The long sought after water supply for the Cumberland River area has run up on yet another potentially devastating problem.
At the October meeting of the Board of Directors of the Letcher County Water and Sewer District, board members learned that while the Wise County (Va.) Public Service Authority Water District has agreed to connect its lines at the state line in the Flat Gap area to supply water to Letcher County residents, the exorbitant fee it is asking to supply water to the Cumberland River area will derail the project if no changes are made.
Alan Bowman of Bell Engineering told the board the Wise County PSA proposed a rate of $6.60 per 1,000 gallons to the Letcher County district. Bowman said the Wise County district sells water to other wholesale consumers in Virginia — in Norton, Coeburn, and Pound — at a rate of $3.50 per 1,000 gallons, and the proposed rate is double the rates charged by the Knott County Water District or the City of Jenkins to supply water to customers in Letcher County.
District Manager Mark Lewis told the board that at the rate quoted by the Wise County PSA, the project is simply undoable, and added that the Wise County district only announced the rate after the Appalachian Regional Commission announced that it had awarded a $500,000 grant to the Letcher County Water and Sewer District for the Cumberland River Project. Bowman said Wise County justified the rate by saying it would have to upgrade its system to supply the necessary water. However, the Wise County System was designed to accommodate the Flat Gap area when its most recent upgrades were made and its line terminates at the state line now.
Bowman said the Wise County PSA cited increases in treatment costs and power costs to supply Cumberland River. He added that Bell Engineering will work with Fifth District U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers’s office and the Wise County PSA to negotiate a more favorable rate for the water.
In other business, Abandoned Mine Lands has granted the district permission to submit bids for a second interconnect with the Knott County Water District that will supply water to Letcher County customers. The project will advertise for bids on October 28 and bids will be opened November 17 at 1 p.m. in the Letcher County district offices.
Based on feedback from AML, Phase II of the Red Star, Ulvah, and Turkey Creek water project has been broken into several phases, and a funding request for the first part has been submitted to AML. Phase II-A will extend service to approximately 76 homes between the intersection of Kentucky 7 and Kentucky 1103 and Campbell Road. AML also recommend a similar structure for Phase II of the Bull Creek/Elk Creek project and a request has been submitted to extend service to approximately 40 homes from the end of Phase I to Deep Hollow and Curtis Roads. No changes to other projects were announced.