After months of delays, work to replace a water supply pipe along the Causeway will continue on the week of Monday Dec. 18, the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System announced in a statement.

Work to repair the pipe that failed near a boat launch at Ralph and Kacoo’s restaurant will begin again, just as complaints started pouring in from recreational anglers in the area.

“A segment of the HDPE plastic water line serving Spanish Fort broke on New Year’s Day near the Chocolatta Bay boat ramps at the east end of the parking lot serving Ralph and Kacoos Restaurant,” according to a statement from MAWSS spokeswoman Barbara Shaw. “A temporary above ground pipe was set up and has been serving Spanish Fort customers since the break. The permanent repair will replace the plastic pipe with 18-inch ductile iron pipe.”

Gregg Mudge complained that each time he tries to set up a duck blind near the location, he’s having “to fight for trailer space to park.” It’s especially bad on weekends and holidays.

“The ramps at Choctaw launch by Ralph and Kacoo’s (are) the main launch for duck hunters, sport fisherman and tournament fisherman on the Causeway,” he wrote in an email. “MAWSS and Baldwin County have not made any attempt to partially open the launches and the only other launch close by is closed by hurricane damage. The free launch across from Ed’s Shed has a huge amount of pipes covering it .”

Shirley Smith, owner of Shirley’s Bait and Tackle across from Battleship Park, said the issue has caused a substantial dip in her business because the lack of open launches forces hunters and anglers to avoid the Causeway altogether.

It’s also a financial burden to anglers and hunters looking for a nearby launch, Mudge wrote.

“All the hunters and fisherman in Baldwin and Mobile counties that fish or hunt around the delta are having to put in at Scott’s in Spanish Fort, Meaher Park or at a public launch [with one ramp] by Shirley’s and ride the extra distance to fishing and hunting spots and park a lot further away from ramps and walk the distance,” he wrote. “All of them are using extra gas and extra time and waiting at dark to get a free ramp to load up and go home.”

This is the second time the directional drilling will be attempted. The first time, the casing pipe collapsed when it was pulled through the hole, according to the statement. That stopped the project until it could be determined why the collapse occurred and how it could be corrected. This time, they will be using a different subcontractor, new casing pipe and drilling 10 feet deeper than the first attempt.

“We appreciate the public’s patience as we move forward with this difficult repair,” MAWSS Director Charles Hyland said in the statement. “Everyone involved in this project wants to see it completed as quickly as possible.”

Seperately, MAWSS held a public hearing on its annual budget Tuesday evening. The $62.2 million proposed budget includes a 5 percent rate increase from a slightly higher administrative fee. MAWSS will also be considering a 5 percent rate increase for 2019 as well. The MAWSS Board of Commissioners will consider the budget and both rate increases at its meeting on Monday, Dec. 4.

For months, MAWSS has argued some future rate increases are needed to repair aging sewer infrastructure and protect its customers and the environment.

“The poor conditions of the pipes, combined with locally heavy rains, have resulted in overflows,” Shaw wrote in a statement. “Several capital projects, funded with low interest State Revolving Fund loans, are planned to reduce the overflows. The budget increases provide funds for repayment of the loans.”

Water and sewer customers using an average of 5,000 gallons of water per month would see their monthly bill increase about $2.25 a month from $55.80 to $58.05. Minimum bills, using 2,500 gallons or less, would increase $1.43 a month, from $29.90 to $31.33. If approved, the new rates and fees would take effect Jan. 1.

(Photo | Submitted) MAWSS intends to resume work on a pipeline replacement Dec. 18. The project has restricted access to boat launches along the causeway.