The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

July 18, 2013

Decatur OKs Limestone water project

By Kim West

— An 8,700-foot pipeline project known as Decatur Crossing is on the cusp of becoming reality after the Decatur City Council and their utilities board approved a water contract increasing the maximum amount of water Decatur Utilities can sell to the Limestone County Water and Sewer Authority.

The 30-year contract will allow LCWSA to purchase as much as 7 million gallons of water — up from the previous limit of 1.5 million — and start a four-year approval process to eventually increase water flow to 15 million gallons daily from Decatur to Athens.

The LCWSA, which serves 20,300 customers, currently has the capacity to produce 9 million gallons of water per day. Decatur Utilities owns a treatment plant capable of treating 68 million gallons a day for its approximately 25,000 water customers.

The LCWSA proposes to build the pipeline, which is 36 inches in diameter, under the Tennessee River to provide water to customers in southern Limestone County, and to increase future capacity. The portion of pipeline underwater will be about 3,500 feet, according to LCWSA officials.

The Decatur Utilities board had previously approved a water contract that was revised by the city council and sent back to the utility for final approval. The utility’s three-member board accepted the revisions July 11, and the city approved the new contract during Monday’s regular council meeting.

“We at DU are very excited about the prospect of increased sales of water to LCWSA. We believe that the contract creates a mutually beneficial arrangement for all parties,” said Ray Hardin, general manager of Decatur Utilities following their board meeting July 11. “Limestone County is poised for significant growth in the decades ahead, and this contract allows Decatur Utilities and the city of Decatur to support and benefit from that expected growth.”

Hardin said water is currently delivered through a 16-inch water pipeline, which limits the volume of water that can physically flow to LCWSA. Once LCWSA completes the installation of a new 36-inch water transmission pipeline across the Tennessee River and connects to Decatur’s water plant, Decatur Utilities will have excess capacity to become LCWSA’s primary water supplier.

“For DU, the additional revenue will help reduce the impact of rate increases for all of our customers in the future,” Hardin said. “For LCWSA, we hope a stable source of supply at a competitive price will attract business (and) industry to the benefit of the entire region.”

The new contract requires LCWSA to provide DU a letter of credit or another acceptable type of security equal to the Limestone utility’s highest water bill if its credit rating dips below a BBB rating and if it misses a payment within a 12-month period.

Byron Cook, general manager of the LCWSA, said Monday the new contract includes safeguards for Decatur, and he did not object to the revisions. He said the authority has not had a late or missed payment in 21 years of buying water from Decatur.

Pending final approval by the LCWSA, Cook previously said the project would immediately move into the design and engineering stage and the bid process. He said construction could start in seven to eight months and take up to 3 1/2 years to complete at a cost of between $10 million and $11 million.

The LCWSA board of directors will consider approving the contract at its regular monthly meeting at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, July 25, in the LCWSA Customer Service Building at the intersection of South Jefferson and Forrest streets.