DEQ awards planning grant to Pinehurst Water District

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PINEHURST — A prolonged period of rain in the Silver Valley was followed by a prolonged period of freezing temperatures in January 2017. These record-setting weather patterns were responsible for causing all sorts of issues in Shoshone County — the biggest including damage to the Pinehurst Water District water lines.

In an effort to ascertain the full extent of this damage and perhaps update some aging systems, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality recently announced that they have awarded the water district a drinking water planning grant in the amount of $23,000.

IDEQ Drinking Water Program Supervisor Anna Moody said the Pinehurst Water District ranked No. 1 out of 11 fundable applicants who submitted letters of interest for a drinking water planning grant in their fiscal year 2019.

“We were in support of it. There is definitely a need and they qualified,” she said. “They ranked pretty high on the list, particularly because of the health hazards that had been established before.”

The grant itself is designed to match 50 percent of the costs for inspecting the district’s water systems from top to bottom, with the overall goal of creating new facility plan.

This facility plan, to be created by a contracted engineer, is a comprehensive document for the infrastructure of the water system and includes a plan for the future (i.e. upgrades and additions).

“It’s basically a 10,000-foot look at your water system and the master plan,” Moody said. “You’re evaluating your system as a whole, your capacity to serve, your projection into the future that you may have to serve, and your system deficiencies that may need to be addressed.”

When the bizarre weather damaged parts of the system last year, many Pinehurst residents and businesses were left without water for more than a month — forcing the city to declare a state of emergency on Feb. 13, 2017. The state of emergency allowed the water district to call upon state and federal resources (grants) to fix the immediate problems, but other issues (or possible issues) were discovered as they worked.

The to-be-created facility plan would fully outline all the issues with the water systems in the district and set the stage to have them rectified.

Moody explains that the age of the infrastructure, pipe diameters and dead ends preventing crews from flushing water through the pipes are all concerns that led to IDEQ picking the Pinehurst Water District.

The total eligible cost of the project is $46,000. The remaining $23,000 not covered by IDEQ will be provided by the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development.

With funding guaranteed, the water district has already hired Dan Remmick with Century West Engineering to begin the drinking water planning study and environmental review.

District manager Jeff Frank explains that this process should take roughly a year. Then when all the problems are identified, it should be another three to five years until the issues are resolved.

“It will be three to five years probably,” he said. “Because once you get this grant and everything is figured out, you have to apply for other grants and it all takes time.”

Even though these things don’t happen overnight, Frank is happy the district was able to take this first step forward with the help of the IDEQ grant.

“It’s a pretty good thing to get. We wouldn’t be able to do it without it,” he said.

The Pinehurst Water District encompasses all of Pinehurst and roughly 7 miles up Pinecreek. Their office can be reached at 208-682-3611.

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