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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.

Third-Driest Year Reported in California

The California Department of Water Resources has marked 2021 as the third-driest water year, a period marked from October to March, on record for the Golden State, potentially setting up another deadly wildfire season after last year’s record setting blazes.

Growers See Initial Allocation of 10% for 2021 Water Year

While deciding the final allocation for growers who gather their water from the Friant-Kern Canal is months away, things early on are not looking good. The California Department of Water Resources announced on Dec. 1 an initial state water project allocation of 10% of requested supply for the 2021 water year. Initial allocations are based on conservative assumptions regarding hydrology and factors such as reservoir storage.

Opinion: Using Lake Powell to Keep Lawns Green in Utah Would be a Waste of Resources

The recent downgrade in the forecast for the flow of water in the Colorado River should be a death punch to the proposal to build a new pipeline out of Lake Powell. The pipeline was already a major threat to Las Vegas and much of the rest of the Southwest; now the threat risk is heading off the charts.

The proposal would drain 28 billion gallons of water per year from Lake Powell to St. George, Utah, and the surrounding area. That’s a huge amount of water — more than a quarter of what Nevada is allotted annually from Lake Mead (97.8 billion gallons).

Environmental Groups Sue EPA Over Clean Water Act Rollback

A recent flurry of litigation from around the state and across the country could have huge ramifications in California on the protection and distribution of scarce water resources.

Opinion: For California’s Water, a Tale of Two Letters

Two weeks after the State of California rolled out its plan that spells the end of coordinated distribution of the state’s water resources from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California Democrats in Congress have finally spoken out, sort of.

In Memoriam: William R. Gianelli, former director of California Department of Water Resources

William R. Gianelli, the Water Education Foundation’s second president and a leading figure in California water during construction of the State Water Project, died March 30, 2020, in Monterey County. He was 101.

Mr. Gianelli was president of the Foundation from 1985-1989 and made a major financial donation that helped the Foundation create an educational program for young professionals from diverse backgrounds, which was named the William R. “Bill” Gianelli Water Leaders Class in his honor. The year-long program began in 1997 and now includes more than 400 graduates.

Facilitator To Aid Interior On Water Talks

A coalition aimed at bringing multiple parties together to discuss the future of water resources in the Klamath Basin is hiring an additional facilitator to help with the effort. Alan Mikkelsen, senior advisor to the Secretary of the Interior on water and western resource issues, said Friday he is continuing to take part in the so-called “Coalition of the Willing” meetings in addition to the facilitator. Mikkelsen met with the coalition at the building housing the Bureau of Land Management office in Medford on July 30 and 31. “This is supplementing what we’ve been doing,” Mikkelsen said, of the facilitator position.