2013-01-17 / News

Pipeline could begin construction this spring

810-452-2650 • ggould@mihomepaper.com

GENESEE COUNTY — Regardless if the City of Flint is allowed by the state to break away from Detroit Water and Sewer and join the Karegnondi Water Authority, Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright said the project has enough support to move ahead.

Wright said word should come from Lansing next week as to whether or not Flint — which is state receivership — can dump Detroit water and sewer and join the project to build a water pipeline from Port Huron to Flint, serving Sanilac, Genesee and Lapeer counties and the city of Lapeer.

The KWA is ready to bid the first phase of the multi-million project which is a 1.5-mile underground intake into Lake Huron, said Wright. The last of four major permits were obtained by the authority just last week, he said, paving the way to begin the project.

“We received the Army Corp of Engineers permit last week,” said Wright. “There were three state of Michigan permits, then the Army Corp — I’ll be going to the KWA meeting on Thursday to update them.”

Wright said Flint is still waiting for Lansing to decide its future in the project. He said Lansing has hired an engineering firm to get “them better informed on whether to allow Flint to move forward.

Even if Flint remains onboard with Detroit, Wright said the project can still go on without the city.

“It’s still less expensive for Genesee County and the other three to move forward,” said Wright. “Once the KWA membership is updated this week and a decision is made, we can set a bid date for the intake pipe, which we hope to do in mid-to-late February.”

Wright said those bids will tell the KWA what the exact cost of the intake — estimated at $27 million — will be and will act as a benchmark for the authority to know if their numbers are on or off the mark.

“If the numbers are on, construction could start early as April, that’s our goal,” said Wright. “If the numbers are off, we’ll step back and reconsider.”

Wright added, “I’m confident in the numbers they have projected.”

The project, once at full-speed construction, is expected to create 1,000 jobs over a three-year period, according to the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Wright said whoever wins the contract, whether it is a Michigan or outside company, must fill the jobs with 75 percent local workers.

“To get the best bang for our buck we have to put our own people to work,” said Wright. “That’s $120 million over three years — that’s substantial money.”

He said the project has already put 50 engineers to work from Rowe Professional Services and Wade-Trim And Associates. As jobs are added he said he expects the project will include laborers, skilled trades, engineers and surveyors.

A portion of the intake construction will be done from a barge and will require building tunnels below the sand bottom of the lake and laying an 84-inch pipe below the surface of the water, said Wright.

A KWA study indicated if the region continues to buy water from Detroit it will cost $2.1 billion during the next 25 years. Construction of a pipeline will cost the region $1.9 billion over the same period, said officials.

The real savings, according to the KWA website, will be after the first 25 years, when the cost of water would be less than 25 percent of the projected cost of water from Detroit.

Wright and the KWA were to meet Wednesday for an update on the project. Results from that meeting were not available at presstime.

Tonight (Jan. 17) at the Flint Public Library, Wright will speak about the project, as part of a lecture series, at 6 p.m.

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