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Infrastructure Talks Leave Biden’s Entire Agenda at Risk

President Joe Biden’s latest leap into the Senate’s up-and-down efforts to clinch a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure deal comes with even more at stake than his coveted plans for boosting road, rail and other public works projects.

The outcome of the infrastructure deal, which for weeks has encountered one snag after another, will affect what could be the crown jewel of his legacy. That would be his hopes for a subsequent $3.5 trillion federal infusion for families’ education and health care costs, a Medicare expansion and efforts to curb climate change.

Gary Croucher-Board Chair-San Diego County Water Authority-Primary

Local Renewable Energy Project Gets Big Boost

I’m so pleased to report that a large-scale renewable energy project proposed jointly by the City of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority received $18 million in the state budget signed this month by Gov. Gavin Newsom. That money will advance the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility through initial design, environmental reviews, and the federal licensing process – a huge boost for a project with a huge upside for the region.

This is one of the most promising pumped energy storage solutions in California, and it would be a major asset to help avoid rolling blackouts through on-demand energy production while helping to meet state climate goals. It also could mitigate costs for water ratepayers across the San Diego region by generating additional revenue to help offset the cost of water purchases, storage, and treatment. The City and the Water Authority are developing the project together, just like they did to raise the height of the city-owned San Vicente Dam 117 feet in the 2010s.

San Vicente Energy Storage Facility project

Upon completion, the San Vicente energy project would provide up to 500 megawatts of long-duration stored energy, which will assist in meeting peak electrical demand periods throughout Southern California and help meet the goals of Senate Bill 100, which requires 60% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% zero-carbon energy resources statewide by 2045. The project will provide enough energy for about 135,000 households when operating.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Gov. Gavin Newsom and Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins for ensuring funding for this critical infrastructure project, which will create more than 1,000 construction-related jobs in addition to its other benefits.

With state funding in place, the Water Authority and the City are preparing to launch federal and state environmental reviews, seek a project license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and issue a Request for Proposals for a full-service private partner to help develop the project. Those complex components are expected to take at least four years, with construction completion forecast for 2030.

Pumped energy storage projects are designed to store excess renewable energy from solar and wind during the day, and then discharge that energy when energy use increases in the evening and renewable energy is not available.

The San Vicente project would create a small upper reservoir above the existing San Vicente Reservoir in Lakeside, along with a tunnel system and an underground powerhouse to connect the two reservoirs. The powerhouse would contain four reversible pump turbines.

During off-peak periods – when power is inexpensive and renewable supplies from wind and solar facilities exceed demand – turbines would pump water to the upper reservoir where it would act as a battery of stored potential energy. During high energy use, the system would discharge water from the upper reservoir downhill through the turbines, producing energy. The exchange between the two reservoirs would not consume water.

For more details about the San Vicente Energy Storage Facility go to: www.sdcwa.org/projects/san-vicente-pumping-facilities/

Interior Secretary: Drought Demands Investment, Conservation

Confronting the historic drought that has a firm grip on the American West requires a heavy federal infrastructure investment to protect existing water supplies but also will depend on efforts at all levels of government to reduce demand by promoting water efficiency and recycling, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said Thursday.

Haaland told reporters in Denver that the Biden administration’s proposed fiscal year 2022 budget includes a $1.5 billion investment in the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages water and power in the Western states, and more than $54 million for states, tribes and communities to upgrade infrastructure and water planning projects.

San Diego County Would Get $97 Million for Transportation, Road Projects in House bill

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that would fund more than $97 million in major infrastructure projects in San Diego County.

California would get nearly $1 billion for transportation and infrastructure projects statewide, if the measure passes through the Senate and is signed by President Joe Biden.

Some 200 California Projects May Be Funded by Infrastructure Bill

The House on Thursday approved an approximately $715-billion transportation infrastructure plan that would build and repair roads, bridges and rail systems around the country.

The bill forms the House’s framework for President Biden’s infrastructure plan. While the proposal is likely to change during negotiations with the Senate as it progresses toward Biden’s desk, the bill includes $920 million specifically targeted to projects throughout California.

The most expensive California project, at $25 million, will be pre-construction work on a transportation hub in San Diego. Major projects in Los Angeles include a Metro transit line through the Sepulveda Pass and improvements to existing transit in the Vermont Corridor.

FRS II-water project-Mission Trails Regional Park-water infrastructure

Water Project in Mission Trails Park More Than 50% Complete

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Mission Trails FRS II water project is now more than halfway complete.

The project will upgrade the Water Authority’s untreated water system in Mission Trails Regional Park. When finished in 2022, the upgrades will provide more reliable water delivery to treatment plants that serve the central and south sections of San Diego County.

Construction began in March 2020 just as the coronavirus pandemic began. As an essential infrastructure project, construction on the water project continued during the pandemic.

The project includes construction of a new 5-million-gallon underground covered tank, flow control facility and pipeline connections. The largest component of the project is the building of the underground tank called a flow regulatory structure (FRS II) which will be used to balance flows in the aqueduct system.

Roof pour begins on water project

One June 11, the pouring of concrete to create the roof for FRS II began. FRS II will be the second underground water tank in the park – both work to efficiently move water through the region.

Construction efforts are also underway to build the new flow control facility. Once construction is complete, the work area will be graded to its previous contours and revegetated with native plants – many seeded from plants within the park itself.

New construction activities have begun about a half mile north of the FRS II. This most northern construction site will be used to connect the water flowing through the Water Authority’s pipelines to the FRS II.

Some trails closed for construction safety

To keep trail users safe, some trails are closed through early 2022 when work is complete. Signs are posted to clearly mark the closures, detours and provide a map to find alternative routes. In addition, the Water Authority created an interactive map showing the location of the closed trails. Go to www.sdcwa.org/mission-trails-FRS to view the map and learn more about the project.

Mission Trails FRS II water project construction

Construction crews formed and poured the walls of the Flow Regulatory Structure in December 2020. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

As Drought Ravages California, Biden’s Infrastructure Bill Could Help Store More Water

As California and the West suffer through an epic drought, President Joe Biden and Senate Republicans and Democrats have included $5 billion for Western water projects in their infrastructure deal.

The prospect of federal money comes as several big-ticket water projects are on the drawing boards in California — although many are still years from completion and probably wouldn’t get finished in time to help California with the current drought.

Vintage pipe-Sweetwater Authority-water infrastructureBonita Museum

Vintage Water Pipeline Now at Bonita Museum

A key piece of water infrastructure  – a steel pipe that delivered water to residents of San Diego County –  is now on display at the Bonita Museum & Cultural Center.

Earlier this year, the Sweetwater Authority completed the replacement of its 36-inch transmission main in the Bonita Valley area. Portions of the large critical pipeline were nearing 100-years-old and due to be retired and replaced.

The 36-inch riveted steel pipe played a critical role in delivering water to residents and businesses in the South Bay for nearly a century before it was retired and replaced in 2020.

The original riveted steel pipeline was constructed in 1926 and played a key role in delivering safe, reliable water to Authority customers throughout the South Bay. Drinking water from the Authority’s treatment plant in Spring Valley traveled through the pipe, through the Bonita Valley and throughout the Sweetwater Authority service area, which includes Bonita, western and central portions of Chula Vista and National City.

Major water infrastructure improvement

“Replacing the 36-inch transmission main was a major infrastructure improvement project for the Authority last year, and we’re proud to be able to preserve a piece of our community’s history now that the project is complete,” said Authority Board Chair Hector Martinez. “The water we’ve delivered to our customers over the last century has passed through this pipe, and we are glad the Bonita Museum & Cultural Center is able to share this piece of history with the community.”

The vintage pipe is now on permanent display at the Bonita Museum & Cultural Center.

The Sweetwater Authority is a publicly-owned water agency with policies and procedures established by a 7-member Board of Directors. The  Authority governing board is composed of five directors elected by division by the citizens of the South Bay Irrigation District, and two directors appointed by the Mayor of National City, subject to City Council confirmation.

(Editor’s note: The Sweetwater Authority is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Vallecitos Water District-Interceptor-Pipeline-infrastructure

San Marcos Interceptor Project Ready for Phase 2 Summer Start 

The San Marcos Interceptor Replacement Project remains on schedule, with Phases 1 and 1A completed according to the Vallecitos Water District. The project replaces the District’s 1960s era 21-inch diameter sewer interceptor with more than 12,000-feet of 42-inch diameter sewer pipeline between Twin Oaks Valley Road and Pacific Street.

The Interceptor is a large trunk sewer pipeline receiving and conveying wastewater by gravity to the Encina Wastewater Authority. In Phases 1 and 1A of the project between 2002 and 2014, portions behind the Creekside Marketplace from State Route 78 to Grand Avenue, from Twin Oaks Valley Road to east of Johnston Lane, from Grand Avenue to Via Vera Cruz, and east of Johnson Lane to the south side of State Route 78 were completed.

Phase 2 will complete the remaining 3,400-feet of the westernmost project corridor extending from Via Vera Cruz to Pacific Street. The project budget is $8.5 million. The completion of Phase 2 of the Interceptor project has been in the works for more than 30 years, with the project exchanging numerous hands in planning, design, and construction.

“This is a milestone project for the District both in size and significance,” said Ryan Morgan, capital facilities senior engineer.

State of the art construction technology

Microtunneling made it possible for the Vallecitos Water District to successfully complete the project in under a week with no damage to the existing utilities while also minimizing traffic impacts at San Marcos Boulevard and Pacific Street. Photo: Vallecitos Water District San Marcos Interceptor

Microtunneling made it possible for the Vallecitos Water District to successfully complete the project in under a week with no damage to the existing utilities while also minimizing traffic impacts at San Marcos Boulevard and Pacific Street. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The project used state-of-the-art trenchless technology to install a 115-ft long tunnel under an existing concrete culvert under the Pacific Street and San Marcos Boulevard intersection. The 42-inch diameter fiberglass reinforced plastic Interceptor sewer was installed inside a 60-inch diameter steel casing pipe.

Using a process known as “microtunneling,” contractor TC Construction and sub-consultant JW Fowler used a MicroTunnel Boring Machine (MTBM) inside an excavation in the eastbound lanes of San Marcos Boulevard and be received in a smaller excavation in the westbound lanes of San Marcos Boulevard at Pacific Street.

The MTBM is larger than 60-inches in diameter to be large enough to bore through native soils, rock, and backfill along the Interceptor alignment. The new tunnel’s wall is pressurized internally using hydraulic fluids before the steel casing is permanently installed. The MTBM is remote-controlled by an operator on the surface and is laser-guided to ensure it stays within the designed horizontal and vertical alignment (line and grade).

The MTBM’s high level of accuracy makes it especially useful when a project needs to avoid conflicts with existing underground utility lines, including a 16-inch diameter high-pressure San Diego Gas & Electric gas line in this project. The microtunnel installation was a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week process.

The microtunnel allowed the District to “thread the needle,” and the tunnel was completed in under a week (plus setup). There was no damage to any of the existing utilities in San Marcos Boulevard, and traffic impacts were minimized.

Project completion nearing this summer

The San Marcos Interceptor project required special mitigating measures and biological monitoring for construction during bird nesting season between February 15 and September 15 along San Marcos Creek. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The San Marcos Interceptor project required special mitigating measures and biological monitoring for construction during bird nesting season between February 15 and September 15 along San Marcos Creek. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The Interceptor project required biological monitors and archeological monitors for work adjacent to San Marcos Creek or predetermined environmental sensitive areas. Special mitigation measures and biological monitoring were required for construction during bird nesting season between February 15 and September 15. Additionally, tribal paleological monitors from Native American tribes of significance in the area were represented during excavation work in the creek.

The final leg of the project will begin in the easements adjacent to the creek between Via Vera Cruz and McMahr. Construction completion is expected in June 2021.

This replacement project was originally identified in the District’s 1991 Master Plan and has been phased to be completed prior to City of San Marcos development of the Creek District.

(Editor’s note: The Vallecitos Water District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

San Diego Launches $10-Million Assessment of Aging City Dams, Including Three Rated ‘Poor’

San Diego is launching a $10-million effort to complete risk assessments of all nine of the city’s aging dams — only three of which are considered in satisfactory condition. City officials say the assessments are expected to reveal problems that will require an estimated $1 billion in repairs and upgrades in coming decades — and possibly some replacement dams in extreme cases. San Diego’s dams are among the oldest in the state and the nation. State officials said three dams are in “poor” condition — Hodges, El Capitan and Lower Otay — and three have been rated “fair”: Morena, Barrett and Lake Murray.