Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

June 18, 2014

City seeks timeline on Corps study

CROSSVILLE — Officials with the city of Crossville want to be ready with adequate funding when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes the next steps of its regional water supply study for Cumberland County and presents options for environmental impact studies.

"We've made tons of projections and we've evaluated tons of alternatives. Now, we're trying to fit the scope of our work to try to continue towards the EIS where you make a recommendation for the alternative and we have a firm schedule when we're ready to receive the rest of our information so that we can go forward," Crossville Mayor J.H. Graham III told officials with the Corps during a meeting at Crossville City Hall Thursday.

Lt. Col. John  L. Hudson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers district commander, agreed with the need for a timeline on the project, saying, "Dates are important. It holds us accountable. It provides a level of transparency which everybody needs in the process, because it addresses the concerns or fears. It also enables effective planning, because there are big costs down the road on whatever the solution is. We will get you good dates and what we anticipate that timeline to be."

Graham noted the county had experienced significant growth prior to the Great Recession of 2008.

"We're just about over it," Graham said. "They're building 108 houses in Fairfield this year. It's coming back. We want to be prepared for it."

The city and Corps of Engineers entered into an agreement for a study of the regional water supply in 2005, following a 1998 preliminary report. The study is to evaluate the region's water supply needs for the next 50 to 75 years. The cost of the project is split 75-25 between the Corps of Engineers and the city.

The Corps of Engineers is currently working to determine areas of the county that have need for additional water supply, identify and recommend potential alternatives and then prepare the report.

"We've got to make sure that we've got enough water to meet all of our contract obligations because everybody gets to depending on who they sign the contract with for water and, if it gets dry, then we have to go into the drought management," Crossville City Manager David Rutherford said. "If we can plan ahead and deal with some of that and shorten the pain on some of that, we need to be doing that."

It is estimated a detailed feasibility study and environmental impact statement could begin next January, with completion of National Environmental Policy Act work possible by August 2016.

Rutherford said, "I want to see what's coming up so I can budget. We've got to be ready and make plans to get funding."

Alternatives studied for the area's drinking water supply have included possible new impoundments, increasing capacity of existing impoundments, interconnectivity among water districts, conservation and water harvesting.

"We've already got water harvesting in place," Rutherford said, referring to the city's connection to Lake Tansi to the Meadow Park Lake water treatment facility. That agreement allows the city to take water from Lake Tansi from October to April.

"We just took what went over the dam this year," Rutherford said. That water was pumped directly to the Meadow Park Lake treatment facility and not into Meadow Park Lake, as the lake does not have storage capacity for additional water.

The city is working to develop interconnectivity to all water districts in the county, with talks ongoing to replace a master meter at a connection with Crab Orchard Utility District, allowing that district to have additional water supply during emergencies or to supply future growth of that area.

A master meter is in place with the West Cumberland Utility District, though the city does not provide any water to that district at this time.

The city does provide water to South Cumberland Utility District, Fall Creek Falls Utility District and Grandview. The Catoosa Utility District, which existed when the water study began, is now part of the city's water department.

Cumberland County sits atop the Cumberland Plateau at the headwaters of many rivers and streams, including the Caney Fork River, and much of the county falls into the Emory River Watershed, which affects the Obed Wild and Scenic River, a Tier III Outstanding Natural Resource Water under the Clean Water Act.

"If the park service had their way, we wouldn't be pulling any water out of that watershed," said Tim Begley, city engineer. "We feel we're already making a pretty good dent in it. We had a rough time getting a permit for the Lake Tansi project a few years ago."

Because the county is at the headwaters of several streams, most of the streams go dry in the summer months.

The study has looked at raising the dam at Meadow Park Lake by 20 feet, doubling the surface area.

"There is minimal impact to any stream around," Begley said. "The watershed there is fairly small. We just need a place to store the water so we have a good supply that will last through a drought."

Rutherford said the study had explored what would happen during a five-year drought. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has recommended a 10 to 20 percent margin of safety in water need estimates during droughts to allow for less uncertainty.

"If I've got a five-year, sustained drought, what am I going to do if we don't have additional storage capacity to catch water now?" Rutherford asked.

The city has questioned growth data and has asked new data regarding leaks and water loss being figured into the report being drafted. The report estimates total water loss in all utility districts to be at about 23 to 25 percent of treated water lost through leaks in the system. Rutherford said Crossville had recorded losses upwards of 30 percent the last several years.

"We wish it was a 25 percent loss rate. We're not there yet. We put $50,000 to find our leaks in this year's budget. If we need to, we're going to throw another $100,000 at it. We're going to find our leaks," Graham said. "It's pretty serious when you're spending all this time and energy and you make the water but lose it before you get to sell it."

Hudson noted water loss was an issue across the country due to aging infrastructure.

Graham thanked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other individuals for their time, and presented Hudson with the key to the city of Crossville. Hudson presented Graham with commander's coin.

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