Local Duck River Reservoir project update: pipeline nearing completion, bidding on pump station to begin soon, dam lawsuit awaiting court date | The Cullman Tribune

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Duck River Reservoir project update: pipeline nearing completion, bidding on pump station to begin soon, dam lawsuit awaiting court date

Members of the Duck River Reservoir Oversight Board hear about the pipeline project from Dale Bright of St. John & Associates Monday morning. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN - On Monday morning, the Duck River Reservoir Oversight Board held its quarterly meeting, hearing presentations about the pipeline project, upcoming pump station project, water plant improvements and water quality in the system. The board, which serves in an advisory capacity, brings together representatives from all water systems served by the Duck River Reservoir (representing approximately 100,000 customers), Cullman County Commission and Cullman County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Utilities Board of the City of Cullman and City of Cullman Water Department, Cullman Economic Development Agency and engineering firms.

Pipeline project

Dale Bright, of St. John & Associates, the engineering firm overseeing the pipeline project, reported that the pipeline is nearly complete except for two short sections: at Brindley Creek and at the water plant. Construction is underway at Brindley Creek now and is expected to be finished next week. The last 900 feet of pipeline at the water plant should be finished in November, and the line should be ready to begin testing by the end of the year.

Bright also reported that the pipeline project is currently under budget.

Status of the lake

Duck River Reservoir Manager Tim Scott told the group that the lake is 7.5 feet below full pool right now.  He reported that Lake Catoma is at the same level presently, so the lower level is not a cause for concern, but simply represents the current status of the area’s water level in general.  He also said that water quality data was submitted to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) in July, and that the lake’s status will be changed before water begins flowing to the plant, from its current “Fish and Wildlife” classification to “Public Water Source.”

Scott also reported on fishing in the lake, noting an unconfirmed report of a 9-pound bass caught and released.  All bass caught in the lake must be released under current rules. Other fish, including crappie, bream and catfish may be removed, but limits apply to crappie and bream.

Pump station

Scott told the group that bids will be advertised for construction of the pumping station at the reservoir starting Nov. 5, and that submitted bids will be opened on Dec. 4.  The notice of award will go out Dec. 18, and construction will begin after that.

According to information given by Utilities Board of the City of Cullman General Manager Mike Manning to The Tribune earlier this year, construction will take up to a year, and, at that time, the board hoped to have water running to the plant by the end of 2019.

The construction project is expected to cost around $7 million and will include three 500-horsepower motors with a 60-80-horsepower “jockey pump” that will keep a constant flow of 1 million gallons per day moving to the plant.  The larger pumps can move large amounts of water quickly, in case pumps from Lake Catoma need to be shut down, or if blending the two sources can increase water quality at the plant.

Water quality

Cullman City Water Treatment Plant Manager David Freeman presented a detailed review of testing results at the water plant and at facilities of the various water agencies supplied by Cullman’s water plant. According to multi-page printed reports distributed to attendees, all levels that had to below a certain threshold came in well below the mark, often less than half the allowed maximum.  Likewise, all levels that were supposed to exceed a certain mark did so with room to spare.

Said Freeman, “The bottom line is nobody’s even close to being out of compliance.  That’s because everybody is doing what they need to.”

CH2M Hill engineer Steve Newton reported that current water quality in the Duck River Reservoir itself has also received high marks, pointing to cooperation from land owners in controlling pollution in the runoff from their properties, combined with the 100-foot buffer around the lake, as the major contributing factors.

Water plant

Cullman City Water Treatment Plant Assistant Manager Mark Brooks told the group that work on the plant’s new chemical storage building is proceeding well, with some internal components completed.  A new air compressor and compressor building have also been built on the west side of the plant. Pipe work at the plant could begin in the first two weeks of November.

Duck River Dam lawsuit

The currently pending Utilities Board of the City of Cullman lawsuit against CH2M Hill Engineers, ASI Constructors and ASI’s bonding agency Western Surety over excessive water seepage in the dam was not a topic of discussion during the meeting, but afterward board attorney Roy Williams spoke to The Tribune.  He said that motions by the three defendants to dismiss the case have been denied, so a trial is still ahead. All parties are working toward getting preparation out of the way, but the process is not moving rapidly. The Utilities Board hopes to see the case go to trial before Dec. 2019, but one of the defendants is pushing for a 2020 date.

For more on the dam and reservoir projects, as well as the pending lawsuit, see:

www.cullmantribune.com/articles/2018/07/17/duck-river-reservoir-opens-re...

www.cullmantribune.com/articles/2018/07/07/duck-river-reservoir-set-open...

www.cullmantribune.com/articles/2017/08/08/deeper-dive-duck-river-dam

www.cullmantribune.com/articles/2017/07/28/cullman-utilities-board-files...

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