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Got clean water? City, county leaders celebrate first phase completion of Ford Creek Water Extension Project

Zach Vance • Apr 12, 2018 at 11:44 PM

While it may not be the most extravagant of undertakings, water line projects are certainly a necessity for parts of rural Washington County, where residents to this day still lack clean water access.

On Thursday morning, Washington County Commissioner Bryan Davenport and Johnson City Mayor David Tomita stood side-by-side at the corner of Ford Creek Road and Douglas Shed Road and turned the valve on a new water line, made possible by an inconspicuous county-city partnership.

While the ceremony only highlighted the completion of the project’s first segment, once the entire waterline is installed and becomes functional, it will serve approximately 35 existing homes and a number of currently undeveloped lots, city officials said.

The entire project cost $708,000, with Washington County contributing $450,000 and Johnson City funding $258,000.

“It’s providing an extension of potable water service to a portion of the 26 miles in Washington County that we presently don’t have water service to. About 1,200 feet of the project has been laid,” Johnson City Water and Sewer Services Director Tom Witherspoon said.

“The project consists of about 9,300 feet of pipe, mainly on Ford Creek Road but also on Gentry Hamilton Road. We had received a number of requests over the years to provide water service to this area, but unfortunately, due to the economics, we were not able to invest in providing service to it.”

Despite multiple agencies from different governments involved in the project, Tomita credited Davenport’s “tenacity” for advancing the project through its various stages.

“We hope as we move forward — in the spirit of cooperation between our neighbors — that we can do a lot more of this. I’d love to see this happen on a very regular basis,” Tomita said.

Davenport, chairman of the county’s Public Works Committee, credited his fellow committee members for starting work on the Ford Creek Water Extension Project nearly three years ago, saying it was one of his main priorities when he was first elected in 2014.

“What I’m proud of is the ability to work with our commissioners and develop the relationships with Washington County, Johnson City, the Highway Department and all the groups, that’s kind of what I did,” Davenport said. “Without their cooperation, this is not a one-man show. If you can’t work with people, no matter how good your idea is, you’re not going to be effective.”

Davenport said expanding clean water to rural areas shouldn’t stop with the Ford Creek Water Extension Project.

“We’ve got 35 to 40 houses that we’re bringing water to. We know we have many, many more, but this had to start one step at a time,” Davenport said.

“This should send a message through our county that we’re committed to bringing water to every home in Washington County. I wish it could be tomorrow. It will not be. But we have plans in place (and) we have funds in place to make these kinds of projects. And we have partnerships now, and that’s a key, too. We have partnerships now with the City of Johnson City that will help us bring water to Washington County.”

Washington County Highway Superintendent Johnny Deakins said approximately 200 miles of county roads lack clean water access, and civil engineering firm Tysinger, Hampton & Partners is currently conducting a study related to clean water access in Washington County.

The Ford Creek Water Project will also bridge a gap between two existing waterlines, yielding additional benefits to the city’s overall water system.

“The installation of this line will connect two parts of our water system separated by Interstate 26,” Witherspoon said. “Looping of the water system provides additional redundancy in the event of breakage while improving flow to meet additional demands from growth.”

East Tennessee Turf and Landscape, based in Morristown, broke ground on the project in February and expects the full waterline to be functional by November.

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