State reps review bridge carrying water line

Photo By Rick Harris
State and federal reps meet with city of Elizabethton officials to review the condition of the decrepit bridge supporting the Doe River water line.

By Thomas Wilson
State and federal representatives spent Tuesday morning examining a decrepit bridge that structurally maintains a water transmission line responsible for supplying 33 percent of Elizabethton's drinking water.
City officials met with representatives from the Tennessee Valley Authority, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) on Tuesday afternoon to visit the city's Doe River water transmission line carrying potable water from the Hampton Spring source.
"It did appear to be impacted," said Andrew Tolley, with TDEC Division of Water Pollution Control at the Environmental Assistance Center in Johnson City.
A 16-inch water line encased in concrete extends roughly 240 linear feet across the abandoned U.S. Highway 19E bridge that crosses the Doe River. At issue is the structural soundness of the bridge. At stake is the potable water supply to city of Elizabethton water customers.
"They realized in fact, after going up there that it is an emergency situation and that something needs to be done as soon as possible," said David Ornduff, director of planning and development, who, along with Public Works Director Ted Leger brought government reps to the bridge.
If the line relocation involves entry into the river, the city must secure an Aquatic Resource Alteration Permit (ARAP) from TDEC. The permit application would be forwarded to the other agencies for review. Tolley said, depending on the size and scope of the project, an ARAP permit could be issued in a few days or six months.
In an evaluation of the bridge in June 2002, the engineering firm of J.R. Wauford & Co. found the bridge had begun a rapid deterioration, was somewhat unstable "and could possibly fall" in the immediate future. The firm found a 46-foot portion of the bridge's western wall and a bridge deck had fallen into the river. The bridge surface near the western wall has chipped away and is partially closed off with metal fencing.
The firm found the city could not adequate supply its 10,500 customers with potable water if the water line was disrupted by the continued decay or collapse of the bridge. Wauford & Co. is handling the engineering work for the line relocation including securing the ARAP.
"The permitting process is going forward so that there won't be any loss of time," said Ornduff.
Ornduff said the primary relocation method being considered involved boring beneath the river bed and laying the line underground. A secondary option involved doing an "open cut" into the river and placing the line in the river bed. A third plan has the line extended along the first of the so-called "double bridges" on Highway 19E. Connecting the water line to the highway would require approximately 150 feet of additional transmission line construction, Ornduff said.
Tolley said if the city chose to bore beneath the river bed to relocate the line, an ARAP permit would probably still be necessary.
"That could create a lot of construction on either side of the river for that to be done," he said.
The city's 14-inch water line from the Hampton Spring source was washed away in the flood of 1998. Ornduff said that water line had been placed in the early 1920s.
The city has 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.
After the 1998 flood washed away the city's existing water line to the Hampton Spring, the city constructed the line across the bridge to restore water service to thousands of customers.