All of five members of the public showed up Wednesday evening for a preview of the five-year capital improvement plan for the El Dorado Irrigation District.
Thirteen staff members were on hand to add clarification as EID engineering chief Brian Mueller presented the $85 million plan for 2013-2017.
That figure was down from $141.9 million in 2011-2015.
Annual expenditures planned in 2013-2017 are $18.8 million in 2013, $17.78 million in 2014, $21 million in 2015, $15 million in 2016, $11 million in 2017.
Mueller said actual expenditures are generally 70 percent of CIP estimates.
This compares to peak years of 2005, which saw $41.2 million spent, $50.6 million in 2006, $46.8 million in 2007, $60.4 million in 2008 and $48.1 million in 2009.
A portion of those previous big expenditures included catching up with state regulatory requirements, particularly for wastewater treatment plants.
“I think we’ve got over the big hitters and are ramping down,” Muller said.
The plan Mueller presented Sept. 26 is a draft, “a planning document.” It will be presented to the Board of Directors Oct. 9 for possible adoption, which will guide the engineering and other staff in project planning for the next five years and more intensively for the calendar year 2013.
Actual projects have to be approved individually by the board before expending money, including capitalized staff time, or soliciting bids.
The three most expensive areas for 2013 are $4.1 million for water, $5.2 for wastewater and $7.4 million for hydroelectric.
In the water CIP the major projects are $1.5 million to convert Reservoir A Water Treatment Plant from chlorine gas to safer liquid bleach and $520,000 to recoat the inside of water storage tanks.
In the wastewater CIP the major item in 2013 is replacing another section of the Mother Lode force main with plastic pipe. The concrete pipe installed in 1979 has been eaten away with hydrochloric acid.
In response to a question from John Jakowitz of El Dorado Hills, Mueller said the plastic sewer line will last 50 years.
The big item in the hydroelectric CIP for 2013 is $5.3 million to replace 600 feet of deteriorating wooden Flume 41 with concrete flume along with removing threatening boulders and anchoring the hillside above with geotechnical material.
The hydroelectric portion of the capital improvement budget includes a water delivery system that provides one-third of the district’s water (15,080 acre-feet) and an additional 17,000 acre-feet of water. The rest of the water is sent through the 21-megawatt Akin Powerhouse, which last year brought in $8 million in revenue.
“Why not use pipe?’ asked Bob Luca of El Dorado Hills.
Mueller responded that the 22.3 miles of trapezoidal shaped flumes and canals can carry more water than a pipe. Engineer Cindy Meggerdigian added that a few years ago the engineering department had studied that and it would have required fusion welding to make pipe follow the mountainside right of way. Also not mentioned are the seven creeks and streams plus the major one of Mill Creek that spill into the canal and constitute water rights established in 1856.
Over the next five years the biggest total planned expenditures among the $85 million total is $40.3 million for the hydroelectric category.
“Is there a light at the end of the tunnel when this (flume replacement and upgrading) ends?” asked Greg Prada from Cameron Park.
“We have four (flume) sections listed as high priority. It levels off after that,” said EID General Manager Jim Abercrombie.
EID acquired Project 184 in 1999. It consists of four alpine reservoirs in three different counties, a diversion dam on the South Fork of the American River near Kyburz and 22.3 miles of canal, flumes and tunnels ending in Forebay Reservoir, from which 15,080 acre-feet of water is sent to water treatment plants and the rest is sent down a penstock to the powerhouse and then returned to the river. It cost the district $1 to buy from PG&E, which offered $17,000 to take it. After objection from TURN, a consumer advocacy group, the California Public Utilities Commission cut that figure down to $15,000.
Abercrombie was El Dorado District manager for PG&E at the time.
“PG&E was about seven months from selling it to Idaho,” he said.
“EID needed to buy that asset to ensure its water supply,” Abercrombie said.
George Osborne, the only board member in attendance, added that Texaco and Enron were also interested in acquiring the project back then.
“One of the most important things is that it is pre-1914 water rights,” Osborne said.
“What’s the risk of canal failure?” Abercrombie asked. “Most customers don’t want a water outage.”