Auburn residents will get a chance to ask questions about the city's planned construction project that will add a water transmission main and increase the capacity of the city's water supply by millions of gallons a day.
The water main project drew opposition from the public last year because the pipeline would cross a small part of Chewacla State Park. Thousands of residents signed a petition that advocated rerouting the pipeline to "avoid any negative impact" to the park.
At the time, the city pushed back on what it said were misrepresentations about the pipeline's route. The city claimed that the water main's 20-foot easement would cross trails at nine locations, temporarily impacting about 180 feet of trails in the park. In all, the pipeline would run through 3,900 feet of Chewacla State Park, with 1,400 feet running across existing roadway.
"I think the perception out there is that we’re going to come in there and clear a 50-foot right-of-way, like you see on a power line where the trees are just trimmed and you’ve got a corridor and it’s just ugly as heck. We’re not doing that," said Eric Carson, director of the Water Resource Management Department, to The Villager last August. "This is going to be a 20-foot easement. We have a 50-foot construction easement, but we plan on staying in that 20-foot easement as much as possible. And we’re not clearing limbs, and we’re not taking the canopy away. When this is all done, you’re hardly going to know it’s there. Once you go through a few falls and the leaves fall on the ground, you’re not even going to be able to see where we are for the most part."
Many residents voiced their concerns to the City Council and asked them to take action on an alternate route. The council has no purview over the pipeline's route, though. That authority rests with the Auburn Water Works Board.
An alternate route could have cost the city upwards of an additional $1 million or more for construction, said Carson. Carson added that a longer route would add about a mile to the planned five-mile-long pipeline and also increase the age of the water as well as the cost of power to pump the water, which would be passed onto customers for the life of the well.
"When we first started looking at it, there were basically two options — you could either go cross-country and try to get there as economically and in as short a path as you could to minimize construction costs," said Carson. "Or you could take a longer way and go west from the well site, up Mill Creek Road and down Shell Toomer (Parkway) and stay on public right-of-way the entire way. However in doing so, you’re adding over a mile of distance to the pipeline, which in turn drives up the construction costs dramatically, somewhere — the estimates I’ve seen are in the neighborhood of $1 million or more construction-wise.
"Also, the advantages of the route we’re taking is we’re not disrupting traffic on Mill Creek Road or Shell Toomer Parkway, which it would drastically impact traffic if you went that way."
The water main will service a new well that came to the city's attention more than three years ago. It is located just southwest of Good Ol' Boys Family Restaurant off Lee Road 10. At full capacity, it would provide up to 4 million gallons a day and bring the city's total capacity to over 17 million, including water contract purchases. That is expected to meet the city's projected demand through 2050.
The projected cost of the pipeline last August was $4 to $5 million.
The Auburn Water Works Board will host the public meeting next Thursday at 6 p.m. in the City Meeting Room at 122-B Tichenor Avenue. The meeting is open to all residents. AWWB representatives and the project's consulting engineer and contractor will be in attendance to provide information and answer any questions the public might have.