Mountains to Sea Trail Draws Concern from Orange County Citizens

Many community members in Orange County brought concern to the last OWASA Board meeting regarding the proposed route for the Mountains to Sea Trail.

The trail could possibly go through OWASA property and some community member’s backyards.

The Mountains to Sea Trail is 1150 miles long beginning in the Great Smokey Mountains and ending in Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks. The trail runs through 37 counties and 41 towns where you will hike through wildlife and historical sites.

As of right now, 470 miles of the trail is still on road ways, but it is in the process of converting to off-road pathways. The portion of the trail through southwestern Orange County going over the Cane Creek Reservoir is what has brought concern to the community.

John Silva created a petition against the proposed area.

“When this project was first brought up three years ago, there was active resistance from members of the Cane Creek Watershed communities, and Mount Mitchell, Thunder Mountain, Apple Mill and Teer Roads. There are many reasons for this opposition, but I think one of the most prominent reasons to consider is OWASA is given the responsibility of protecting this water shed,” Silva said. “That water is provided to Chapel Hill, Carrboro, the University of North Carolina, the hospital, the children’s hospital, the cancer center, the many schools in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area, the businesses and the residents in that area.”

Other concerns that came from the community and the board included fire safety on the trail and proximity to the neighboring houses. Community member Scott Zimmerman supports the trail.

“North Carolina is a beautiful state. From the coast to the mountains, we have a lot to offer that is unique to the United States. And the trail tries to hit those beautiful places,” Zimmerman said. “We have some of the most beautiful places here in this county, and you are the owners of a part of that. It’s a beautiful piece of property, and [it’s a] shame that it could only be enjoyed by those who live adjacent to it.”

The Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail have partnered with the Orange County Department of Agriculture throughout this process. Department director David Stancil said the first step in their process is to listen to the community.

“We’ve heard from many people today about different ideas, comments and concerns. Then eventually get to the point where we can map a route or routes. It may be that there is no one route, and there may be places where there will be multiple routes that need to be identified. And then complete a plan and move on to construction,” Stancil said.

Stancil said they want to interact with the public on this plan.

“This process is really designed to try and engage and solicit community input. The county does not have any plans to take any land for the Mountains to Sea Trail. The process that’s envisioned is to work with landowners along the route and to identify a series of negotiations that may take many years,” Stancil said.

OWASA has not stated whether they are for or against the sea trail, but they did say they would like to provide specific conditions to the trail as it may pertain to their property.

OWASA board members did not vote on specific conditions that the trail will have to abide by. They have chosen to further discuss the conditions they would like to put into place and plan to bring them to the community at their next meeting on August 25.

Proposed Mountain to Sea Trail route. Photo via OWASA.

Proposed Mountains to Sea Trail route. Photo via OWASA.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/mountains-to-sea-trail-draws-concern-from-orange-county-citizens

OWASA Replacing Water Pipe on Rosemary Street

If you drive on West Rosemary Street regularly, expect some traffic delays for the next two days.

Orange Water and Sewage Authority plan to do water pipe replacement work starting Tuesday and continuing into Wednesday.

The construction will close one lane on West Rosemary Street from nine o’clock in the morning until four o’clock in the afternoon.

One lane will remain open for traffic, but OWASA encourages drivers to take an alternative route during the time of construction.

Officials say the purpose of the water pipe replacement is to maintain reliable water services to those in the area.

http://chapelboro.com/news/traffic/owasa-replacing-water-pipe-rosemary-street

Wastewater Overflow near Fordham Boulevard

The Orange Water and Sewer Authority responded to a spill of untreated wastewater on Thursday near Fordham Boulevard and Erwin Road in an area that drains to Booker Creek.

The wastewater spill of about 1,875 gallons occurred because of a sewer build-up and blockage caused by debris.

The NC Division of Water Resources is reviewing the overflow, which lasted from 10:30 Thursday morning until 4:45 that afternoon.

To prevent future wastewater spills, OWASA encourages residents to not dispose of debris and trash like baby wipes in water drains and to contact them prior to planting any trees, shrubs or installing fences.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/wastewater-overflow-near-fordham-boulevard

Carrboro Asking for Applications to OWASA Board

The Town of Carrboro is asking for applications for its representative on the Orange Water and Sewer Authority Board of Directors.

There are nine members of the Board of Directors and their sole responsibility is governance of OWASA.

Their primary duties include establishing policy that accomplishes OWASA’s mission statement and complies with its other legal duties, which include adopting budgets, rates, fees and charges.

The OWASA Board meets the second and fourth Thursday night of every month starting at seven o’clock.

The first meeting of the month is normally held in the OWASA community room and the second meeting is held in the Council Chambers at Chapel Hill Town Hall.

Board Members receive a $50 compensation for each meeting attended and get a monthly $250 stipend regardless of the number of meetings attended.

If any are interested in applying or want more information you can find the application here.

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/carrboro-asking-applications-owasa-board

The Importance of Water Conservation

Recently, I commented about the amazing water conservation in our community.  The number of customers OWASA serves has grown 65 percent since 1991 and yet we are using less total water years later.

Amazing, isn’t it?

Why do rate increases go hand in hand with drought restrictions and conservation?  Think of those miles of pipe in the ground that you rely on and must stay in good condition.  Water utilities have very high fixed costs.  Inevitably, lower consumption leads to revenue gaps, which leads to higher rates per gallon.

Some customers complain that they are asked to conserve and then penalized for doing so.  In my opinion, however, the headlines and stories about rates often mislead us.

You see when the community conserves, OWASA’s and other utilities’ costs don’t go up.  They actually go down slightly.  For example, we use less energy to run our pumps and less chemicals to treat our water and wastewater.  That means we don’t need to collect more revenue in total.  Our average bills don’t need to go up because of conservation.

Somewhere in history, the world decided that water should be priced as an ordinary commodity by the gallon.  Imagine if the world instead had decided to look at water as a service rather than a widget.  I encourage you to look at water as a service and consider what your final monthly bill looks like for access to high quality water in the amounts you need.

But, yes with fewer gallons consumed, the rate for gallon often goes up.  Unfortunately, if your household doesn’t or can’t keep pace with the conservation of the community, your monthly bill might be the one that goes up while others see steady or lower bills.

If you’re looking for ideas about conservation and reducing your monthly bill, turn to the team at OWASA for conservation ideas and best practices.  Fortunately for OWASA customers, we’ve been able to able to avoid rate increases because of your conservation, we’re also able to push out the time horizon for new investments in water treatment facilities, wastewater treatment facilities, and reservoirs.  That will keep your bills lower for the long term.

Thanks for your conservation efforts.

John Young
Chair of Orange Water and Sewer Authority Board of Directors

 

Have a comment or opinion you would like to share? Submit your commentary or column for the Commentators, on WCHL 97.9FM and Chapelboro.com.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/the-commentators/the-importance-of-water-conservation

OWASA Closes Parts of Rosemary, Henderson and Hillsborough Streets This Week

Beginning Tuesday night, Orange Water and Sewer Authority will close parts of East Rosemary, Hillsborough and Henderson Streets to replace several water pipes.

Construction will take place at two primary intersections and is estimated to last between four and six nights without work on Friday or Saturday night.

The intersections of Henderson and Rosemary and Hillsborough and Rosemary will have work being done between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. The night work will involve closing lanes at each intersection, but through traffic will be maintained.

During the day, construction will take place along parts of Hillsborough and North Street. This section of the project is slated to start in mid-June and be completed by mid-August. This phase of daytime work will take place on select days between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Only one street will be closed to through traffic at a time and clear detours will be marked.

Residents and businesses in the construction area will continue have access and be notified of any direct impacts of the work. Construction is subject to change due to weather and other conditions, and drivers are encouraged to follow the road signs and proceed with caution through the construction sites.

http://chapelboro.com/news/traffic/owasa-closes-parts-of-rosemary-henderson-and-hillsborough-streets-this-week

Part of East Main Street to Close for Construction

Monday, June 6 marks the beginning of road work on part of East Main Street in Carrboro. The stretch between Weaver Street and Greensboro Street will be closed from 10PM to 6AM for several days.

A crew from Orange Water and Sewer Authority will be connecting water to three customers on East Main. The work will help continue water service to Carrboro homes and businesses.

During the construction, drivers are asked to follow detour signs or use alternate routes.

When the work is complete, OWASA will distribute a follow-up release.

http://chapelboro.com/news/traffic/part-of-east-main-street-closes-for-construction

Sewer Repair Will Close Portion of Weaver Street

A portion of Weaver Street will be closed this week for sewer repairs.

Crews from OWASA will be conducting a sewer lateral repair on Wednesday, June 1, and Thursday, June 2, according to the town.

The work will result in a closure of Weaver Street between Lindsay Street and Oak Avenue. Officials say the road will be closed from nine o’clock until 11 o’clock on Wednesday morning and then be closed all day on Thursday.

http://chapelboro.com/news/traffic/sewer-repair-will-close-portion-weaver-street

Leaking Water Pipe Closes Portion of Rosemary Street

****UPDATE: The road has been reopened and water services has been restored.****

A water leak has shut down a portion of Rosemary Street on Monday afternoon.

A release says a crew is working to repair a leaking water pipe on East Rosemary near Spring Lane, which has closed Rosemary Street in the area.

The water leak is about 60 feet west of where the contractor repaired a broken water pipe on April 12, according to officials.

The repair is expected to take several hours and OWASA has interrupted water service for customers along Spring Lane.

http://chapelboro.com/news/traffic/leaking-water-pipe-closes-portion-of-rosemary-street

Concerns Over Fiber Installation

Residents of Chapel Hill have been experiencing issues, like breaks in water lines, as a result of fiber installation.

AT&T and Google are both working to install fiber optic cable in Chapel Hill. The new cable infrastructure will allow for gigabit internet service at 100 times the speed of standard broadband. Chapel Hill is one of a handful of towns in the country to have two high speed internet providers.

AT&T has been installing fiber cable in Chapel Hill since late 2014. Google began installation last week.

In an email to the town council, council member Ed Harrison said that OWASA lines had been cut 6 times since July 2015 due to fiber installation, including a recent water line break on Pope Road.

Multiple media outlets have reported issues with fiber installation around the triangle.

According to Ross Tompkins, assistant to the town manager for administrative and program management in Chapel Hill, crews have been working to install Google Fiber on Estes Drive near the library and on Highway 54 near the Meadowmont neighborhood. A timeline for when the service will be available has not yet been announced.

In a release, the town said that while utility crews are allowed to work as long as they remain in the right of way, they are expected to clean up any mess. If you have any concerns regarding fiber cable installation you can notify the town.

http://chapelboro.com/news/development/concerns-over-fiber-installation