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Side road homes on Little Cowan waiting for water


Residents who live along side roads on Little Cowan will have to continue to wait for clean water.

A group from the Scuttle Hole Gap area approached the Letcher County Water and Sewer District in 2016 to ask for water service for their neighborhood. At that meeting, the district’s board of directors said the main line belonged to the City of Whitesburg but would soon be exchanged with the district for the Dry Fork/Craft’s Colly sewer lines when they were completed and the district would seek funding to extend lines to the side roads.

The Letcher County Fiscal Court received a similar request at its meeting this month, but Judge/Executive Terry Adams said he was not sure if the line had been transferred to the county.

It hasn’t been.

At the April 20 meeting of the water district, Director Mark Lewis told the board that when the line through Cowan was originally run by the city, there wasn’t enough money to extend lines to the side roads. He said the although the district did give the sewer lines in Craft’s Colly and Dry Fork to Whitesburg, the city was unable to make the exchange for the water lines in Cowan.

The exchange failed due to issues concerning deposits that were collected from the customers along Highway 931 in the Big Cowan area. Whitesburg Mayor James Wiley Craft, on Tuesday (April 23) told The Mountain Eagle that in order to facilitate the exchange of lines in Big Cowan, the city would have had to refund every deposit that was taken from every customer there. Craft said that not only would that have cost the city in excess of $50,000, the entire matter would also have been subject to a good deal of confusion due to the amount of time that had passed since the original deposits had been taken.

He said the city would not have been able to simply write a check to the water and sewer district, but would have to refund each individual deposit and the district would then have to collect every deposit again and do all the accompanying paperwork for each customer. Craft said the expense and the complexity of the exchange had made it impossible to exchange the lines along Highway 931 and they still belong to the city. He added that extending lines to many of the side roads is cost prohibitive due to the small number of households that would be served, and that most funders look at the number of homes served per dollar spent.

Lewis said that the federal Department of Abandoned Mine Lands has studied the side roads that extend off Big Cowan, which include George Brown Hollow, but made no determination about whether they fit AML guidelines for funding. At the April fiscal court meeting, Eva Collins told the court that she has tried to get a water line run to her home on George Brown Road but hasn’t been able to get it done. Collins said she lives about a quarter mile from the main line.

The sewer line project that the water district gave to the city was designed to relieve the flow of untreated waste from Craft’s Colly into the Kentucky River not far above the city’s water intake. However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers became involved in 2014 with an additional $500,000 in funding to extend sewer lines into the Dry Fork area as well. The project was paid for by entirely by grant money.

In other business, Alan Bowman of Bell Engineering told the board that funding to acquire an alternative source to supply water for the county that was turned down by AML last December will be reconsidered in June when a new funding round is opened. Bowman learned of the new funding round at a recent meeting at the Kentucky River Area Development District (KRADD) where representatives of AML said the district should revise the original application and reapply. Bowman said there are no guarantees, but AML strongly urged the district to resubmit the application. The second round of AML funding will open in June 2019.

Bowman also reported that a water pressure recorder that had been removed from lines along Highway 15 and its data have been downloaded. It will be re-installed at a different location. He said it will be removed within again two weeks and the data will be downloaded. Bowman also reported that funding prospects are favorable from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the Appalachian Regional Commission for water line extensions in Roxana for the federal prison. Bowman added that KRADD has submitted several funding applications for the wastewater treatment plant for the prison.

A revised opinion of probable costs has been submitted to Abandoned Mine Lands for line extensions for the Gordon/ Highway 510 Project. The Rural Community Assistance Project, which works with the district on various water-related matters, has contacted the Black Mountain Utilities District about the possibility of a regional interconnect of water lines. The study of the Millstone Water Project is also complete and an updated estimate of cost has been sent to AML. An updated estimate for Phase III of the Red Star/ Turkey Creek Water Project was also sent to AML, and permits for the project are being reviewed and updated.

Surveys are complete for the water line railroad crossing needed to extend lines to Carbon Glow and the crossing permit for CSX Railroad has been prepared, along with plans sheets, specifications and contract documents. Bell Engineering will submit the permit to CSX within the month, Bowman said.

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