Water authority lowers amount asked from lake
Posted on Tuesday, June 16, 2009
The Ozark Mountain Regional Public Water Authority will ask to pull less water from Bull Shoals Lake to serve 22 water systems in rural Northwest Arkansas.
Tim Mays, the authority's project engineer, said Monday that the Ozark Mountain group promised the Army Corps of Engineers that it will reduce its water storage request from 12 million gallons a day to 4 million-6 million gallons per day.
"If we get 4 million gallons, the amount we're asking for is about the thickness of a sheet of paper spread across the whole lake," said Mays, who works for Engineering Services Inc. in Springdale.
The Corps of Engineers has scheduled two public workshops regarding the Ozark Mountain Regional Public Water Authority's plan to pull drinking water from Bull Shoals Lake and send it to areas of Boone, Newton, Searcy and Marion counties.
Those meetings are June 30 at the James A. Gaston Visitor Center at the Bull Shoals-White River State Park near Bull Shoals and July 1 at the Diamond City Community Center, 232 Grand Ave. Both meetings start at 6 p.m.
Corps spokesman P.J. Spaul said those meetings will help "dispel rumors" about how much water the Ozark Mountain group is seeking.
In an interview, Spaul said there are no rumors about how much water the group wants yet, but the Corps doesn't intend to wait for them to start.
During the 1990s, rumors "ran wild" after the Community Water System serving 65,000 people in four counties near Greers Ferry Lake sought additional water from the lake.
"When we talk about dispelling rumors, that's why," Spaul said. "There were fears that it was going to drain the lake. They were flying, but you aren't talking about drastic changes in lake levels. It's relatively small."
The Ozark Mountain authority has received about $7 million in federal and state grants to support its $65 million project that would deliver drinking water to 22 water systems with homes and businesses in areas around the Buffalo National River and north to Bull Shoals, Mays said.
Those 22 systems serve about 22,000 people in the four counties and want $32 million to build a water treatment plant and water intake structure west of Diamond City. There would also be 115 miles of water transmission lines to deliver water to the 22 associations.
The $7 million raised so far isn't enough to start the project and the goal is to seek about $40 million in federal stimulus money later this year, Mays said.
There is federal funding for a $4.5 million part of the project that's considered the "criticalneeds phase," focused on bringing drinking water to the three authority members that deal with high amounts of radium in their groundwater wells.
There's too much radium in the groundwater pulled from water wells by Mount Sherman Waterworks in Newton County, and by the SDM and South Mountain water associations in Searcy County, said Lance Jones, an engineer supervisor for the Arkansas Department of Health. Two of those systems would hook up to Marshall city water; Mount Sherman would connect to Jasper's supply, Mays said.
Leaders of rural water systems in the four counties have been encouraged by the state Health Department for years to rely less on groundwater wells and to seek out surface water supplies. For instance, water systems in Newton County met in 2004 to talk about ways to bring drinking water from Beaver Lake and about the possibility of building a 104-acre lake on the Illinois Bayou in northern Pope County.
They decided the best option would be attaching water pipes to highway bridges that go over the Buffalo National River and to extend those lines from Bull Shoals Lake, the state's biggest lake.