Whitesburg KY

Water plan for Cumberland River area stalls

Letcher County residents in the Cumberland River area are faced with yet another possible delay in getting water from the City of Cumberland.

Corey Napier of Vaughn and Melton Consulting Engineers told the Letcher County Water and Sewer District’s board of directors that making a connection with Cumberland’s water lines during the first phase of the Cumberland River Water Project will now depend on that city’s ability to secure $1 million in funding.

Napier said that in order to provide the necessary water pressure to serve the lines installed during Phase I, the Cumberland water plant will have to be able to pump water into Letcher County lines at a minimum rate of 70 gallons per minute. To serve lines installed after all three phases of the project are completed will require 140 gallons per minute. Napier said that at present the Cumberland plant can’t provide water in either amount without significant upgrades that will cost around $1 million.

Napier said the funding for the work is supposed to be in place but after recent events in the state legislature, it may not be secure. To further complicate matters, the funds that Cumberland seeks to obtain are multi-county severance tax funds, which were recently compromised by a $2.5 million allotment to Rupp Arena by the Kentucky

General Assembly. That allotment was recently defended by Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who said it would be replaced by bond sales.

Napier said the Cumberland Water Plant is already operating at 80 percent capacity and is under an agreed order with the Division of Water to expand capacity. He urged the Letcher County Water and Sewer board members to contact state legislators and enlist their help in securing the multi-county funding for the Cumberland Plant. Napier added that until the Kentucky Division of Water receives a letter from the City of Cumberland stating that it has the capacity and intention to supply Letcher County, nothing can move forward in the Cumberland River project, which has been planned since 2006.

Napier also detailed another failed attempt to secure a water supply for the Cumberland River Area involving the Wise County Water District. The water line that terminates at the Kentucky/Virginia state line at Flat Gap was constructed with federal funds for the express purpose of supplying water to the Cumberland River area. He said that once the line was complete, the Wise County Water District decided to hold onto the added capacity in order to facilitate future industry in Wise County, although none has yet to materialize. The Wise District has the capacity to serve the Cumberland River project but has consistently refused to agree to connect to the Kentucky lines.

In other business at the board of directors’ June meeting, Steve Caudill of Bell Engineering reported that the main water line section for the second phase of the Deane Water Project that will serve Shelby Fork is in the ground and meters have been installed. Caudill said that during pressure testing last week, a leak was detected and repaired but if the line passes further tests this week, it will be placed into service. The purchase of the tank site and pump station for the third phase of the Deane Project is now complete and a final bid package has been assembled and will be forwarded to the Division of Abandoned Mine Lands for approval.

Some funds are left over from first phase of the Pine Creek/Pert Creek/Cram Creek Water Project and AML has authorized a change order to extend lines further into the Sunset View Loop and Graham Kincer Drive areas of Pine Creek. The interconnect between the Pine Creek and Thornton lines will begin as Phase 1A on June 24 and will add 26 customers. Bell Engineering is working with AML to secure permission to bid Phase II, which has already been approved by the Kentucky Division of Water.

Phase I of the Bull Creek/Elk Creek Water Project is proceeding, but Caudill said work was slowed when the contractors hit “hard rock.” He said once that area is cleared, work should proceed at a faster pace. The District still holds $134,597 in retaining fees from Cumberland Pipeline for clean-up work that was not finished on the Red Star/Ulvah/ Hallie Water Project. Caudill said Cumberland Pipeline has been notified that if the work is not completed to the satisfaction of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet by June 28, the fees will be forfeited and all costs to the district to complete the work will be charged against it. Caudill added that Cumberland Pipeline has said it will take care of the problem but told the board it should be prepared to foreclose.

Abandoned Mine Lands is currently conducting studies to determine if several other areas are eligible for funding. Phase II of the Red Star/Ulvah/Hallie project, the Big Cowan side roads project, and the Gordon/ Highway 510 Water Improvements Project are all under study. AML previously rejected an application to extend lines into Loggy Hollow at Dry Fork near Whitesburg, and in the Cumberland River area (Highway 932 to Flat Gap). Other funds are being sought for both areas.

District Superintendent Mark Lewis told the board that work on the second phase of the Payne Gap project is about 85 percent complete. Seminole Lane at Kona will be connected during Phase III.

Lewis said 118 meters have been installed in the Pert Creek/Cram Creek/Pine Creek area.

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