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A DIVER from Ballard Diving enters the dive boat after working 98 feet below the surface of Folsom Lake to unbolt two defective submersible water pumps that provide drinking water to El Dorado Hills. Democrat photo by Michael Raffety


Divers find tangled cable

By From page A1 | March 15, 2013

By 11 a.m. Wednesday Ballard Diving had brought the deflated float bags down to El Dorado Irrigation District’s submerged pumps 98 feet below the surface of Folsom Lake.

But there would be no inflating the float bags Wednesday. It was found that the cables were crossed on one set of pumps and it would require more diving to untangle the pumps’ cables.

The dives last about 45 minutes and depending on the length of time a diver is at the 98-foot level, he must decompress at exactly the 20-foot level for a specified amount of time to compensate for his time down below. Every 33 feet is equivalent to one atmosphere, said EID General Manager Jim Abercrombie, who was watching the diving work Wednesday.

Each diver is equipped with a video camera on his helmet and has audio connection with the dive boat. Air is provided via an airline, but each diver has an air tank as an emergency backup.

The diving contract, approved on a 5-0 vote by the EID board Feb. 11, is not to exceed $72,700. It includes reinstalling the pumps after they are repaired.

The diving crew is removing two submersible pumps that have malfunctioned and will be shipped to the manufacturer, ITT Flygt for repair in Fairfield. Flygt’s contract will not exceed $93,000.

There are two platforms holding the four pumps below the waterline. One pump on each platform is dead. All four pumps were installed in April 2010 as part of the improvement project for the El Dorado Hills Water Treatment Plant. One pump failed to start in 2010 and was replaced in 2011.

Ballard Diving has been based in San Francisco since 1968, but works all over the world. EID staff estimated it would take two weeks to repair the pumps and three days of diving to reinstall them. Meantime El Dorado Hills is being supplied with water from Reservoir A Treatment Plant in Pollock Pines.

The pump platform and cables running down along protective PVC 320 feet were originally temporary until the district could add a temperature control device that would cost upward of $40 million and reconfigure the pumps and cables. But negotiations with EID seem to indicate the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation may be able to obtain their cold fish water through operational changes of Folsom Dam, saving EID millions.

Analysis points to the viability of reconfiguring shutters in front of the dam that control the temperature of released water. If EID succeeds in convincing USBR of that it will then be in position to win a federal contract for delivery of its 17,000 acre-feet of water rights EID won from the state in 2001.

At the next EID meeting Abercrombie will introduce plans to tap into White Rock penstock for 10,000 acre-feet of water. Unlike El Dorado Hills, which pumps about 660 feet up to its water treatment plant, White Rock is only 300 feet to a likely site for a water treatment plant, which would supply a new conduit along Highway 50 since the existing intertie is at capacity. This would allow EID to use its Folsom Lake supplies just in the summer. White Rock Dam is operated by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. El Dorado County and SMUD signed agreements in 1957 and 1961 to provide the county 40,000 acre-feet of water from the White Rock Penstock.

SMUD, however, gave its water rights to the city of Sacramento. Abercrombie’s long-range plan is to sell Sacramento some of EID’s 17,000 acre-feet of water in wet years to use for groundwater recharge that Sacramento could pump out in dry years.

The Folsom Lake water contract dates back to 1964 when the El Dorado Hills County Water District won a contract with USBR for 6,000 acre-feet of water at $9 an acre-foot, with up to 37,600 acre-feet supposed to be available by 1985. Allocations from the bureau were reduced, though, as population projections came up short. When El Dorado Hills was annexed into EID in 1973 the district was only eligible for 4,100 acre-feet of Folsom water.

Today EID has a contract to take 7,550 acre-feet from Folsom Lake plus 4,560 acre-feet of that EID has had rights to since before 1914 and currently sends into Folsom Lake via Weber Creek and the South Fork of the American River.

What remains of the El Dorado Hills County Water District is the El Dorado Hills Fire Department and its board of directors, which is still called EDH County Water District.

The pump extraction was expected to be completed Friday, with a crane to lift the pumps off the dive boat at Brown’s Ravine Marina.

Michael Raffety

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