Marin Municipal Water District prepares for urgent $65 million water pipeline construction

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Image from Marin Municipal Water District

The Marin Municipal Water District is considering building a $65 million pipeline across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to keep from running out of water as soon as next summer, the Marin Independent Journal reports.

The newspaper reports that the roughly 6-mile pipeline between Richmond and Marin “still faces numerous major hurdles such as permits, costs and finding the water to put in it.”

“As a district, we are very focused on conserving what we have, with the goal of trying to meet this challenge ahead of us through conservation yet recognizing that we may very well need supplemental water,” Ben Horenstein, the district’s general manager, was quoted as saying. “This project is an interesting, yet very complex and costly, endeavor.”

The district can’t wast time. It predicts it could run out of reservoir supplies by June next year, if there is another dry winter.

The proposed pipeline, however, requires cooperation and approval of several organizations including local utilities, transportation agencies, cities, state agencies and the federal government — any one of which could cause delays.

“These are not agencies that are to be taken lightly,” Paul Sellier, the district’s operations director, told the district board this month.

The board was set to meet on Aug. 30 to consider $2.2 million worth of contracts to study whether the project is feasible and to begin initial design work. The feasibility study is expected to be completed in early October, Horenstein said.

Following the initial stage, there would be other approvals (with cost estimates) over the next six months:

  • Sept. 21: authorize full design (about $7 million)
  • Oct. 19: pre-purchase material (about $15 million)
  • September to November: approve water purchase and transfer agreements (cost to be determined)
  • February: award construction contract (about $40 million)

The district estimates the project would cost $60 million to $90 million, including the cost of the water purchases, the newspaper reports.

Forecasts show the district could deplete its seven reservoirs, which make up about 75% of its total water supply, as early as June if the upcoming winter is as dry as the previous one. The district’s remaining water supply comes from Russian River imports from the Sonoma Water agency, which were reduced by 20% this summer and could be cut more as the drought worsens.

The district could pay for the project with a a one-time rate increase of 3% to 4.5%, while obtaining obtaining low-interest loans and grants.

“I am confident that the district will do what we’ve done for over 100 years,” Horenstein said. “That is to ensure we are providing our customers with safe and reliable water, for potable purposes and for firefighting. This is one piece of that assurance that, if we need it, we will have the water.”

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