Q&A on aging EID infrastructure
El Dorado Irrigation District Communications Director Mary Lynn Carlton interviews Operations Director Tom McKinney about some of the very important capital projects that the district has undertaken in the last decade to ensure that we provide safe and reliable services for our customers. A previous interview with the director of engineering talked about the canal and reservoir system that provides one-third of the district’s drinking water.
Can you discuss some of the most important capital projects the District has undertaken in the last decade and why those projects were necessary to do?
Before I do so, I want to revisit what a CIP is and why we need to have one. As mentioned in the last Waterfront newsletter, a CIP is a five-year plan that is updated each year to identify and plan for necessary improvements that ensure the safety and reliability of the district’s infrastructure. The Board of Directors reviews and adopts an updated plan every year, only approving specific project funding on an as-required basis. Through the preparation and adoption of the CIP, the district can ensure that adequate long-term funding is secured to pay for these service reliability projects.
That being said, I would say that in addition to Project 184, we have had to make investments in projects in all segments of our business — hydroelectric, water, wastewater, and recycled water. Some of the major projects associated with Project 184 are powerhouse repairs and improvements, flume and tunnel replacements and repairs, slope stabilization as a part of flume work, and installation of a fish screen on Alder Creek, which is a regulatory requirement. Total costs on the Project 184 system thus far are approximately $100 million. These projects ensure that the water conveyance system is reliable and it safely brings the water down from its source in the high Sierra.
What were some of the wastewater projects completed and why were they needed?
Some examples of major wastewater projects are: 1) the upgrade of the El Dorado Hills wastewater plant from 2007–2009, making it compliant with newly mandated state and federal standards. This was also necessary to ensure that the district had capacity for processing the wastewater for the fast-growing El Dorado Hills and surrounding communities and to be able to take units out of service for maintenance and repairs.
Other examples are the Mother Lode forcemain project and the Coach Lane sewer line replacement project. Mother Lode forcemain’s phase 2A/4 project, completed in 2010 at a cost of $1.7 million, was to replace over 1.5 miles of sewer line that had been disintegrated due to hydrogen sulfide corrosion. Those costs, combined with earlier phases of the project in the last decade, brought the total project cost to approximately $5 million. The Coach Lane sewer line replacement project, completed in mid-2011, was necessary to repair a sewer line that had totally disintegrated over the years. The cost on that project was $1.07 million.
Several sewer lift stations are on tap for replacement due to age. The Timberline lift station project, located in El Dorado Hills, is being worked on at this time and is expected to be completed in 2012. Originally built in 1989, it requires replacement of pumps, electrical gear, generators, and refurbishment of wet wells, as does the Summit 1 lift station which will be completed in 2013. Costs for both projects are approximately $2 million.
Additionally, in 2012 we will begin work on the complete replacement of the El Dorado Hills Business Park sewer lift station. Cost is expected to be in the range of $1.6 million and the project should be completed in late 2012.
Can you tell me about some water projects and why they were needed?
Recent water projects included the upgrade of the El Dorado Hills water treatment plant and pump station in 2009. Adding the additional five pumps provided redundant capacity so EID could still pump water out of Folsom Lake even if another pump failed. This was also needed to comply with state and federal mandates as well as service the fast growing communities in the western part of our service district.
The cost was $11.8 million. Other water projects include the Reservoir 1 and Reservoir A water treatment plant chlorine conversion projects. The Reservoir 1 and Reservoir A water treatment plant chlorine conversion projects will convert the treatment process to the use of liquid sodium hypochlorite instead of chlorine gas in order to reduce public risk and district liability and improve safety and reliability. Reservoir 1 was completed in January 2012 and Reservoir A will be completed in 2013. Total costs of the projects are $2.5 million. The district converted the El Dorado Hills plant as part of its upgrade in 2009.
Beginning in 2005 the district undertook the Pleasant Oak main project, a major waterline replacement, due to faulty material supplied by a supplier. The project took two years to complete and involved replacement of five miles of line at a total cost of approximately $22 million. This project greatly improved the district’s water service reliability and reduced our liability.
What are some future capital projects and why are they needed?
Future projects include repairing a high Sierra bridge that provides access to our water supply system; Forebay dam remediation, which will heighten the dam face by 10 feet and will bring us into compliance with the requirements of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the California Department of Water Resources’ Division of Safety of Dams, as well the Sly Park intertie lining project, which allows us to move water between Reservoir 1 and A, Echo conduit replacement, lining and piping the main ditch, as well as more work on Project 184 flumes and canals.
In these difficult economic times, what is the district doing to ensure that we remain vigilant in only spending CIP money on the most critical projects?
We are aware of the difficult economic times and are being diligent about our spending. We have instituted a priority system. In essence, there are three levels of priorities, with a level 1 being considered mandatory from a health and safety, or regulatory, standpoint. A level 2 project is considered necessary for system reliability. A level 3 project increases service levels or improves efficiency, but does not affect health and safety nor is it required by legal mandate.
All but one project planned for completion in 2012 is rated as a priority level 1 or 2. We are trying to extend the life of our assets while not jeopardizing our systems, which could cause a catastrophic failure and/or create a public health or safety hazard. We also competitively bid all jobs and ensure that we select the contractor who offers the best price while meeting our project commitments.
How much money has the district spent on its CIP over the last decade?
We have spent about $400 million of capital money to catch up on the deferred maintenance and service reliability projects, make improvements to our infrastructure to meet state and federal mandates, and a portion of it was spent to fund new capital expansion of infrastructure projects. Now that we have pretty much caught up on past deferrals, we will be returning to “normal” expenditures. The five-year 2012–2016 CIP is estimated at $87 million. I might also add that this recent plan was reduced by $55 million from last year’s five-year plan.
EID has a lot of assets in the ground — about $800 million worth, spread over 220 square miles. Assuming a 50-year life expectancy of these assets, the district should be spending an average of $15 million to $20 million a year to replace or repair them each year to keep up with maintaining the system and providing safe and reliable service to our customers. That is our No. 1 job, and we all take pride in providing excellent service to our customers.