July 1, 2011 by wcobserver
By Timothy D. Dennis
WASHINGTON COUNTY – Several residents in the south part of the county have never been connected to a rural water system. Most have resorted to wells, springs or hauling water from municipal or other sources, such as Tatum Springs near the community of Whitehouse.
In the dry summer months, hauling water becomes a daily routine for many, and places like Tatum Springs dry up early in the day because of so many people needing water.
On August 9, Washington County was awarded a grant to construct a rural water system in the southern part of the county. Seventy-nine miles of pipe will bring water all the way to the community of Sunset near the edge of the county. To date, about 300 easements have been collected from landowners in order to allow the county to build the main pipeline through their properties.
But before the construction contracts can be awarded, about 20 easements for running pipe across as many properties are still needed. The majority of the outstanding easements are held up by bankruptcy proceedings or by the properties being owned by out-of-state banks, but three to four landowners have refused to sign easements outright, said Wayne Blankenship, a county grants administrator.
“There’s this last few that, for whatever reason, just don’t want the water to come through or don’t want to give up an easement to be able to go through their land to service the people on the other side of them,” Blankenship said.
Aside from the outstanding easements, the only other obstacle to starting construction is the highly volatile price of pipe. Until the price stabilizes, the county is unable to get a reliable quote on the cost of materials for the project, Blankenship said.
The project required that several permits be attained. Permits are needed to build across county and state roads. Other permits are needed to build through land owned by the U.S. Forest Service, and a permit must be obtained from the Army Corps of Engineers.
“We have all permits in hand except for the forestry’s permit, and it is on the way. [We] should have it before the week is out,” Blankenship said.
Once the remaining easements are secured, construction will take a little more than a year to be completed. The project will likely be complete by the beginning of 2013, but at this point, that’s “a big old hairy guess,” Blankenship said.
“This is being worked on every day, and we have Washington Water Authority working on it, and I’m working on it every day, and we haven’t missed a day of making sure that we’re trying our best to get everything ready to go to get to bid,” he said.