Towns approve joint water agreement

Published 4:47 pm Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Water could soon flow to new customers along a shared Howard Gap Road water line, and the towns of Columbus and Tryon and City of Saluda will be able to share water sources.
Columbus, Saluda and Tryon councils held a joint meeting on Tuesday, March 27 and approved an interlocal agreement to operate the joint water line, as well as a pass-through agreement to compensate an entity in the middle of a water transfer.
The meeting was brief, with no comments made. Each council approved the agreements unanimously.
Under the agreement, all three towns share ownership of the new approximately 7-mile-long water line, the 85,000-gallon storage tank, five booster pumps and a valve and master meter.
“The system is capable of sending water in each direction between the parties’ municipal water systems, depending on the configuration of valves and the operation of pumps and pressure reducing stations within the system,” states the interlocal agreement. “This system allows remote monitoring and control of the valve, pumps and other component parts of the project. Computer monitors will be placed in the offices of each party and the operation of the system can be monitored and performed by each. The parties understand, however, that it is imperative that two entities do not attempt to operate the system at the same time.”
The agreement designates Tryon as the day-to-day operator of the SCADA system, with Columbus and Saluda agreeing to make a request to Tryon if they require water or need other adjustments to the system.
Saluda is responsible for making regular visual inspections of the tank to determine whether any maintenance is required, according to the agreement. Operations of the water lines will be performed by each town in their respective townships.
“For example, each party shall be responsible for installing water taps and providing water service to customers within its township,” the agreement says.
Tryon and Saluda also agree to pay Columbus 25 cents for each 1,000 gallons of water sales fees collected for customers in their townships until a total of $200,000 has been paid to Columbus, or until June 30, 2031. Columbus has no means of tapping on customers to the line; therefore they could not receive any financial benefit.
According to the pass-through agreement, if any party’s water system serves as a pass-through to facilitate the purchase and sale of water from another water system as seller to another water system as purchaser, the party serving as the pass-through is entitled to one percent of the price of the water purchased.
The towns decided a few years ago to connect their water sources in order to provide back-up for one another after a severe drought forced the towns to enact mandatory water restrictions for customers. The line means that ultimately, water can be shared from Asheville and Hendersonville to Polk County, since Saluda obtains its water from Hendersonville. Polk County is also currently working on connecting its Mill Spring well system to Columbus, so the towns and county will all soon be able to share water if necessary.
The Howard Gap line between Tryon and Saluda was made possible through a $1.73 million grant that the towns shared from the N.C. Rural Center and a $300,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission. Each town is also sharing the financing of $1.43 million obtained from the North Carolina Drinking Water Fund, which is a no-interest loan.
The project included the construction of the water line, the construction of an 85,000-gallon water storage tank and the installation of a valve and booster pump to connect Columbus to the Tryon and Saluda systems.