District’s plans for second energy source are on budget, on schedule
By Karen Brainard
A project to add natural gas as a second energy source to pump water to Ramona is on schedule, on budget and could be operational by spring 2014, according to the Ramona Municipal Water District.
“This is a project about redundancy and emergency preparedness,” said RMWD General Manager David Barnum.
As an added benefit, he said at a recent board meeting, “We honestly believe it will reduce our pumping costs and for us as a community, our pumping costs are about 20 percent of the cost of water up here.”
The project also is expected to provide power reliability.
The estimated $2 million plan is considered a “pay go” project, meaning the district is using cash to pay as it moves along and will require no loan, Barnum told the Sentinel. Some of the funding comes from discretionary property tax revenue, he said.
Director Joe Zenovic said the district has also been able to save money for the project through a reduction in staff.
He said the additional energy source will not affect ratepayers, other than possibly saving them money.
RMWD operates the Poway Pump Station at the eastern edge of Poway near the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve to pump water 1,000 feet up the hill to its lines that serve Ramona. Because the pumps run only on electricity, water cannot be pumped when power goes out, as it did during the 2007 wildfires and the 2011 San Diego Gas & Electric blackout.
By adding natural gas, power for the pumps could be switched to gas when electricity goes out. In addition, the district could run the pumps on gas during times of peak electrical charges to save on cost.
“We hope we can run natural gas as a base over especially high peak electric rate times — oftentimes that is 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. — and then we can adjust to electric,” said Barnum, describing his explanation as a simplified version of the process.
The project that began around June 2012 would involve constructing a four-inch pipeline from SDG&E’s natural gas pipeline that runs along Espola Road in Poway about two miles east to the pump station, which is in rugged terrain. The line would be installed along easements that need to be finalized.
“The design for the gas pipeline is nearing completion,” contracted District Engineer Mike Metts of Dudek Engineering told the board. “The only thing we have left is the easements, which we have to get the MND (Mitigated Negative Declaration) before we get the easements finalized.”
The board adopted the MND 4-0 with Director Kit Kesinger absent.
The MND, prepared in compliance with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), showed any minimal impact could be handled with mitigation, mainly because the gas line will be installed in a pre-disturbed right-of-way and not on undisturbed land, said Barnum.
The pipeline will not be visible from trails in Blue Sky and will not make the nature reserve less pristine, said Barnum. The district hopes to have construction completed before bird nesting season starts in March 2014.
Metts said the gas engine is being built. The district has already committed about $1 million to the project.
Pointing out that houses probably could have been saved during the Witch fire if the pumps were able to operate and get water to Ramona, board President Darrell Beck said, “I think it’s going to be a big improvement for Ramona because we’re kind of isolated.”
- District may have backup power for pump station in a year
- Water district considers natural gas line for pump station in Poway
- District considers projects to better handle emergencies
- Ramona water district OKs $5.8 million for backup power, to move water main
- $32 million district budget calls for 3% hike for water, 4.5% for sewer
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