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San Lorenzo Valley Water District OKs contracts to fix aging water system

May 15, 2024May 15, 2024

BOULDER CREEK — The San Lorenzo Valley Water District Board of Directors recently approved construction contracts to a pair of local firms for projects the district says will shore up some of its infrastructure for the long haul.

The board agreed to a $6 million contract with Monterey Peninsula Engineering Inc. for an effort that will replace leaky water mains, fittings, valves and fire hydrants for its Lyon and Big Steel Pipeline along Highway 236. According to a release from the district, construction is scheduled to begin later this winter.

The second contract, awarded to Casey Construction for $600,000, will replace Redwood Park Pipeline water mains and improve service for residents along Country Club Drive and Woodland Drive in Ben Lomond. The projected is expected to break ground in the fall.

“Repairing and maintaining water system infrastructure is vital for our community,” said District Manager Rick Rogers in a release. “While these projects may cause temporary traffic delays, they help ensure district customers will have sufficient fire flow and access to reliable water for years to come.”

District Engineer Josh Wolff told the Sentinel that the recent contract approvals are unrelated to damages from January winter storm events, but confirmed that recovery work in that effort are also continuing to keep crews busy.

According to Wolff, the district is estimating roughly $4 million to $4.5 million in total damages from the storms, adding that crews are still working to fix some individual water main breaks while designs for long-term recovery efforts are ongoing.

Wolff told the Sentinel that the $6 million Lyon and Big Steel Pipeline project is an especially large effort for the district that combines damage repairs dating to the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex with broader improvements to its general infrastructure in the region.

Wolff said the CZU fire destroyed portions of the pipeline connected to its Big Steel tank that ran through Highway 236 and connected to water mains feeding Boulder Creek. Utilizing more than $1 million in funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Wolff says temporary lines that were established in the fire’s aftermath will be replaced with a larger pipe that will be buried beneath the ground for protection.

“We’re taking a plastic pipe at grade and replacing it with a ductile iron pipe buried 3 feet below the road so it will be protected,” Wolff said.

Additionally, the broader capital improvements include another pipe replacement for its Lyon tank and a reconfiguration of some of its pipeline infrastructure to improve pressure in certain locations and reduce the number of tanks the district needs to maintain.

“We’re doing everything we can to take advantage of the greater flow provided by those larger pipes in order to stabilize and improve pressure to our ratepayers, make it more consistent and higher in some places and reduce our own costs,” Wolff said.

Similarly, the Redwood Park project’s ultimate aim is to replace aging infrastructure.

According to Wolff, two 10,000 gallon tanks managed by the district that are at least 40 years old are leaking. The project will replace the existing tanks with one above-grade 120,000 gallon working capacity steel tank in a nearby location with new and improved water line connections.

Wolff said district crews worked around the clock for almost all of January as heavy atmospheric river storms soaked the county and pounded the Santa Cruz Mountains. He said short-term repair work should be complete within the next couple weeks, but long term projects are already beginning to loom large.

Permanent repairs are still needed in several areas such as Brookdale, Felton and Lompico and while design work has already begun in some cases, Wolff says much of the pace will be set by the arrival of FEMA reimbursements.

“(FEMA) seems to be moving as quickly as they ever do,” Wolff said. “I’m optimistically hoping that by three years from now we will have completely recovered from the storm damage, but that’s all dependent on FEMA.”

One small streak of silver lining mentioned by Wolff is that the district is currently running at capacity for its surface water storage, meaning it won’t need to tap into the local aquifer until later in the year to serve its 7,900 connections.

District officials have also announced that its annual water main flushing program meant to maintain lines and comply with state requirements would begin soon.

The program will occur during weekday business hours from March 6 to May 25 at various district locations.

According to a district release, the flushing or “scouring” process removes iron and manganese deposits within the district’s pipes by opening hydrants and releasing water at a rate of about five feet per second.

Water is safe to drink during flushing, but customers may experience periods of low pressure or an interruption of water service and are asked during such occasions to reduce water usage and refrain from doing laundry as the water may be discolored for a short time.

Iron and manganese do not pose a health threat to customers and are commonly found in groundwater wells throughout the country, according to the release.

A complete flushing schedule and general flushing information is at or residents can call the district office at 831-338-2153.

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