SWITZER — A dam is being built around half of North Elkhorn Creek, just downstream from the historic Switzer Covered Bridge in Franklin County.
The ultimate goal: To bring Lexington more water.
Specifically, a controversial pipeline being laid beneath the creek will carry as much as 20 million gallons a day from a new treatment plant under construction on the Kentucky River north of Frankfort.
A track hoe was picking up 3,000-pound sandbags and carrying them to the creek Monday, where another track hoe built a coffer dam.
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After the dam is completed, water will be pumped from that part of the creek. Then a trench, 6 feet wide and 8 feet deep, will be dug for the pipeline.
When the line is laid under half the creek and covered with concrete, the dam will be moved to the other side and the process repeated.
The work is part of a $162 million Kentucky American Water project that includes a new treatment plant, a booster pump station and 31 miles of iron pipe that is 42 inches in diameter.
The project was opposed by people along the route who formed a group called Citizens for Alternative Water Solutions.
Linda Bridwell, Kentucky American's project manager, said in a statement that the company is "making a concerted effort to perform the creek crossing in a timely and environmentally sensitive manner."
That drew a rebuke from CAWS spokeswoman Tona Barkley, who said the utility is "bulldozing Elkhorn Creek just like it is is bulldozing landowners who also are in the path" of the pipeline.
"While the corporate water company may like to appear 'environmentally sensitive,' there is nothing 'low impact' about this project," she said.
Crossing beneath the creek should take about three weeks, depending on the weather, Kentucky American spokesman Raymond Golden said. After a wet summer and early fall, the Elkhorn already has more water than usual for this time of year.
The entire project is about 70 percent completed, Golden said.
Only two landowners along the route have refused to sign easement agreements, he said. A Franklin Circuit judge ruled last summer that Kentucky American has the power to condemn land along the route. Golden said his company hopes that won't be necessary.
The contractor laying the pipeline, Garney Cos. of Kansas City, Mo., has experience with similar creek crossings, Golden said. He also said that two other lines, one belonging to the Elkhorn Water District and the other to Columbia Gas of Kentucky, already run under the creek.