Marin Municipal Water District allots $23.2M for pipeline


The Marin Municipal Water District has allocated up to $23.2 million to buy equipment for a proposed emergency supply pipeline across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

The investment, approved by the district board on Tuesday, is the largest the agency has made since proposing the idea earlier this year.

The 8-mile pipeline, estimated to cost up to $90 million, is the district’s main backup plan should it deplete its main reservoir supplies next summer in the event of another dry winter.

“We are doing this project because this drought has shown us we are vulnerable — our district, our customers,” board member Monty Schmitt said on Tuesday. “We are vulnerable to years of extreme dry conditions, the kinds of conditions that we know are going to become more of the norm.”

The district plans to use bond funds to buy 55,000 feet of steel pipe for $16.7 million; two large pump stations for $3.7 million; and two bolted steel tanks for $1.9 million that can each hold 1 million gallons of water. The equipment would be used to bring purchased Sacramento Valley water over the bridge from Richmond into Marin County.

The purchase is not a final decision on whether the pipeline will actually get built. However, district staff said buying the materials now ensures they will be manufactured in time should construction proceed in March.

A vote on an estimated $40 million construction contract is expected to occur in January.

Board member Larry Bragman said that while he is not a supporter of the pipeline in general, the potential of depleting the water supply warrants action.

“Unless we act, we are taking responsibility for worsening or potentially creating health and safety risks,” Bragman said Tuesday.

Several Richmond residents attended the meeting to voice strong opposition to the project. Their comments came a day after Richmond Mayor Tom Butt released a scathing newsletter criticizing the water district’s planning, claiming the pipeline water would be used to “preserve lush lawns” and listing the various impacts that residents would have to face. The effects would include the closure of a section of the San Francisco Bay Trail, months of construction noise and traffic congestion on local streets and the westbound span of the bridge, Butt wrote.

“Richmond is expected to suffer the consequences of poor planning and lack of water conservation by the 14th richest county in America,” Butt wrote.

District staff said the pipeline water would only be used for vital indoor uses to protect health and safety.

District forecasts show it could deplete its main reservoir supplies as soon as July or August should next winter be as dry as the last. Meteorologists predict that La Niña weather patterns this winter could mean another dry winter.

The Marin district differs from its counterparts in the Bay Area in that it relies primarily on seven local reservoirs in the Mount Tamalpais watershed for 75% of its water supply and is not connected to state and federal water systems. The district’s reservoirs are now less than a third full and will require significant amounts of rain this winter to overcome the water shortage emergency.

Using the aid of water districts such as East Bay Municipal Utility District and the Contra Costa Water District, the purchased water would travel more than 100 miles through aqueducts, reservoirs, treatment facilities and possibly the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta before arriving in Richmond and being pumped over the bridge.

The district built a similar pipeline during the drought of 1977, the last time it faced running out of local supplies.

Diagram depicting how water from the Central Valley could be conveyed to Marin County via a Richmond-San Rafael Bridge water pipeline. (Credit: Marin Municipal Water District)

While the pipeline could bring in about 13.5 million gallons per day, the East Bay Municipal Utility District said it would only reliably be able to pump in 8 million gallons per day, or 60% of capacity, in order not to affect water pressure for its Point Richmond ratepayers.

The board’s decision to begin buying construction materials now comes with risk because the sales are non-refundable, according to district staff. So if this winter brings a deluge of rain that knocks the agency out of its water shortage, the district could be stuck with miles of pipe and other materials.

However, staff said the pumping stations, water tanks and up to 50% of the pipe can be put to other uses such as pipe replacement projects and emergency response. The agreement with the manufacturer, Northwest Pipe Co. of Vancouver, Washington, includes provisions requiring the company to help the district resell any pipe or raw construction materials, staff said.

Paul Sellier, the water district’s operations director, told the board that the company won’t begin fabricating the pipe until February.

Several Richmond residents attended the board meeting on Tuesday to oppose to the pipeline. The residents said the district has failed to conduct outreach to neighborhoods that will now have to host pumping stations, endure traffic and noise impacts from construction and see local streets and trails dug up in order to install the piping.

“You want a pumping station in your neighborhood? No, you don’t,” Point Richmond resident Jeff Ritterman told the board.

They also argued that the district and Marin residents have not done enough to conserve water. The district set a conservation goal of 40% in April, but residents reached peak conservation of 30% in August. Last week, conservation was 24% compared to average water use from 2018 through 2020.

Richmond resident Lisa Johnson said her city already has to endure increased traffic and pollution after a third eastbound lane was opened on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and now faces the potential of having a pump station placed in a residential neighborhood.

“Please stop treating us as second-class citizens,” Johnson told the board.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *