By Sarah Richardson
Lewisburg City Council held a special meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 27, to review the details of an agreement with the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources regarding the temporary closure of a section of the Greenbrier River Trail. The closure is to allow for the relocation of the intake pipe for the municipal water plant, which will be moved upstream of the landfill and junkyard.
“The upgrade creates a more resilient and reliable water supply designed to improve the quality of the water delivered to the community. This upgrade also includes the installation of generators designed to keep water available during power outages for residents,” states a press release about the project.
“This has been a long time waiting,” opened Lewisburg City Manager Misty Hill. “The concerns from the Council that have been brought forth in the past, and also from the citizens of the community, and we have reached an agreement with the state, the DNR, and it has also been vetted and approved by the Attorney General. It’s been signed.”
The draft of the DNR agreement states that the trail will be closed from the current intake building to Hopper (Harper Road) starting on Oct. 3, and will remain closed until Feb. 29, 2024. This two-mile portion of the 78-mile trail stretches from milepost 3.75 to milepost 5.53.
“We are going to provide temporary parking right there at the property that the intake is going to go on, so the temporary parking will be on our property until the permanent parking is provided by the City,” said Hill. It was announced at previous meetings that around 15 spaces worth permanent parking will be installed on DNR land alongside the trail. The City will be paying for the development and installation of the parking. The reason for the temporary parking is that trees cannot be removed until after Nov. 15 due to bats roosting in the area. Construction for permanent parking will begin after that date.
“We are hoping to have the permanent parking ready by mid-December, but it’s also dependent on the weather,” Hill noted.
The agreement also states that the construction company must maintain the section of trail where there has been construction for one year, and the City will maintain that section after that time. The City will also have to place signage at trail entrances to let visitors know that it is completely closed with no public access permitted.
Hill reiterated an announcement made at last week’s well-attended Council meeting, that the construction timeline for the trail was shortened to 15 months, and that this shorter timeline will cost the City an additional $149,310.
Engineer and Vice President of Chapman Technical Services Greg Belcher said that the additional cost stems from the contractor hiring a second crew to work at the same time as the initial crew. Both crews will be working five 10-hour days per week, weather permitting, instead of one crew working four 10-hour days. A portion of the additional requested funds will help cover the overtime expenses.
“They will try to do the tributary and stream crossings at the same time he’s trying to complete the work up the trail,” said Belcher. “Instead of trying to lay that 24 inch pipe up the trail, most of those culverts are deep enough that we’ll be hitting right in the middle of them, so we’d have to deepen the pipe to go under them, but we’d be afraid they’re going to collapse. So we’re going to leave the trail with a couple of 45’s and go out around those culverts, if you can imagine, and come right back down to the trail and go up the road to the next one. And they think they’re going to be able to put equipment in there and do those simultaneously. It’s really the only viable option we could offer to finish any earlier, because we felt like working at night and through the winter created so many safety issues with the contractor, especially backing a dump truck up the trail in the dark.”
“This water improvement project is vital to the growth of the City of Lewisburg and the surrounding areas,” said Hill. “We appreciate everyone’s support and collaboration as we begin this important project, especially Gov. Jim Justice, the Department of Commerce and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR), which is helping us mitigate the temporary loss of trail access at Caldwell.”
This change order will be presented to the Finance Committee and City Council for consideration at next month’s meetings. The City of Lewisburg will provide maps, updates on the water upgrade and additional information as it becomes available.