Water association questions Rentech deal

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 2, 2009

NATCHEZ — One local non-profit agency is looking for clarification in a recent resolution signed by the Adams County Board of Supervisors.

On May 20, the supervisors signed a resolution of support for the Natchez-Adams County Environmental Infrastructure/Alluvial Lateral Aquifer Development Project, which would tap an aquifer under the Mississippi River bed that would be used to supply Rentech with water.

But Adams County Water Association Manager Ken Herring said the resolution was signed pending the approval of the Adams County Water Association.

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And now the water association has some questions about the plan.

“There’s some vague wording that we need clarification on,” Herring said of the resolution.

Rentech’s current plans call for a second party to acquire grant funding for the $24 million project and run the facility.

Rentech is slated to be the major customer, but the plant could provide water to any other industrial project in the port area.

In a letter from Lynwood Easterling to the board, Easterling said should another entity, other that the Water Association, sell water to Rentech at the IP site, that would be a violation of the water association’s exclusive right to service that area.

“In this regard, however, Adams County Water Association must be assured that it has the exclusive right to provide water services to those situated within its certificated service area, including the proposed Rentech project. To take any other position would be a breach of the fiduciary duty of the Adams County Water Association, Inc. Board of Directors to protect the valuable property rights of the association, including its exclusive franchise rights to serve water to customer within its service area,” Lynwood said in his letter.

Herring said in 1966, when the water association was established, the Public Service Commission gave the group certificated areas that give them exclusive service rights to those areas so that the association is guaranteed to have income to pay back federal loans used to establish the association.

While the board did not rescind their original motion, since the water association has voiced concerns, the motion is “moot,” Supervisors President Henry Watts said.

Herring said Rentech officials and water association attorneys are scheduled to meet in the coming weeks to address any concerns the water association has.

In other news, the supervisors granted a variance to the county’s ordinance regarding radio towers that will now allow Adams County to tie into a statewide radio system meant to increase public safety.

Towers of Mississippi Development Manager Taylor Robinson said the variance had to be granted because the yet-to-be competed 600-foot tower was slated to be built within 555-feet of the Bourke Road.

The ordinance mandates that, should the tower fall, it cannot fall onto a road or existing structures.

However, Taylor said current tower technology is designed to allow the tower to collapse within a 200-foot radius, in the event of a collapse, and poses no danger to the road or any existing structures.

“It’s not a pubic safety issue,” Robinson said.

Now that the county has granted the variance, the tower can be constructed, and the county will be able to access the new statewide radio system being built by the Mississippi Wireless Communications Commission.

Robinson said after Hurricane Katrina, the need for better communication technology across the state was realized and plans for the radio system started.

“This is a benefit for the county and the state,” Taylor said. “It’s an amazing public safety network.”

In other business: Adams County Administrator Cathy Walker said she has still not heard back from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency on how to dispose of debris from Hurricane Gustav.

After the storm, debris was moved to three staging areas across the county.

For several weeks, the county has been waiting to hear if the debris should be chipped or hauled to a landfill.

Walker said the county is not in danger of missing any deadlines that would impact the project.

The supervisors also met in executive session to discuss potential litigation, personnel issues and economic development.