The Fort Smith regional water supply is solvent through the year 2020, according to Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders.
Sanders was joined in Mountainburg on Monday (Oct. 15) for an onsite ribbon cutting ceremony by Fort Smith Director of Utilities Steve Parke, city directors and a gathering of individuals who worked on the Lake Fort Smith Water Treatment Plant Improvements project.
The project entered the planning stage in July 2000, but didn’t take off until planning completion in 2007. Construction began three years ago and finished in August 2012 at a cost of approximately $36.57 million.
“Basically, what we’ve done is increase from 30 million gallons per day to 40 million gallons per day, which will take us through 2020 and sets the stage for being able to go up to 70 million gallons per day, which will take us through 2060,” Sanders said.
Funding for the project was derived from bonds paid for by water rates.
“I think that one of the key things that we need to remember is that these improvements ensure the continued capability of providing treated water to this whole region, which not only meets but exceeds state and federal standards,” Sanders added.
While the event did bring to a close the 12-year odyssey from planning to completion, there is still work to do.
The third phase, according to Parke, will include a new 31-mile pipeline “from the Lake Fort Smith plant into the city.”
“We’re currently just starting the first six and a half-mile design to get rid of some bottlenecks, to be able to up the capacity from the plant. But ultimately as we come in, there’ll be a third river crossing and a new 31-mile pipeline, so that (6.5-mile pipeline) will represent the first quarter of it, roughly — 31 miles at an estimate of $140 million. We’ll be crossing the (Arkansas) River in the vicinity of Lock and Dam 13 and bringing water directly into the southern part of the city,” Parke said.
Parke pointed said the Lake Fort Smith Water Treatment Plant and the Lee Creek Plant combine to serve a wider region of customers than the 86,000 represented by Fort Smith.
“As percentages go, it (Fort Smith) is the biggest consumer, but if you look at the population balance, it’s about 50% in Fort Smith and the remaining are in other counties — Crawford, Franklin, Washington, Sequoyah, Leflore, Sebastian — we’re serving the five counties in the immediate area.
Including the city’s population, the Fort Smith water supply flows to 160,000 customers.
Work on the next 6.5 miles of pipeline begins in the first part of 2013, Parke said.