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.

An aerial shot shows the right-of-way in yellow where a natural gas pipeline would be installed from SDG&E’s natural gas pipeline on Espola Road, at far left, to RMWD’s Poway Pump Station. The land to the north is Blue Sky Ecological Reserve.

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.”

Related posts:

  1. District may have backup power for pump station in a year
  2. Water district considers natural gas line for pump station in Poway
  3. District considers projects to better handle emergencies
  4. Ramona water district OKs $5.8 million for backup power, to move water main
  5. $32 million district budget calls for 3% hike for water, 4.5% for sewer

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Posted by Maureen Robertson on Oct 8 2013. Filed under Featured Story, Government, News, Ramona. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

4 Comments for “District’s plans for second energy source are on budget, on schedule”

  1. Jacki Simons

    This plan makes sense with the cost of electricity going up! I am glad they are doing something down there to keep the water on during an emergency. I wish someone would do something about the roads.

  2. L. Casey Lewis

    I agree with Jacki. I am a retired engineer that specialized in large engines. I have talked to the RMWD people about this project and it seems very well thought out. They have looked at several alternatives and NG is the cheapest and most reliable fuel availble for this application and with the limited amount of land at the site. They had several presentations by experts about a year ago that was very informative on the specifications, requirements and cost analyst. I am glad it is moving forward.

  3. Proud Ramonan

    Ramona is the "Valley of the Sun" and depends predominantly on imported water. The truly conservative approach would be to install green renewable energy for these projects – ensuring reliable clean power for generations to come.

    • CA Smith

      We've already seen what happens when "truly conservative" and "green renewable energy" approaches are proposed. The public rises up in protest, often on environmental principles and/or esthetic standards. According to the article, and other letter writers above, those probably have already been considered.

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