- Cullman, Alabama

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September 22, 2013

Duck River Dam Project skyrockets to $110 million; up $40 million from original estimate


Wholesale, consumer water rates going up

Consumer and wholesale water rates were already expected to increase, but now costs will be going up even more to fulfill the obligations of the larger bond needed to finish the project.

The wholesale water rate is expected to increase from $2.03 per 1,000 gallons to between $3.55 to $4.03 per 1,000 gallons by around 2015, once a full year’s debt service is paid on both bonds needed to fund the project. The dam project will directly result in a $1.55 to $2 increase per 1,000 gallons.

For example, a minimum water bill of 2,000 gallons will increase by approximately $3.10 to $4 per month. A minimum water bill of 3,000 gallons will increase by approximately $4.65 to $6 per month. An average water bill of 5,000 gallons will increase by approximately $7.75 to $10 per month.

When briefed about the potential increase late this week, the Duck River Advisory committee, which is made up of designees representing the major water systems across the county, expressed concern over what the higher price will mean to poultry farmers.

Cullman County is home to one of the biggest poultry markets in the state, and an average chicken house can reportedly use between 330,000 to 540,000 gallons of water per year.

“Something that is on everyone’s mind is the poultry industry, and that is absolutely important,” advisory committee chairman Jimmy Knight said.

Current estimates note the increased rates could cost poultry farmers between $511 to over $1,000 more per-year per-house, depending on the size of the operation.

When asked if he was concerned the project might potentially hurt the area’s strong farming community, Townson said he agrees the increased cost could be a burden — but it’s a better option than running out of water.

“Is it better to pay a little more for water,  than to run the risk of not having any at all during a drought?” he said. “Yes, it might be higher than we thought, but it will still make more water available.”

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