Council Approves Blue Ridge Pipeline Contracts

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The Payson Town Council moved toward awarding another key contract to build the Blue Ridge pipeline at its regularly scheduled council meeting on Thursday night.

The council directed the town engineer to negotiate a contract with Tetra Tech, Inc. to design the water treatment plant for the pipeline slated to deliver 3,000 acre-feet per year starting in about 2015.

“Few things will have such a dramatic impact as C.C. Cragin,” said Mayor Kenny Evans.

Tetra Tech, a local engineering firm, submitted the top-ranked bid among 12 companies for the contract to draw up the preliminary plans. Such so-called “30 percent” plans are usually drawn up both to provide the basis for construction bids and to fulfill the requirements of federal grants.

The council also directed Public Works Director LaRon Garrett to negotiate a “30-percent contract” with Automation Electric to design the control system for the pipeline.

The Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) System will be built between the power generating station at Washington Park and the water treatment plant, which preliminary plans suggest could be built near the Shoofly Ruins, opposite Mesa del Caballo.

Five firms picked up bid packets. Three town reviewers all ranked local firm Automation Systems as the No. 1 choice.

Garrett will now negotiate a price and a scope of work agreement with both firms. If he can’t come to satisfactory terms, then he would shift to the No. 2-ranked firms.

The preliminary design contracts round out key contracts needed to keep the project moving and satisfy federal requirements, since the town received a nearly $11 million federal stimulus package of grants and loans to pay a portion of the $30 million cost of building the pipeline.

Currently, crews are bringing the 45-year-old existing system up to modern standards. A video presented at Tuesday’s council meeting showed crews replacing worn out pipes above and below ground. That part of the project is 75 percent complete, said Buzz Walker, Payson’s Water Department manager.

The second phase of the project involves getting a special use permit from the Forest Service to lay down an additional 15 miles of pipe.

The council previously awarded a contract to SWCA Inc. to do the environmental assessment of the pipeline’s route, which will run from Washington Park to the outskirts of Payson along Houston Mesa Road.

The town needs the environmental report assessing the impact on wildlife, the East Verde River, archaeological sites and other natural resources in order to get the Forest Service’s permission to build.

In addition, the town is negotiating with Sunrise Inc. to draw up the preliminary engineering plans for the pipeline itself.

These latest approvals should keep the pipeline on track to deliver water in about 2015.

Decisions made now about the pipeline’s route and the treatment plant could have a significant impact on the cost of the pipeline and the ability of other communities to hook up to the pipeline. Other northern Gila County communities have expressed interest in receiving a share of the extra 500 acre-feet allotted by the Salt River Project.

If Payson builds the treatment plant near Washington Park, none of the downstream communities would have to build their own treatment plants to remove silt and other impurities from the water.

None of those communities along the route have yet negotiated water rights with SRP.

Some communities, like the East Verde Estates, would have to build a long spur and pump water uphill, unless SRP simply releases additional water into the East Verde for downstream use.

Other communities like Mesa del Caballo could easily hook into the pipeline and could find the water would cost less than pumping water out of existing wells.

Mesa del Caballo and other small communities now served by Brooke Utilities have suffered repeated water shortages and rationing during recent summers.

Only a water company can secure rights to the water and negotiate with both SRP and Payson for delivery of that water. Brooke has expressed interest, according to Payson officials, but not yet negotiated any water-sharing agreements.

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