On Tuesday November 21, the CCWD Board of Directors awarded a $3.4 million contract to R.E. Smith Construction of Newcastle to build the Jenny Lind Water Plant Pretreatment Project, which will help ensure safe, reliable water service to more than 10,000 people living in the greater Valley Springs area.

In 2015, the devastating Butte Fire incinerated more than 52,000 acres of the Calaveras River Watershed, along with more than 900 structures. In the aftermath of the fire, ash and sediment began eroding from the denuded hillsides and are continuing to be washed into tributaries of the Calaveras River. After storms, the river looks like chocolate milk as it carries massive sediment loads into New Hogan Lake. The quality of water flowing into New Hogan Reservoir has been significantly degraded, and these negative impacts will continue to affect the river for decades to come. CCWD’s water treatment plant is just downstream from Hogan and provides safe drinking water for the residents of Jenny Lind, Rancho Calaveras, La Contenta and Gold Creek. The poor water quality has created major challenges and expenses for CCWD’s water treatment plant facility and has, at times, overwhelmed the plant’s existing filtration systems and rendered the plant inoperable at times during major storm events.

To protect the community’s water supply from the ongoing impacts of the Butte Fire, the District applied for grant funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to install pretreatment facilities to address the post-fire impacts to source water entering the plant, while providing further redundancy and protection of our customer’s treated water supplies into the future. After finalizing the environmental review and updating the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) clearance, FEMA re-authorized the project on November 16, 2017, for a total cost of $3.758 million (cost share of 75% FEMA / 25% CCWD), which includes planning and engineering. The project completion date was also extended from December 29, 2018 to May 14, 2019. CCWD will provide $939,500 in matching funds that will come from the Capital Renovation and Replacement fund (Capital R&R). Any cost overruns will be the District’s responsibility.

The District expects to begin construction on April 1, 2018. Once the new pretreatment facilities are installed, they will remove heavy metals, debris and sediment from river water entering the plant. Without the pretreatment facilities, the existing plant’s operations cannot be optimized and are likely to continue to be overwhelmed by the high levels of mud, ash and organics that are continuing wash down the Calaveras River from the Butte Fire’s burn scar.

“We are grateful to the California Office of Emergency Services and FEMA for working effectively with us to move this project forward and are now able to take the next step to start construction,” said Charles Palmer, CCWD district engineer. “Despite the extensive fire damage to the watershed and a degraded raw water supply, this critical project will construct the new facilities needed for the water treatment plant to run effectively at all times without disruption so our operators can always provide safe, reliable water service to the community.”

The District will keep community members updated as this project moved forward. For information go to www.ccwd.org, www.facebook.com/calaveraswaterdistrict, check local media and look for CCWD staff at local community meetings. Anyone with questions or concerns about this project may contact Joel Metzger, Manager of External Affairs, at joelm@ccwd.org or (209) 754-3123.

Photo credit: Gordon Long.

Written by Joel Metzger