charles Stahl said options to relocate the line included routing the line back in the Doe River or attaching the line along the existing bridge of U.S. Highway 19E. He said a final route for the line had not been decided and likely would not be until Wauford & Co. concluded the engineering report and submitted it the city.
"We don't want to be addressing this again in 10 years," said Stahl.
Ornduff said there was a possibility the permit process could be expedited given the risk to the city's water supply. Ornduff said the city had submitted a grant application to the Appalachian Regional Commission to fund the water line's relocation. He said city staff were scheduled to meet with representatives of TVA, TDEC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers next week.
Ornduff said the city had also submitted an application for a $500,000 loan from the State Revolving Fund (SRF) loan program. Administered by TDEC's Division of Community Assistance, the SRF Loan Program provides low-interest loans to cities, counties, and utility districts for the planning, design, and construction of water facilities.
"They do have funds available for emergencies such as this," Ornduff said of the SRF program.
The engineering work performed by Wauford sets as total compensation $37,000, including a preliminary engineering report, and obtaining the necessary permits.
In other business, council voted 6-0 to approve a bid for the removal of roughly 832 feet of railroad track extending through the downtown area. The city will pay $9,031.20 for the removal of rail ties and cross ties from north of East Elk Avenue to Cedar Avenue. The city has awarded a contract to Summers-Taylor to pave the streets affected by the track removal.