Weott Community Services District hopes to receive a response this week from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to the district's application for Proposition 84 grant funds to repair a ruptured pipeline that threatens the town's drinking water supply.
At their regular monthly meeting last Tuesday evening, Aug. 28, the WCSD board of directors heard a report from board member Lou Iglesias and business manager Christine Conn about the progress of their application.
The project description prepared for the district by SHN Engineering proposes replacing the four-inch in diameter pipeline that brings raw water from its source in Humboldt Redwoods State Park under the South Fork Eel River to a connection with the water treatment plant on the east side of the Avenue of the Giants.
The pipeline will be replaced without digging trenches or diverting the natural flow of the river through a method called horizontal directional drilling. The pipe will be installed in a new under river crossing close to the existing one.
"A pilot hole will be drilled at an angle underground to a point that is approximately 30 feet below the Eel River channel bottom, in local bedrock," SHN's project description explained. "The drill is advanced in segments and is controlled to drill within our target location on the west side of the Eel River."
Debris will be pumped out of the hole and removed in a special truck to an off-site dumping location.
When the "pilot bore" is complete, the approximately 550-foot long pipe will
After pressure-testing, the assembled pipe will be winched across the river to the bore hole on the west side and positioned so that it can be connected to the drilling equipment.
Then the new pipeline will be pulled back under the river through the bore hole to the east side where it will be connected to the existing system.
The engineers estimate the project to take approximately two weeks of construction time, plus "mobilization and demobilization efforts." This will occur after Sept. 15, which marks the end of marbled murrelet nesting season.
Regarding other environmental considerations, the contractors will follow erosion and storm water control practices to keep drilling mud and other debris from flowing offsite. The bore hole will be drilled deeper than tree root systems, from 10 to 30 feet, avoiding redwood roots.
Excavations on the west side of the river, which is within the state park, will be done by hand "in an area that has sparse vegetation and no tree overstory," according to the project description.
The engineers have contacted local tribes and the Northwest Information Center at Sonoma State University, which keeps a database of cultural resource sites, to make sure they are avoiding impacts to historically and culturally significant areas.
Ronnean Lund of CDPH-Drinking Water Division has been working closely with WCSD and its engineers to help move the funding application as quickly as possible through the state process.
A declaration of emergency approved by the county board of supervisors on Aug. 13, plus the cooperation of many state agencies, has resulted in a streamlined process that allows WCSD to bypass the time-consuming environmental documentation requirements for this phase of the project.
Total cost for replacement of the under river line is estimated at $234,000, which includes $99,000 to SHN for the engineering, project design, and for obtaining the needed permits.
The CDPH grant should cover all these expenses.
In the meantime, the patches to many leaks caused by adjustments to water pressure to make sure everyone in Weott gets water during the crisis are holding, operator Hank Bernard stated in his written report.
Staff members have been walking the water lines to determine where the leaks occur to help determine how much water has been or is still being taken from the system by unauthorized persons.
Two incidents of unauthorized removal of 10,000 gallons during the night in late July triggered the emergency, resulting in critical stress to an already ailing system.
District personnel have seen indications that water is still being removed but so far can't be sure the water loss is not the result of further leaks.
"The community is really doing great about conserving water," Conn noted.
Even the handful of customers most resistant the idea of cutting back on water usage are complying with the Stage 2 water conservation order, she reported.
The board reviewed its water conservation and drought emergency ordinance. A Stage 2 drought response requires customers to limit watering gardens and landscaping to specific times, durations, days, and water-saving methods. There are also restrictions on washing vehicles and areas outside buildings.
Stage 3 would be an immediate emergency that resulted in failure of the entire water system, so that water would have to be trucked in from outside the system. Water use would be severely curtailed.
Looking to the future, Iglesias reported that WCSD has completed its portion, called an "annex," of the county's Hazard Mitigation Plan. When this is approved by the county and the state, funds should be available for replacement of other critical infrastructure, including a new water storage tank and ultimately, a new treatment plant.
Currently only three of the five seats on the WCSD board of directors are filled. Barb Kennedy is chairperson; Iglesias and Bonnie O'Neill fill two other seats.
Marcella Gauna stepped forward to join the board but because the next general election is a short time away, she was required to file as a candidate in the November election.
Kennedy and O'Neill's terms are also ending this year, but they have both agreed to sign up for another term. Iglesias has two more years to serve in his term.
Since only three candidates filed for three seats, they will all be able to serve, although Gauna, as a newly "elected" member, cannot officially take office until Dec. 13.
The WCSD board of directors meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of the month, at the old school building on Lum Street in Weott.