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Washington Water sues over Farmington road widening project

by Ron Wood | September 21, 2021 at 7:00 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Washington Water Authority has sued the Arkansas Department of Transportation and Farmington asking a judge to stop work on the widening of Arkansas 170 until an agreement is reached to move the authority's water lines.

Washington Water claims it will cost more than $1.5 million to move water lines along the road, and it will lose easements. Farmington and the Transportation Department have refused to pay for the work, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit asks a judge to issue an injunction to prohibit paving over or near Washington Water's distribution line or from disturbing or otherwise encroaching on Washington Water's easements unless and until Washington Water is paid for its moving costs and loss of easement rights.

Farmington Mayor Ernie Penn declined comment Monday, saying the Transportation Department is taking the lead in defending the lawsuit. A request for comment from the agency wasn't immediately answered Monday.

Washington Water has reason to believe Farmington and the department won't stop work and negotiate with Washington Water without an injunction, according to the lawsuit.

Road construction over Washington Water's distribution lines poses a serious health concern to the customers of Washington Water and the constant vibrations generated by vehicle traffic run the risk of damaging distribution lines, resulting in water leaks, water losses, corresponding losses in revenue and substantially higher water line maintenance costs and expenses, according to the lawsuit.

The construction of highway drainage ditches that would parallel the Washington Water lines will result in a substantial risk of undermining the stability of the soil and rock in which the water lines are embedded, furthering the risk of water leaks, water losses, revenue losses and higher maintenance costs, according to the lawsuit.

If moving costs aren't paid for by the Transportation Department or Farmington, Washington Water would possibly have to raise rates on its 7,300 customers to pay for moving the water lines, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit contends Black Hills Energy was given about $300,000 for its relocation costs, Prairie Grove Telephone about $160,000 and Cox Communications about $35,000.

The project involves the widening of about 2 miles of Arkansas 170 in Farmington, from Main Street to Clyde Carnes Road, to three 12-foot wide lanes with a continuous left-hand turning lane. The project calls for both sides of the road to have 5-foot-wide sidewalks and curb and gutter.

Print Headline: Washington Water sues over Farmington road widening project


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