Saturday, July 14, 2012

TOP STORY>>Greers Ferry pipeline begins

Leader staff writer

Gov. Mike Beebe was the first speaker at the groundbreaking for the Lonoke- White Water Project on Friday in Ward, and he summed up what most of the speakers after him would say.

The project has been a collective effort of hundreds of people over many years that was started by some, kept alive by others and then passed along to those who would get it started, “a dream that died many, many times and has been reborn many, many times,” the governor said.

Money for the $57 million project to bring water to the area from Greers Ferry Lake will come from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Construction is expected to begin Aug. 1. Beebe said some of his first work out of law school was for rural water associations, helping to build systems to take city water into the country.

“If you give someone paved roads and city water, they can build a community,” he said.

The Lonoke-White Project has been almost two decades in the making. In that time, the estimated cost has almost tripled and the makeup of the membership has changed several times. When completed, it is expected to serve about 80,000 people.

Lawrence McCullough, USDA state director, said the Lonoke-White Project was one of the first things he heard about when he started his job four years ago. On Friday, he brought a mock check for $24,543,000 representing the amount his agency will provide for the project, saying he had never signed a loan check for that size.

“This is the biggest loan I’ve ever had anything to do with,” McCullough said. “This is big.”

Randy Young, head of the ANRC, talked about the cooperation among the members of the Lonoke-White Project that made that got it to where it is now.

“We’ve got eight public utilities agreeing on one thing in this project,” Young said.

The ANRC will provide a $30.9 million loan as its share of the funding.

Sen. Mark Pryor called the beginning of the project a great example of local, state and federal cooperation, an example that Washington should follow.

“(The project members) identified the problem, pulled together and fixed it,” Pryor said.

“You’re an inspiration to all of us.”

“What we’re celebrating is a great partnership,” Sen. John Boozman said.

Congressman Tim Griffin talked about the possible economic impact of the project.

Building infrastructure, which includes providing ample water, creates jobs, Griffin said.

“This is a great day for y’all and I’m happy you included me,” he said.

Cong. Rick Crawford said his effort on behalf of the project was insignificant in comparison to that of others.

“Any contribution I made has been incidental to the years and years of work done by others,” Crawford said.

Ward Mayor Art Brooke presided over what was called the Lonoke-White Public Water Authority Project fund-ing and groundbreaking celebration and introduced the guest speakers.

Brooke joked that Gov. Beebe supported funding by the ANRC in part because they wore him down.

“There were times when he got tired of seeing Lonoke White coming to his office,” Brooke said. “He finally said ‘give them the money.’ I’m so proud he did that.”