ALACHUA – A water line that is to serve the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center (GREC), better known as the biomass electric generation plant, will likely cost about $1 million, City of Alachua officials say.

On Monday, Alachua commissioners approved the ranking of proposals by engineering firms, which are seeking the contract to design and engineer the construction of more than 10,000 feet of pipeline that would connect the city’s water reclamation facility to the proposed biomass plant.

City of Alachua Public Services Director Mike New said the cost of design and construction of the pipe would likely cost between $1 million and $1.2 million.

The controversial biomass plant would involve the burning of tree and limb debris from the North Central Florida region to generate electricity.  To operate, the plant would also require some 1.4 million gallons of water per day, of which roughly 600,000 gallons would be provided by the City of Alachua.

According to a memorandum agreed to by the City of Alachua, Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU), GREC and the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD), the biomass facility must use as much reclaimed water as is available to meet the 1.4 million-gallon-per-day demand.

Each day, meanwhile, the City of Alachua outputs about 600,000 gallons of water reclaimed through the city’s wastewater treatment plant.  The water is not considered drinkable or for human consumption, but it can serve numerous other purposes in lieu of being sprayed out on an open field.

To meet its full estimated 1.4-million-gallon-per-day demand, the GREC facility would utilize water wells at the generating station site to provide the balance of water needed for operations.

Before the Turkey Creek Golf & Country Club closed earlier this year, it used about 200,000 gallons of the city’s reclaimed water daily for irrigation, New said.

The proposed connecting pipeline would likely connect to an existing reclaimed water line near Smyder Motors on U.S. Highway 441, travel under the highway, along NW 126th Avenue, under railroad tracks and then terminate at the site of the biomass plant to be located on GRU’s Deerhaven property, New said.

All of the costs for engineering and constructing the pipeline are to be paid and approved by GRU before any services commence.

New also noted that the City of Alachua has not yet set rates for the reclaimed water which would also be billed to GRU.  New said a reasonable rate would likely be about 60-75 cents per 1,000 gallons of reclaimed water provided.

The memorandum dictates that the City must complete construction of the pipeline and be ready to provide reclaimed water by Jan. 1, 2013.  Given the commission’s approval Monday, New said the City would seek an engineering proposal from the top-ranked engineering company, Causseaux, Hewett, and Walpole, Inc. of Gainesville.