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Bedford water authority shares information about Lake-Forest project as opposition forms

By Tim Saunders, tsaunders@wdbj7.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 04:22:18 AM EST
Updated On: Aug 26 2013 08:44:03 PM EDT

The water that makes up Smith Mountain Lake could soon be pouring out of faucets all over Bedford County.

MONETA, Va. -

At almost 800 feet deep, Bedford leaders believe Smith Mountain Lake has more than enough water to serve thousands of customers across the county.

"It provides many benefits for the community," said Megan Rapp, communications coordinator for the Bedford Regional Water Authority.

Rapp said a new water line, running along Routes 122 and 460, would serve more people and allow the county to buy less water from Lynchburg.

"One of the benefits of this project is that, because it has such a great cost savings, there won't be a direct raise on the rates," Rapp said.

The Bedford Regional Water Authority, which wants to build the line, estimates it will save the county $28 million over 50 years.

Those figures don't add up for Bill Piatt.

"They're planning to spend a lot of money to fix a problem that doesn't exist," said Piatt, a lake resident who used to study infrastructure projects for the Federal government.

In his experience, projects like the one Bedford is proposing tend to cost more than estimates would suggest.

"The estimates for this project are escalating rapidly," Piatt said.

Water authority officials estimate the project will cost around $34 million.

Piatt has studied the numbers, too, and believes the final number will exceed $50 million.

He understands the need to generate more water for the growing community, but disagrees with the scope of the project.

"It doesn't require a project of this scale, and it certainly doesn't require piping water from one end of the county to the other," Piatt said.

Rapp argues the line is a necessity.  When the City of Bedford reverted to a town this summer, it was required to have a backup water source.  The new water line will meet that requirement.

Water authority leaders acknowledge the project will be expensive, but they're doing what they can to keep costs down.

"If other parts come in more expensive, we'll just tweak the project so we stay in budget," said Rapp.

You can learn more about the project at a meeting this Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m. at Trinity Ecumenical Parish.  That's along Route 122, on the Franklin County side of the lake.