Water authority receives federal funds

By Stephen S. Glass

Star Staff

   Congressman Bill Jenkins announced Wednesday that the U.S. House of Representatives has approved funds for the newly founded Watauga Regional Water Authority here in Carter County. The appropriations bill has yet to pass the Senate, but WRWA Chairman and Carter County Executive Truman Clark says he is optimistic about its chances for approval.
   The grant of $900,000, which should require no local matching funds, will be a great help in allowing the WRWA to begin engineering studies for the placement of a water uptake and treatment plant on the Watauga, Clark said.
   "We're very appreciative of Congressman Jenkins' efforts to secure funding for the project," Clark said Wednesday. "This money should help the authority get up and running at a high rate of speed. It will certainly simplify things for us. This is good news for the city, the county, the region, and for future water customers."
   At a meeting of the WRWA earlier this week, Clark intimated that there was little authority members could proceed with until they found a source of funding. While the appropriation will be only a fraction of the expense the WRWA will face on the way toward completion of what is expected to be a $48 million project, Clark says the money is certainly a good start.
   "This is one of the best things that has ever happened in Carter County," said Clark.
   In a press release issued late yesterday, Jenkins lauded the WRWA for their "efforts to dramatically improve the water supply following extended periods of drought."
   The City of Elizabethton had has considerable trouble this year with its spring-fed water supply, which was affected not only by drought, but also by wet weather. During July and August, the city was given cause to grumble when torrential rains clouded springs, precipitating a two-week boil alert for drinking water for much of the city.
   The city is already seeking state approval for an uptake plant near the Watauga Industrial Park, though City Manager Charlie Stahl said recently that nothing has been "written in stone" concerning that location.
   "Out of necessity, the city is on the fast track to building an uptake facility for drinking water," Stahl said recently.
   Jenkins said Wednesday that State Rep. Ralph Cole and State Sen. Rusty Crowe had both been "instrumental in getting federal funding approved for the project."
   Neither Cole nor Crowe was available for comment at press time.