City gets backup water main in deal

Wednesday, September 24, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:45 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Owners of a private wetland in the Missouri River bottoms near McBaine have struck a deal with the city that exchanges access to electricity for access to groundwater.

Mike Brooks and Dan Brothers of B&B Agriculture own 240 acres between two pieces of the state-owned Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, and asked the city for electric service to pump water into their private wetlands instead of relying on diesel engines.

“We are ardent conservationists who have decided to purchase our own underdeveloped property and develop it as the ultimate wildlife habitat,” Brothers said. “It has been developed as a wetland and as a duck hunting place.”

The cost to route electricity to the B&B property was estimated at $30,000, which the city considered too expensive for a single customer. Coincidentally, the city was interested in finding a site on which to drill a new well and install two new water pumps.

A deal approved earlier this month by the Columbia City Council allowed for a transfer of ownership of a 25-by-3,816-foot plot of land from B&B Agriculture to the city for construction of a city water main in exchange for running electric service to the wetlands.

The new water main will help meet Columbians’ growing demands for water.

“It becomes a reliability issue,” said Mike Schmitz of the water and light department. “In the event that a water main shuts down, the new main will have the ability to continue pumping water for the city.”

The construction of the new water main is one of the projects on a proposed water utility bond issue on the November ballot. The main will add reliability to the city’s ability to pump water from the well field to the treatment plant at McBaine.

“The line will be closing a big loop in our well supply in the south part of the McBaine bottoms,” said Richard Malon, city director of water and light. “It will allow for two feeds from the wells to the water plant instead of one, and is the last step to ensure that we have all the ways to carry water through the bottoms in the event of a flood.”

Currently there are eight wells in the McBaine bottoms. The additional water main will also increase the plant’s ability to pump water from the well field to the treatment plant, said Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Loveless, a wildlife management biologist at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area.

As more wells are drilled, the city will be able to carry more water, though additional easements will be needed.

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