The Cachuma Operations and Maintenance Board has approved an emergency pumping project to address the low reservoir levels.
At a special meeting Wednesday, board members unanimously approved a resolution that chose Cushman Contracting Corp. to design, build, operate and maintain pumping stations to get Lake Cachuma’s water up to the North Portal Intake Tower and into the Tecolote Tunnel, which connects the lake to South Coast pipelines.
The board has representatives from the Carpinteria Valley Water District, the City of Santa Barbara, the Goleta Water District, the Montecito Water District and the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District-Improvement District No. 1.
The first phase for design and site preparation is already funded, with $350,000, and the construction phase is contingent on all the member agencies ratifying the resolution, getting permits and COMB finding funding, according to General Manager Randy Ward.
“The vote we took today brings us one big step closer to being able to put the emergency pumping facility into operation if it's needed later this year,” said board chair Lauren Hanson of the Goleta Water District. “In my opinion, this is the most important water project on the South Coast right now.”
Water agencies get their Lake Cachuma entitlements through that tunnel and receive State Water Project deliveries and any water purchases through that same system, so it’s a critical lifeline for southern Santa Barbara County.
The contract for project design, construction and first six months of operation will cost about $5 million.
This project is performance-based, forcing the contractor to get it operational by Sept. 1 and then move up to 45 million gallons per day through the pumping station every day that it’s operational — or pay penalties. Those costs don’t include the contract with HDR, the project management firm, which will be about $200,000 through September.
COMB still isn’t sure how much it will cost to have Pacific Gas & Electric bring power to the site. The last estimate was $550,000 to $750,000, and that didn’t include any power. The cost to connect power and use electricity for the first six months is “bouncing up against $1 million,” Ward said Wednesday.
Operational costs for the pumping station will be $298,000 per month for the first six months (which includes some construction costs phased out over time) and then $98,000 per month after that. If the station is on standby, Cushman Contracting Corp. charges $51,000 per month.
This was seen as the worst-case-scenario project and if there is no rain next winter, the pumping station barges may be moved to a deeper part of the lake, Ward noted.
Those costs, estimated around $1.5 million, aren’t included in the project budget at this point.
COMB is still looking into any potential federal or state funding, but member agencies will be picking up at least some of the tab.
Staff members believe the project is exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act and are still getting the necessary permits for the staging and construction. The dredging near the existing intake tower and pumping barge is prompting most of the need for permits.
Ward noted that because of concerns about the quagga mussel infestation in Ventura County’s Lake Piru, county staff will be doing advance inspections of Cushman equipment to make sure construction isn’t slowed down by the lake’s quarantine period.