Buckley water main on mend

The Buckley City Council recently authorized a $500,000 emergency loan from the state’s Public Works Trust Fund to help repair a water main destroyed during winter storms.

Since the federal government declared “natural disaster” status for the region, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has discussed helping the city. Traditionally, in the event of comparable disasters, FEMA has kicked in three-fourths of the funding to repair or rebuild infrastructure; that would apply to the section of a water main that provides Buckley’s primary source of water.

While nothing is chiseled in stone, there is a possibility FEMA will pay 75 percent of the cost of replacing a 50-foot section of the 10-inch water main nestled in the Cascade foothills. Storms also wiped out the access road to the pipeline.

The entire project, estimated at $1.13 million, involves a water main repair, debris removal, grading activities, new road material, new culverts and retaining walls as well as obtaining a construction permit.

Fire Chief Alan Predmore, who doubles as the city’s newly-appointed emergency management director, will be meeting with state and FEMA officials.

If everything comes up roses, the city will end up paying about $100,000 out of its water capital fund initially, just to get the cash flow streaming, City Administrator David Schmidt said.

“If FEMA agrees to pay 75 percent by awarding Buckley one of its emergency reimbursable grants, that will be great,” Schmidt said. “Then if the state comes up with the same 12.5 percent of the cost of the repair that it did the last time Buckley was determined to be a state and federally declared disaster area (November 2006) and Rainier State School pays its 30 percent share, then we are hoping that perhaps we won’t have to pay any of the 3 percent interest on the half million dollar loan or use any of the loan money at all.”

Schmidt hopes the state and federal agencies move quickly, so the city can get moving on the project in the spring and summer months.

“Working in the good weather, hopefully we can complete the repairs before the next rainy season in the fall,” Schmidt said. He added that the most critical phase of the pipeline repair project is stabilizing the downward-sloping water main with an 80-foot long retaining wall, so history doesn’t repeat itself.