Monday, April 21, 2014

Planning for the future

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s the $560 million SOFAR Project captured the attention of the county’s leaders and water officials. There was even a formal group for it composed of Water Agency and El Dorado Irrigation District representatives and assorted experts. And that was after they even gave up damming Coloma and Salmon Falls. SOFAR never came to fruition.

Various parts of that project have since been studied over the years as additions to the county’s water supply, including the Baltic Ridge tunnel to divert 18,000 acre-feet of water from the North Fork of the Cosumnes River.

The most realistic element of past plans that consistently ranks high has been the Alder Reservoir project. Located south of Whitehall at an elevation of 5,320 feet on Alder Creek, it would hold 31,700 acre-feet of water and have 23,630 acre-feet available, according to the 1988 R.W. Beck study done for EID.

On March 25 EID received the latest plan for the future from HDR Engineering. It bears a lot of similarities to the map produced by Beck, but is more refined and nuanced. The 2013 Integrated Water Resources Management Plan looks at potential water sources, storage, treatment and transmission in terms of minimal costs and environmental effects. But the key factor was flexibility, or as EID General Manager Jim Abercombie put it, “scalability.”

Engineering for the two preferred alternatives is starting now and will be ramping up over the next seven years, with construction predicted for between 2020 and 2030 — seven to 17 years from now.

One of the takeaways from the meeting March 25 was that the district has most of its currently available water committed. It has more water rights available, but eventually will reach a limit on how much of it can be pumped out of Folsom Lake.

That’s where the White Rock Penstock comes in. Sacramento Municipal Utility District has had an agreement since 1956 with El Dorado County to tap into the penstock. EID has since negotiated a 15,000 acre-foot drought reserve in SMUD’s system of reservoirs. That 2009 deal set the general terms of power-forgone costs. That, in turn, makes tapping into the White Rock penstock feasible. The water gained from that is 30,000 acre-feet and 40,000 after 2035.

The Beck map shows a treatment plant near White Rock at an elevation of 1,960 feet, with pipelines going to Bray Reservoir as well as new pipelines to Gold Hill and along the Placerville Ridge.

One of the top two alternatives in the 2013 HDR report calls for a pumping station near White Rock and a water treatment plant at Bray Reservoir, which is east of Missouri Flat Road in the general vicinity of Walmart. Pumping, water treatment, transmission lines to El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park and engineering would all add up to $121 million.

Alder Reservoir is estimated at $106 million.

The 2013 plan says the El Dorado Hills Water Treatment Plant will likely stay at 26 million gallons per day. The new treatment plant at Bray would be 58 mgd, but Abercrombie said the plant could start at 5 or 10 mgd. Once the plant and its infrastructure are in place its capacity can be increased as demand increases. This phasing approach would enable the district to scale it up on a pay-as you-go basis. Major transmission lines will require bonding through an assessment district such as was done for the Gold Hill Intertie.

Engineering work for White Rock would begin in 2014 and ramp up to $1.4 million in 2019 and 2020 plus $1.2 million and $1.7 million in those years for the new water plant. Alder wouldn’t get done until after 2030. Another update of the 2013 plan is due in 2019, which should refine the scope of the engineering work even more.

Together Alder and White Rock and associated facilities and pipelines add up to $227 million. SMUD built its Upper American River Project for $250 million during the 1950s and 1960s. The total reservoir capacity is 400,000 acre-feet and it produces 638 megawatts of electricity.

The longer EID pushes these projects out into the future the more expensive they become. The latest master plan shows a lot of practicality and shows where the blind alleys are. We commend the district for planning for the future and devoting engineering resources to moving the token closer to go.

Mountain Democrat


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