Officials discuss Pinehurst water emergency

Photo by Josh McDonald Members of the Pinehurst Water Board discuss their options for getting the frozen pipes in Pinehurst fixed with representatives from several government agencies.

The Pinehurst Water Board met with several agencies Wednesday afternoon to discuss the ongoing issues with the Pinehurst water distribution system and how they plan to get the water flowing again.

The representatives and officials present at the meeting included members of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Panhandle Area Council (PAC), The Idaho Department of Commerce, the Shoshone Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), Pinehurst mayor Bob Jutila, and Shoshone County emergency manager Cory Foster.

Last week, it was reported that nearly 30 residents and businesses inside the city limits of Pinehurst had been without water due to frozen pipes since Jan. 15.

Because of the urgent nature of this issue, the Pinehurst Water District (PWD) began the process of getting a declaration of emergency from the BOCC.

The PWD created a draft of the declaration and presented it to BOCC last Friday.

This draft included potential ideas and needs to fix the water issues.

Due to time parameters, the BOCC has still not made the declaration of emergency, but intends to do so by the evening of Feb. 16 so that the specific time requirements can be met.

One of the main concerns (after getting people access to water) is the costs that follows a project like this.

Clearing hurdles such as equipment, manpower, materials, and making sure that once the repairs are made that everything is restored to its original state were discussed within the group.

John Lynn and Howard Lunderstadt with the USDA explained Emergency Community Water Access Grants (ECWAG) and how that may be exactly what the city of Pinehurst needs at this time.

“There are two levels of ECWAG grants that we can look at,” Lynn explained, “they are $150,000 and $500,000 and we can make the process happen in 30-45 days if we get all the information that we need.”

The information needed is basic in concept, but may be difficult for the PWD to define since they are unable to find out what exactly is going on beneath the frozen ground.

“We would need to see what happened, why it happened, and basically for natural disasters,” Lynn said, “I think we definitely fit into that category, but we’ll need to find out if we qualify for $150,000 or the $500,000 and that won’t happen until we have all the information.”

One of the more frightening issues is that Pinehurst has been in the midst of repaving all its roads, something that the USDA money can’t go to.

Fortunately for the city though, PAC representative Nancy Mabile and the Idaho Department of Commerce has a possible answer to that issue.

“The Idaho Department of Commerce has an imminent threat grant program that works as emergency funding for what can be considered ‘acts of God’ and I would need to prove that it’s not due to lack of maintenance or an ‘end of life’ situation where the system is at the end of its use,” Mabile said.

Once the BOCC makes the declaration of emergency, Mabile will then be able to begin the process of getting the grant, a process that she believes will take about 40 hours to be completed.

Dan Remmick with Century West Engineering will be in charge of collecting the information on what is causing the issue.

“From my perspective the fix is pretty straightforward,” Remmick said, “we need to replace the existing mainline. I have gone out and looked for myself and that isn’t much, but we need to dig up the old line and replace them with new, slightly bigger lines is a pretty standard project, it isn’t very complex.”

At this time, both the city and county officials (as well as the other representatives) understand that they will need the weather to hold in a warming pattern if they want to begin to dig up the lines.

“If we start digging now, we are going to break lines that currently aren’t broken due to the heavy frost,” PWD chairman Bruce Rumple said. “We need the rain to continue as well as the continued warmer weather so that the snow melts off and the ground can thaw. It’s awfully hard for pipes that are running through yards to thaw when they have five feet of frozen ground covered by a foot of snow on top of them.”

There is currently no clear solution, but the PWD and the City of Pinehurst now have a potential starting point to get the water flowing to everyone again.

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