Polk towns less than year away from water transfers

Published 2:05 pm Friday, September 11, 2009

Polk County&squo;s towns of Columbus, Saluda and Tryon could be exchanging water in less than a year as construction on a new line connecting the three will begin soon.

Tryon Town Manager Justin Hembree and project manager and town engineer Joel Wood estimate that the construction of a water line between Tryon and Saluda will begin sometime this fall. The line will enable Columbus, Saluda and Tryon to exchange water in emergency drought situations and is part of an inter-local agreement between the three towns.

The three towns recently approved a property purchase for $25,000 on Howard Gap Road to house a water tank. The purchase closed a couple of weeks ago. The towns all shared a $1.73 million grant from the N.C. Rural Center last year as well as a $300,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission for the emergency water project. Each town is financing a third of a $1.43 million North Carolina Drinking Water State Revolving Fund no interest loan as its share of the grant.

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Wood says water should be flowing through the line by March or April of 2010 as the construction time will be approximately nine months.

Once the line is completed, Tryon and Saluda will be able to exchange water as well as Tryon and Columbus. Part of the project was to place a reserve valve on a current Tryon and Columbus water line so Columbus can send water to Tryon. Currently Tryon is able to send water to Columbus but not vice-versa.

The new line will also enable the towns to receive water from the City of Hendersonville in emergency situations because the City of Saluda is a water customer of Hendersonville.

The towns applied for the grant following a string of droughts over the past several years that caused the towns to enact mandatory water restrictions due to strained water sources. Tryon receives its water strictly from Lake Lanier, but the project also includes upgrades to the town&squo;s water plant to be able to receive and process water from the town&squo;s former mountain water source.

The Town of Columbus operates its system on wells.

The towns are currently waiting for final approval to be given for construction from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The plans have already been approved and final financing approval came from the N.C. Local Government Commission.