After about 20 years of starts, stops and near endings, the Lonoke White Water Project now is rapidly moving toward start of construction.

“We are moving down the slippery slope [to construction] pretty fast,” Tommy Bond of Bond Engineers said at the Tuesday meeting of Lonoke White Public Water Authority directors.

A ceremonial groundbreaking for the $45 million project is set for Friday at the Ward Chamber of Commerce Building.

U.S. Senators Mark Pryor and John Boozman, and Gov. Mike Beebe are to attend.

“This is all about them,” project manager Woody Bryant said of the ceremony. “If it was not for them pushing this we would not be where we are now,” he said.

Later in the meeting, Bryant noted that “dirt is already being moved” in the initial stages of construction.

The main business actions taken by the board of directors were approval of resolutions fixing the rates charged to the members, and the final agreement with the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission for the construction of the Lonoke White Public Water System.

The system will include an intake and treatment plant at the Cove Creek section of Greers Ferry Lake, and transmission and feeder lines to bring water as far south as Furlow.

LWPWA members are the cities of Austin, Beebe, Jacksonville and Ward, the North Pulaski and Furlow water users associations, and the Vilonia and Grand Prairie/Bayou Two public facility boards.

Water rates for the members will be $1.25 per 1,000 gallons, and each member committed to a monthly minimum purchase.

Furlow agreed to about 3.3 million gallons a month; Austin to about 4.9 million gallon; Jacksonville to about 15.3 million; and Ward to about 19.7 million.

Members also will levy a $5 monthly charge on each meter in their system. Austin currently has about 700, Furlow about 1,300, Jacksonville about 9,600, and Ward about 4,400.

The second resolution was the final agreement opening the way to a $30.9 million bond issue for construction funds.

The agreement sets out the conditions of the bond sale.

In other matters, Tommy Bond outlined the organization of the contractors on each of the six construction contracts for the system. Each contract is for a portion of the system — the intake, treatment plant, transmission line, service roads and other parts.

Bond also said there would be a meeting of the five county judges of the counties affected by the project.

“We will go over what will be happening in each county,” he said. The meeting will be held before the ceremonial ground breaking.

LWPWA attorney Clint McGue said he expects the final easements for the project to be completed soon. About a third have been completed and filed, a third are to be filed, and a third are about to see agreements reached.

“I feel pretty good that we will see these done soon,” McGue said.

Accountant Calvin Aldridge reviewed projections for the first five years of operation. It is likely that by 2015 there should be equity enough.

“You should be able to do what you want to do,” he said.