By JIM ARBER
Special To The Vista
Part I of II
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago a shallow sea existed next to an ancient continent we named Appalachia. Long gone now, huge megaladons and basilosorous maybe dined on poor little ones. Clams dug in, mussels and oysters hung out, crabs and lobsters skittered across the shallow sea floor. The material that formed the cap of our Plateau were laid down then. Life was good. (Especially if you were a megaladon).
Lets go forward in time some years, about 77 million years to be somewhat of exact. In the fullness of that time this sea floor has been forced up by tectonic pressure, the water has receded, and the rough peaks have been leveled by quakes, erosion, storms, wind and whatever else ol mother earth threw at it.
Now, instead of crabs skittering across the sea floor we have old folks skittering across the same sea floor in golf carts. They go to Stonehenge for steak night. The area is now known as the Cumberland Plateau if you live here. A different name depending on where you might be.
This Plateau has developed into a place of glorious beauty. We have lakes, creeks, rivers, waterfalls and thanks to some glacial deposits, some of the most diverse forests in the world. If you have not already, take time to explore this place, you will be amazed at the natural and unique beauty that surrounds us.
Yes, Dear Readers, life is still good on the Cumberland Plateau and will remain so if we’re smart enough to take care of what we have. We are a bit isolated at 2000 ft above sea level. We are, in some sense, separate from the valley below. Remember this, water flows down hill, never up hill.
Several months ago an article appeared in The Vista describing the importance of water in the world, in the US, in Tennessee, in Cumberland County and in Fairfield Glade/Crab Orchard in particular. That was a lot of information. It seems like a more focused update is in order.
The water story in our district really began all those years ago. In the fullness of time all of the beauty and abundance of the plateau was formed for us.
We have also had a reliable source of water over the centuries. It comes from rainfall. We average around 56 inches a year and have done so for as long as records have been kept. This is enough for our needs now and into the foreseeable future as long as we take care of it.
This means we need to keep that rainfall on the Plateau to the extent we can. Once it flows down into the valley we will not get it back. Further, their is no other source of water, save rainfall, that we can access up here. Rivers will never flow uphill, either.
We have 5 water districts in Cumberland county. West, South, Crab Orchard, Crossville and Catoosa. They each have their own story. We’ll focus on Crab Orchard Utility District.
When settlement in and around Crab Orchard picked up in the late 1800s, most water came from the excellent Cumberland Aquifer system. Folks had wells. As the county grew a water district was formed to supply water to the city of Crab Orchard.
In March of 1996 the Crab Orchard Utility District was established and their first meters were read in September of 1997. Anyone outside the city limits had to have a well or some other source of water. The Cumberland aquifer had good water and still does though the number of folks living here now disqualifies wells as a viable source of water for everyone.
In the early ‘70s, Crab Orchard started buying water from Crossville. This went on until the early ‘90s when COUD got more fully organized and viable. It became obvious that a better organized central water authority was going to be necessary to supply water to the area.
It so happens that the Stone family which developed the world famous “Trade a Plane” business owned extensive property that included a large section of Otter Creek. Their plan was to dam the creek to create a lake suitable for recreation and beauty.
The Stone’s had the area surveyed and engineered to verify the soundness of the plan. Crab Orchard Utility management got wind of the study and offered to pay for the dam if they could have limited water rights to the lake.
The deal was struck. COUD would pay for the dam and the lake was born. The Stone’s further donated 8 acres adjacent to the lake for a new water treatment plant. The plan became reality in the late 90s supplying up to 2 million gallons of water per day to Fairfield Glade, Crab Orchard and surrounding areas.
After a few years it became obvious that a treatment plant upgrade would be necessary. In 2002 this was completed and doubled the capacity of the plant to 4 million gals per day. This was necessary so that round the clock, non stop pumping would not be necessary to keep up with demand.
The plant has been required to make upgrades when necessary and the resultant water always meets or exceeds required specifications.
OK, so the water from the Lake goes to the Plant. From there it is pumped up to the (2) 400,000 gallon storage tanks located on top of Turkey Knob adjacent to the number 10 fairway on the Druid Golf Course.
Now here it gets difficult to grasp.
Turkey Knob is the highest point for miles and miles. Because of that it gravity feeds all of Fairfield Glade, Crab Orchard and as far east as Westel. The gravity feed is so efficient it even became necessary to install pressure reducers in strategic spots along the route. That’s right, gravity the whole dad gum way.
The District has successfully operated without major difficulty for all those years. Not to say that it’s all been easy:
There was a time around 2002-3 that too many BMW’s were seen in the COUD parking lot. A great deal of money was being liberated by district management. Exorbitant bonuses were being awarded and dual meeting minutes were kept to facilitate all this money liberation.
It seems that some water district management gets to the point where they think they are the owners. Of course, they are not. All of this resulted in legal action and time in the slammer for some.
The money in question was significant at a bit less than half a million bucks. On the positive side, almost all of that money has been recovered with the balance still in process.
The other major problem that will be ongoing is the condition of the water delivery system in Fairfield Glade. Back in the day when the Glade was gangbusters, the onus was on completion not quality. Much of the pipeline was installed back then.
Seems like any Yahoo with a pick up truck and a shovel was a candidate to make a few bucks laying pipe, and they did. The result was pipeline improperly installed and pipe that was of very poor quality.
Well folks, that bum pipe is as much as 50- years old now. As a result we lose around 30% of the fresh water we treat!
If it weren’t for the fact that COUD has a crew fully dedicated to finding and fixing leaks, that number would be much worse. For comparison, NY City loses approximately 50% of what they treat.
It is estimated that at some point in the not too distant future that our current supply of water will not be sufficient to supply the needs of those in the Cumberland Utility district.
There is an exciting plan to address this shortfall. It appears that it will have the necessary approvals and financing to work.
Part II of this article will address this new plan that will ensure we have a reliable water source on into the future.
Jim Arber is a Freelance writer and leisure professional residing in Cumberland County TN. He can be reached for comment at [email protected]