Marin Municipal Water District allocates $ 23.2 million for pipeline

The Marin Municipal Water District has allocated up to $ 23.2 million to purchase equipment for an emergency supply pipeline project on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

The investment, approved by the district’s board of directors on Tuesday, is the largest the agency has made since it came up with the idea earlier this year.

The 8-mile pipeline, which is estimated to cost $ 90 million, is the district’s main back-up plan in case it runs out of reserves in its main reservoir next summer in the event of another dry winter.

“We are doing this project because this drought has shown us that we are vulnerable – our district, our customers,” Board member Monty Schmitt said on Tuesday. “We are vulnerable to years of extremely dry conditions, the types of conditions that we know will increasingly become the norm. “

The district plans to use bond funds to purchase 55,000 feet of steel pipe for $ 16.7 million; two large pumping 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 water purchased in the Sacramento Valley over the Richmond Bridge to Marin County.

The purchase is not a final decision on the actual construction of the pipeline. However, district staff said purchasing the materials now ensures that they will be manufactured on time if construction continues in March.

A vote on a construction contract estimated at $ 40 million is expected to take place in January.

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

“Unless we take action, we take responsibility for the potential aggravation or creation of health and safety risks,” Bragman said Tuesday.

Several Richmond residents attended the meeting to express strong opposition to the project. Their comments came a day after Richmond Mayor Tom Butt issued 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 residents are expected to face. The effects would include the closure of a section of the San Francisco Bay Trail, months of construction noise and traffic jams on local streets and the westbound bridge span, Butt wrote.

“Richmond should suffer the consequences of poor planning and lack of water conservation by America’s 14th richest county,” Butt wrote.

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

District forecasts show that it could run out of its main reservoir reserves as early as July or August if next winter will be as dry as the last. Meteorologists predict that La Niña weather conditions this winter could mean another dry winter.

The Marin District differs from its Bay Area counterparts 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 water supply systems. state and federal government water. Reservoirs in the district are now less than a third full and will need significant amounts of rain this winter to overcome the water shortage emergency.

Using river basin districts such as the East Bay Utilities District and Contra Costa Water District, purchased water would travel over 160 km through aqueducts, reservoirs, treatment facilities and possibly be the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta before you get to Richmond and get pumped over the bridge.

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

Diagram showing how water from the Central Valley could be channeled to Marin County via a water line from the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. (Credit: Marin municipal water district)

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

The board’s decision to start purchasing building materials now carries a risk as sales are not refundable, according to district staff. So if this winter brings a deluge of rain that puts the agency out of its water scarcity, the neighborhood could be stuck with miles of pipes and other materials.

However, staff said pumping stations, water tanks and up to 50% of pipelines can be used for other purposes such as pipeline replacement projects and emergency response. The deal with the manufacturer, Northwest Pipe Co. of Vancouver, Wash., Includes provisions requiring the company to help the district resell any pipe or raw building material, staff said.

Paul Sellier, director of operations for the water district, told the board that the company will not start manufacturing the hose until February.

Several Richmond residents attended the council meeting on Tuesday to oppose the pipeline. Residents said the district had failed to raise awareness in neighborhoods that will now have to accommodate pumping stations, experience construction-related traffic and noise impacts, and see local streets and pathways dug in order to install the piping.

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

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

Richmond resident Lisa Johnson said her town was already facing increased traffic and pollution after a third eastbound lane opened on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and now faces the possibility of installing a pumping station in a residential area.

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

Cynthia Koehler, president of the district water council, apologized for not conducting enough outreach to residents and called on staff to start organizing meetings.

Ben Horenstein, the district general manager, said staff “will go back and explore all opportunities” to move the piping placement and pumping station away from residential areas.

Environmentalists such as Fairfax residents Frank Egger, director of the North Coast Rivers Alliance, and Chance Cutrano, director of programs at the Resource Renewal Institute, have raised concerns that the district claims the pipeline is exempt from state environmental review because it was an emergency project. They said the project could put more pressure on the already high water demands of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which they said could exacerbate impacts on endangered species such as the Delta Smelt.

“I know this is a tough decision,” said Cutrano, who is also a member of Fairfax City Council. “I really hope you can all put some safeguards on this first and foremost not moving forward, because I think we’re only perpetuating a fantasy if we think this pipeline is really going to save us or appease us.”

In addition to building materials, the board also voted unanimously on Tuesday to strike a deal with the Contra Costa Aquatic District to help Marin buy water and use its facilities to bring water. in Marin. The Marin Municipal Water District estimates that purchasing water and using the Contra Costa water system could cost between $ 8 million and $ 9 million.

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