Franklin County's Peterson Road project to open public access to the Juniper Dunes has run into a $1 million speed bump.
Construction that was supposed to start no later than September is delayed until county commissioners decide how to resolve a landowner's concern that a 30-inch-diameter pressurized water line might be at risk when the road project is completed.
Guy Walters, acting public works director, told commissioners the best solution is to replace about 1.5 miles of the aging steel water line, but it would cost more than $1 million, which the county does not have in its budget.
The road, which is slightly more than two miles of mainly gravel and dirt and connects with the Pasco-Kahlotus Highway, is on private property, and the improvements to make it a county road were originally estimated to cost about $718,000. That included costs for right of way.
The water pipeline, which is 3 to 5 feet below ground, was installed about 40 years ago.
Matt Mahoney, design engineer for the Franklin County Public Works Department, said county officials always have known about the pipeline, but thought that realigning the road could move it far enough away from the pipeline to satisfy the property owner.
"I completed a 90 percent design, but they reiterated they want it replaced," Mahoney said this week.
The property owners, a farming corporation in Champaign, Ill., have been very cooperative about granting right of way, Mahoney said, but they are insisting on the pipeline replacement.
The additional cost may force commissioners to stop the project on Peterson Road and consider alternatives, Mahoney said.
"It would be best to have the go-ahead to explore options," he said.
One possibility would involve creating a new access to the 20,000-acre Juniper Dunes Wilderness Area from the new section of Foster Wells Road, he said.
That would add about a mile to the access route, but would avoid the pipeline problem, Mahoney said.
"We have valid options. We just need direction from the commissioners," he said.
Commissioners voted a year ago to move ahead on making Peterson Road a county public road, using a federal grant of $718,000 that was made available through help of Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash.
The Juniper Dunes Wilderness Area was established in 1984 on Bureau of Land Management property, but it never has had a public access road.
People who go to the area for recreation have used Peterson Road, which is a private road and subject to restrictions.