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Santa Barbara Desalination Plant Won’t Start Production Until 2017

Delays and cost increases are being caused by contaminated soil at the facility site, electrical issues and unanticipated equipment replacement

Crews work on trenching for an electrical conduit at the Santa Barbara Desalination Facility.
Crews work on trenching for an electrical conduit at the Santa Barbara Desalination Facility.  (City of Santa Barbara photo)

Potable water production from Santa Barbara’s desalination facility likely won’t start until 2017, staff told the City Council Tuesday.

Construction on the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant was expected to finish in October, but the discovery of contaminated soils and other delays has pushed that estimate to January, city principal engineer Linda Sumansky said.

Pre-commissioning and testing is scheduled for December, to make sure everything runs right before a full startup, she said.

The City Council is expected to approve additional funding for the reactivation contracts and city staff costs at next week’s meeting.

Between the soil contamination, electrical issues and unanticipated equipment replacement, the city is looking at $5.7-million worth of change orders to the original contracts.

The Santa Barbara Desalination Facility at 525 E. Yanonali St. shown before demolition and construction started. Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara Desalination Facility at 525 E. Yanonali St. shown before demolition and construction started. (City of Santa Barbara photo)

“Hopefully there’s not a whole lot more to discover,” Sumansky said.

Some money was already allocated, but city staff are asking for another $3.7 million to pay for staff time and contract increases.

The IDE Americas Contract, with proposed change orders, will increase to $51.4 million. The Carollo Engineers contract will increase to $2.4 million and staff costs increase to $331,000.

Water resources manager Joshua Haggmark said a project of this scope typically would take two years to finish and the contractor was given one year. Even with delays, it will take 15-16 months to get it running, he said.

“It is a lot we’ve taken on and it’s unfortunate we have these delays and additional costs.”

Councilman Gregg Hart asked about contaminated soils for future expansion of the plant at 525 E. Yanonali St. — if the capacity is increased, which is likely — and Haggmark said the project would encounter more contaminated soils with digging and expansion work.

The excavation work at the Santa Barbara Desalination Facility shown  as of April. Click to view larger
The excavation work at the Santa Barbara Desalination Facility shown as of April.  (City of Santa Barbara photo)

Santa Barbara is negotiating with the Montecito Water District on a water sales agreement for the plant and is currently going back and forth on a reimbursement agreement for negotiation costs, Haggmark said.

One of the costs being discussed is the design costs for a conveyance pipeline, which would deliver water from the plant to the Montecito distribution system.

Noozhawk managing editor 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.

Construction work for reactivating the desalination plant includes work on the pipeline and electrical conduit from the ocean intake to the onshore chemical area. Click to view larger
Construction work for reactivating the desalination plant includes work on the pipeline and electrical conduit from the ocean intake to the onshore chemical area.  (City of Santa Barbara photo)

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