Town considers redundant water pipeline

FRONT ROYAL – The town is considering the construction of a second water line to ensure that future development in the U.S. 340/522 corridor has enough water and that there is a backup supply if pipes break.

Steve Steele, of CHA Design/Construction, explained at the Town Council’s Monday work session that the town and Dominion Power have a mutual interest in building a redundant pipeline. He noted that half of the town’s future water demand would be in the corridor and the town needs the pipe to accommodate future development.

Town Finance Director B.J. Wilson said over the phone that future construction could cost between $5.5 million and $12 million, which would be paid for through the water fund and may result in increased customer rates.

Ray Sommerfeld, director of Dominion’s Warren County’s power station, said the company uses about 60 million gallons per year, resulting in a $1 million bill, and is the town’s biggest consumer of water.

He said the idea of a redundant waterline was initiated after a 2011 pipeline break, at which point Dominion budgeted $3.5 million to help fund a redundant supply. He said the company keeps “pushing” those funds forward while waiting for the town to proceed.

To initiate the project, Steele said, a $43,000 phase one would identify the two best routes for the waterline, which would likely either run parallel to the existing pipe or be a divergent line to better serve the development. The latter would likely reduce easements required and permitting costs while maximizing hydraulic capacity.

He said a parallel line might not really be redundant because if one line is damaged, the other is likely to be damaged as well. Once those two routes are identified, he said their “constructibility” would be examined. Possible obstacles could include crossing water and roads, permitting costs and necessary easements.

When the town selects a route, Steele said CHA would enter the design phase to determine cost estimates, layouts, financing and an implementation plan.

He said the town needs to conduct a thorough study before beginning construction due to necessary permits, which may have to be approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

“As we move forward with the project … we need to close doors behind us as we walk and not continually go back and revisiting over and over,” Steele said.

Sommerfeld said Dominion’s $3.5 million contribution that was set aside in 2011 now has a buying power of $3.1 million due to inflation, and that value will continue decreasing.

“This project is really important to the reliability of the power station going forward … We simply can’t see it fail; we can’t operate without it. So I urge you guys to think about this and move forward,” Sommerfeld said.

Steele said that an agreement between the town and Dominion does not require the company’s $3.5 million contribution to increase as construction costs rise with time. When asked by Councilman Eugene Tewalt if Dominion would commit more to the project, Sommerfeld said it is a possibility he is willing to discuss.

Town Manager Joe Waltz said the town would vote at its Oct. 22 meeting whether to move forward with phase one, which will likely take around six months to complete.