Tuesday, May 31 , 2016, 4:12 pm | Mostly Cloudy 62º

Lake Cachuma May Get Emergency Pumping Station

Cachuma Operations and Maintenance Board considers the project as a worst-case scenario for the ongoing drought

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

Preparing for the worst-case scenario, the Cachuma Operations and Maintenance Board is thinking about building an emergency pumping station at Lake Cachuma.

The 6.4-mile Tecolote Tunnel connects the lake to South Coast pipelines and water agencies, but low water levels require pumping up to the North Portal Intake Tower to get water into the tunnel.

Engineers from HDR, a firm already contracted by the COMB, are working with local water districts to come up with different options for a pumping station at that location. They’ll also work with PG&E to find out how to get enough power to the site.

To speed up the timeline, HDR engineer Mike Garello told the COMB on Monday that it should consider a design, build, operate and maintain process so the pump station could be operational by Sept. 1.

HDR suggested having request-for-qualifications in February, and then making a “short list” of bidders for proposals.

While the HDR engineers will collaborate on the conceptual design with local water agencies, the bid selection committee will pick a company to do the final design, construction and operation of the pump station, Garello said.

As the Cachuma board decides how to move forward, members will have to consider construction and operation costs, General Manager Randy Ward noted. COMB wouldn’t own the pumping station under this model, so board members may be looking for a company that offers a buyout option.

Getting access to the water in Lake Cachuma is critical because it’s the board’s primary responsibility to deliver the water entitlements stored there to the member agencies, COMB president Lauren Hanson noted.

A request-for-qualifications process for the emergency pump station project will begin soon.

Board members also got an update on the quagga mussel infestation in Ventura County’s Lake Piru.

Since the discovery of this invasive freshwater species in December, local lakes have harsher restrictions and implemented limited quarantines.

Parks staff members, who oversee the Lake Cachuma Recreation Area and boat launches, have had extra training and done outreach with boating clubs and cities to spread the word, said Paddy Langlands, deputy director of the Santa Barbara County Parks Department.

Lake Cachuma and Lake Casitas are both water sources for the South Coast and are taking precautions to avoid getting infested.

“If you find them, it’s too late,” Langlands said.

In response to the infestation, the county Board of Supervisors will discuss changing the boat launch restrictions at a March meeting, Langlands said.

COMB member Doug Morgan,of the Montecito Water District said the supervisors should discuss eliminating boat use of the lake altogether. If the lake were left as a water source only, there would be no threat of a quagga infestation, he said.

It’s the first time quagga mussels have been found in Southern California water that wasn’t fed by the Colorado River, according to the state Department of Fish & Wildlife.

The county reacted quickly, but is unhappy with the response of the Department of Fish & Wildlife, water resources director Tom Fayram said.

“They have a responsibility to act here as well and they haven’t,” he said, adding that state officials need to address the root cause of the problem.

As to the lake’s restrictions to boaters now, there is probably a sweet spot between quarantine and inspections, Fayram said.

The mussel larva are dead as soon as they are dry and mussels are killed with 140-degree water, which is part of Cachuma’s power-washing regimen, he said. 

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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