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City rejects fish ladder

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Lewisburg's water board refused to pay for a proposed channel so fish could swim around the dam at Milltown so quickly that the decision was made before the chairman called for the vote.

That chain of events during this month's meeting of the Water and Wastewater Board cut short Superintendent Kenneth Carr's explanation about what had been sought by the Nature Conservancy, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

On Nov 5, representatives from those groups met with Carr at Milltown, Carr said. They proposed creating steps out of the limestone with the use of concrete where necessary to have a place where fish could swim around the dam.

The "fish ladder" was to be on the other side of the Duck River from Milltown, the north side of the river, Carr said.

The cost estimate ranged from $140,000 to $160,000, he said, explaining that at first he thought perhaps the officials had found a grant for the project. Instead, they were asking the utility to provide money for the fish ladder.

"It was quickly determined that there was no money available for dam repair," Carr said, telling water utility board members that he was also concerned about "dam security" since the reservoir at Milltown is the city's source of water, much of which is sold to and distributed by the Marshall County Board of Public Utilities.

The dam was built in 1920.

Furthermore, the utility superintendent realized that if the city participated in the construction of a fish ladder, then the job would have to be subject to competitive bidding

"I don't think we should use ratepayers money for this," Carr said, and board member Ed Potts said he agreed. Board member Billy Hill said he did too, and with that there was a majority of the three-man panel opposing the fish ladder proposal.

Chairman Hershel Davis voted with the other two, and the proposed minutes reflect Potts as having made a motion that Hill seconded to reflect the board's position.

Also during the utility's monthly meeting, Vernell Marshall of Cochran Cemetery Road asked the board to extend water service to her road.

"If you can do it for them, you can do it for me," Marshall said in a reference to the city's extension of water to residents of Craig Moore Road where several water wells became unusable. A state geologist's opinion was that the city's old landfill was to blame as residents said rock strata shifted because of construction blasting for widening of Mooresville Highway. A state grant was obtained to pay the largest portion of the project.

That water pipeline's construction costs $20 a foot, implying current costs of about $105,000 per mile.

The utility has a rural water account that currently totals some $145,000, Carr said. It's a "restricted account that can only be used for projects outside the city," but board approval is required and so is a matching amount to limit utility costs.

Marshall was asking for a date to bring residents into the utility's offices after regular working hours. Her list of petitioners for water service had about a dozen signatures.

As of early this week, a date was yet to be set for Marshall and her neighbors to meet again with leaders of the Water and Wastewater Department for another examination of costs and residents' ability and/or willingness to split the cost of extending water service to their homes.