One of the area’s largest water projects is "on time and on budget," Lonoke-White Public Water Authority project manager Woody Bryant said Aug. 28. Bryant and others spoke during the tour of construction progress by John Padalino, USDA Rural Development administrator for Rural Utilities Service; Randy Young, executive director Arkansas Natural Resources Commission; Lawrence McCullough, USDA/RD state director and other officials and LWPWA members.

Construction at the site did not stop for the tour.

The $50 million project will deliver water to LWPWA members as far south as Furlow and Grand Prairie/Bayou Two.

The project is being funded by up to $30.9 million from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission and a $24.5 million federal loan through USDA/RD. Repayment of the loans would be through water rates charged by the members.

LWPWA members include Austin Water System; Beebe Water and Sewer Commission; Furlow Public Water Authority; Grand Prarie/Bayou Two Public Facilities Board; Jacksonville Water System; North Pulaski Waterworks PFB; Vilonia Waterworks Association; and Ward Water and Sewer System.

After the tour, Ward Mayor Art Brooke, president of the LWPWA board of directors, presided at a discussion of the project.

The tour included work under way on the intake structure in the Cove Creek section of Greers Ferry Lake, and the nearby treatment plant.

When completed, intake and plant will have daily capacity of 10 million gallons, although current operating limits, set by water allocations by the Army Corps of Engineers, are for a peak of about seven MGD.

A 35-mile, 24-inch diameter pipeline will deliver the water to LWPWA members as far south as Furlow and Grand Prairie/Bayou Two, Bryant said.

Construction began in July 2012, and could be complete by April 2014.

During the tour, Bryant explained that the elevation of Greers Ferry Lake means very little pumping will be needed after the water leaves the treatment plant. Most of the pumping in system will be to supply the treatment plant, he said. "After that, gravity takes over."

Padalino remarked that the LWPWA project is being done in the same manner as rural electrification. It required the cooperation of a large number of people and agencies to accomplish rural electrification, no one or even small number of people and groups could do it alone.

"If you think of the system that came together here, it is the same story," Padalino said. "The story today is the story that was lived in the 30s, 40s and 50s."

USDA has maintained its historical role in the work of LWPWA and other projects in the state, Padalino said.

"In the four years after President Obama took office, 330,000 Arkansans are receiving new or improved water service because of the work that [McCullough] and his staff have funded," he said.

USDA/RD’s background in cooperative efforts plays a key role in its work in keeping such works, "on time and on budget, and that is what this project is," he said.

Young recalled the history of short water supply in the area, and the years it took to get the project under construction. "Thirty, 40, 50 years from now, people are still going to be enjoying the fruits and benefits of this project," he said.