The Auburn Water Works Board shared details last week for the installation of a south water main from Sandhill Road, through Chewacla State Park and ending at the James Estes Water Treatment Plant for a new groundwater well, increasing the city’s water capacity to four million gallons per day.
“The source is desperately needed by the city," Jacobs Engineering Group consulting engineer Matt McDougall said. "This is an increase of approximately 35 percent of what the city can produce right now. This particular source is incredibly important.”
In May 2018, the Auburn Water Works Board, Water Resource Management, Jacobs Engineering Group, Alabama State Parks Division and Central Alabama Mountain Pedalers (CAMP) collaborated to place 3,900 feet of the water main in the park, minimizing impact on bike trails and the environment.
“We are not anticipating any future impact,” Auburn Water Resource Management director Eric Carson said. “There’s a perception out there that this is going to be a 50 foot wide right-of-way cleared like you might envision on a gas or power main. The water and sewer line easements are passive in nature and conducive to hiking or biking. It’s a lot of canopy over the trails.”
Mayor Pro Tem and Ward 3 Councilwoman Beth Witten said the Auburn City Council has no purview for the water main installation, permitted by the Alabama State Parks Division and assessed by the U.S. Army Core of Engineers.
“The well, announced in August 2018, should begin servicing the Auburn community by the summer or fall of 2020,” Auburn director of public affairs David Dorton said. “It will increase the capacity of the Auburn Water Works Board to 17.3 million gallons of water per day, which is projected to meet and exceed water demand in Auburn through 2050.”
McDougall said an alternative route from Mill Creek Road, along Shell Toomer Parkway and ending at the Chewacla State Park entrance will add one mile to the proposed water main, raising water bill costs.
“It was one mile longer and had several other issues to deal with,” McDougall said. “Many trees would be cut down through that route. One issue we are always looking at is cost. If we were to spend more money and go the alternate route, every citizen of Auburn and beyond that pays a water bill would have an increase in their cost associated with that.”
Carson emphasized the Mill Creek Road, Shell Toomer Parkway route would have an adverse effect on property owners.
“Going down Mill Creek Road and Shell Toomer Parkway, I feel like that would be very destructive, not only to people’s front yards, but it would affect the overall look to the community and people driving down that parkway. Regardless of which route we take, will have to cross Chewacla and Town Creek.”
The current route considered by the Auburn Water Works Board will have no impact on Auburn homes, but the water main will be installed on some properties, McDougall said.
“Outside the park area, we will be going along Wrights Mill Road in certain areas," McDougall said. "There are some driveways and homes there, but the homes will not be impacted. As we go through on the right-of-way, the driveways will be impacted.”
A 20-foot greenway will preside over the section of water main within the park for maintenance purposes, and residents will have the opportunity to use the greenway as a biking or hiking trail, McDougall explained.
“Currently, there is no way for vehicle access to the west side of Town Creek where the bike trails are located,” McDougall said. “If someone gets hurt, they could utilize the easement on the adjacent property to get to the route and have easier access to those people.”
Bike trail concerns
Dorton said 2,500 feet of the water main will be installed in the vicinity of more than 25 miles of Chewacla biking trails and intersect the trail in nine locations, affecting 180 feet.
“We would expect to be working in the area of the trails for approximately three to four months,” McDougall said. “The plan would be for us to bring in someone that is knowledgeable in rebuilding mountain bike trails. We would then take proposals from those people and include the restoration of those trails as part of the work that would be done for the installation of the pipeline.”
Carson stressed the Auburn Water Works Board will accommodate the local biking organizations and schedule the installation at a convenient time.
“I think we made it clear in multiple meetings with bike club members that we would work around their bike-racing schedules, and we encourage their input on repairing the trails< Carson said. The water board would make that an issue. We don’t want to leave a bike trail unrepaired. We want to repair it properly and to their satisfaction.”
Auburn Mayor Ron Anders expressed his gratitude for the residents concerned about the impact on Chewacla State Park, the biking trails and the individuals maintaining the trails.
“It’s not a decision we have the purview over, but it’s a decision that has been worked on a while,” Anders said. “I believe the water board will be seeking to move forward. I would be very disappointed, once this is all said and done, if your track has not been put back as you built it. We will do all we can to make sure that occurs, but your efforts are to be applauded because you have made a huge difference in this community.”
Residents seeking more information on the Auburn's south water main installation can contact Carson at firstname.lastname@example.org and request a report of the project, Auburn city manager James Buston said.