An employee looks into a section of pipeline. One of the projects receiving an award.

Water Authority Wins Four Awards for Outstanding Projects

The American Public Works Association and American Society of Civil Engineers recently presented the San Diego County Water Authority with four awards for construction projects that exemplified outstanding skill, dedication and collaboration from staff in many departments. All of the projects were underway or completed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and project teams navigated shutdowns, adapted to health and safety restrictions, and overcame many other uncertainties – in addition to typical challenges encountered during construction projects.

1) APWA Project of the Year: Northern First Aqueduct Structures and Lining Rehabilitation

With extensive coordination between the Water Authority’s Asset Management, Operations, Maintenance, Right of Way, Water Resources, Engineering and Public Affairs teams, the First Aqueduct rehabilitation project was completed in early 2021. Significant work had not been performed on the First Aqueduct since the completion of Pipeline 1 in 1947 and Pipeline 2 in 1954. The Operations and Maintenance Teams worked closely with multiple member agencies to ensure no impacts to water deliveries over the extended shutdowns required to reline both Pipelines. These extended shutdowns allowed the Asset Management team to inspect 27 miles of pipeline along the aqueduct using innovative technologies – the first time this had been done in nearly 75 years.

“Since the project included more than 35 work sites spread out over 15 miles, many in rural areas of the county, we collaborated closely between different departments and member agencies to ensure that water service was not disrupted,” said Emma Ward-McNally, Water Authority engineer.

2) APWA Honor Award: Vallecitos 11/Vista Irrigation 12 Flow Control Facility

This new facility replaced the existing Vallecitos 2/Vista Irrigation 1 facility that was built in 1954. The Water Authority’s Operations and Maintenance team worked closely with the Engineering team to develop a construction sequence to build the new facility while maintaining water service to member agencies.

“A meticulous level of detail in the design process allowed for the project to be completed with minimal changes during construction,” said Jim Zhou, Water Authority senior engineer.

3) APWA Honor Award: San Diego 28 Flow Control Facility

The new flow control facility replaced the San Diego 12 flow control facility. The Water Authority’s Right of Way team worked closely with the City of San Diego to acquire property rights for the facility. During construction, electrical and rotating technicians from Operations and Maintenance provided support to ensure that the facility was constructed correctly and that electrical relay protection was coordinated when connecting to San Diego Gas & Electric.

“The new facility repurposed an existing building at the site, but it was forward-looking – the project included the installation of a second pipe train for a future inline hydroelectric turbine,” said Aaron Trimm, Water Authority senior engineer.

4) ASCE Award of Excellence: Pipeline 5 Emergency Repair

After nearby Pipeline 4 was repaired in late 2019, the Asset Management team inspected Pipeline 5 in early 2020, and found it needed repairs as well. Multiple Water Authority departments and teams collaborated to launch the emergency repairs on Pipeline 5, despite the uncertainty of the growing pandemic. The Engineering Contracts group executed five contracts and task authorizations for design, construction and inspection within a few weeks to make the project happen, and the work was completed in April 2020.

“The project was a true team effort that required collaboration from multiple departments to ensure that the emergency repair could be completed even as the region was shutting down due to the pandemic,” said Colin Kemper, Water Authority senior engineer.

Cooper's Hawk chick-Pipeline 5-May 2020-habitat

Cooper’s Hawk Chick Gets Special Handling near Pipeline 5 Project

A Cooper’s hawk chick and its nest received special attention after being discovered recently near a San Diego County Water Authority construction project.

Environmental surveyors spotted the nest on March 27 south of Gopher Canyon Road during the Pipeline 5 repair project in Moosa Canyon in North San Diego County.

Water Resources staff worked with construction and right-of-way staff to minimize and monitor work activities in the nest area.

Conservation strategy protects wildlife, environment

Limiting disturbance to the Cooper’s hawk chick and nest is part of the Water Authority’s commitments to its Natural Communities Conservation Plan and Habitat Conservation Plan, or NCCP/HCP.

The NCCP/HCP plan, approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Game in December 2011, provides goals, guidelines, and specifications that comprise the Water Authority’s Conservation Strategy for biological resources within its San Diego County Service Area and a portion of southwestern Riverside County.

When the repair work was completed, Water Resource staff contacted the nonprofit group Bloom Research Inc. and biologists with Bio-Studies Inc., who are studying raptors in Southern California.

“I met with biologist Dustin Janeke May 25th at the nest location and the single chick was retrieved by climbing approximately 35 feet up the nest tree and carefully placing it in a travel bag and bringing the chick down,” said Summer Adleberg, Water Authority environmental biologist.

Cooper’s hawk chick data check

Cooper's Hawk Chick-WNN-May 25, 2020, conservation, wildlife

Biologist Dustin Janeke, with Bio-Studies, Inc. of Escondido, is banding the Cooper’s hawk chick on May 25. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority


Banded Cooper's hawk chick-wildlife conservation-WNN-Pipeline 5

The timing of banding is important. The Cooper’s hawk chick’s band is big enough to allow its leg to grow to full adult size. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Adleberg said biologists collected data from the chick, including approximate age, size, sex and overall health, and they attached a USGS band to the bird’s right ankle. The band has a unique eight digit code that is entered into a federal bird banding database.

In general, bird banding allows scientists to study the Cooper’s hawk migration, behavior, survival rate, reproductive success and population growth.

If this bird is ever encountered again in the future, the band number will provide information as to exactly where and when this bird was banded. Pete Bloom, of Bloom Research Inc. is studying the natal dispersal behavior of raptors throughout Southern California. Biologist Janeke with Bio-Studies is a permit-authorized volunteer assisting Bloom’s research projects.

The ‘chick check-up’ showed the Cooper’s hawk was a male estimated to be 2-3 weeks old, weighed about two ounces, and it had started developing tail and wing feathers, with a wing about 2 inches long.

When the data collection was completed, the chick was returned to its nest. Adleberg said the chick was expected to stay in the nest for another 2 to 3 weeks before it fledged and moved out on its own.

Water Authority Environmental Biologist Summer Adleberg-Cooper's Hawk Chick-WNN

Following data collection, Water Authority Environmental Biologist Summer Adleberg takes the Cooper’s hawk chick back to its nest. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority