The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles
Editor 

Bickleton gets water, community celebrates

 

Lou Marzeles

Rinna McHugh (left), Mike Copenhefer's son, and Jennifer Wilson hold a check from the USDA for $850,000 that went into the water project.

"It used to be if we held a public meeting at the Grange Hall," recalled Rinna McHugh of Bickleton, "we'd have to bring in five big jugs of water for coffee and drinks." That was because Bickleton's water was undrinkable, made dangerous by nitrates and other pollutants.

Seemingly left a century behind, the tiny town had to make do for years without the fundamental necessity of readily available drinking water. But Thursday, in a ceremony filled with high emotion and a sense of history, Bickleton observed a dedication of its new water system.

The project's up-and-down history was outlined by Klickitat PUD Chief Operating Officer Ron Ihrig, who recounted the challenges of completing the $1.3 million undertaking. Some funding came from the county, which on two occasions put in six figures to move the project along. And $850,000 came through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Throughout the years of the project, the Bickleton community pressed on with determination, exemplified in the attitude of the late Community Council Director Mike Copenhefer. "We aren't going away," he repeated reminded funding sources, government officials, and his community. Ihrig praised Bickleton's community for its resolute approach. "The community needed to step up and demonstrate that a majority wanted this system," he said. "You made this happen."

As of Thursday, 52 sites were signed up to connect to the water system, with 14 already tapped in.

Lou Marzeles

Other speakers at the ceremony included Reps. Norm Johnson and Gina McCabe; County Commissioner Jim Sizemore; KPUD Commissioner Ray Mosbrucker; Bickleton Community Council members McHugh and Jennifer Wilson; and USDA Community Programs Specialist for Rural Development Marti Canatsey.

There were moments of deep emotion and appreciation for the enormity of the project. Sizemore stated, "Water brings life, and life brings the opportunity to make something." The simple yet profound observation resonated throughout the room. So too did McHugh's recollection of the years of the process and Copenhefer's unrelenting push for it.

 

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