Water board debates future of Bargar water plant

   To continue with the design for the Bargar Water Treatment Plant or not to continue—that was a debate at the Ramona Municipal Water District (RMWD) Board meeting on Oct. 13.

   With $125,000 already spent on design services for the non-operating plant, water board members discussed whether it was worth allowing Nolte & Associates to complete their design contract for $350,000. Stopping the contract now, would save the district $225,000, RMWD Chief Financial Officer David Barnum said. Without the design, however, it would be more difficult for a company to upgrade and operate the plant, and the district would be unable to apply for loans and grants.

   The Bargar plant, first operational in 1974, has been shut down since 2007 because it couldn’t meet new requirements and operate at 4 million gallons per day (mgd). The board authorized a contract with Nolte & Associates earlier this year to design an upgrade to the plant with the idea that an outside contractor could fund and build the improvements to the plant, operate it, and then sell the water back to the district. The preliminary construction cost estimate for a 4 mgd package treatment plant, as recommended by Nolte, with a 30 percent contingency is slightly over $5 million.

   In August, a meeting was held with Southwest Water at which time Southwest indicated it was considering funding the construction of Bargar but were not ready to commit.

   RMWD General Manager Ralph McIntosh told the directors they had three options regarding the design work:

• “Do nothing (continue with design)” option;

• Cancel contract option; and

• Continue with the contract and determine how much money is required to make it a firm contract. McIntosh said the contract basically is not to exceed $350,069.

   Board President Jim Robinson said he had considered stopping the design process but a letter had been received the day before showing written interest from Southwest. If Southwest is involved in the project, Robinson said he would want to see Southwest build and run the plant, and then sell water to the district.

   “I don’t have any interest in stopping it because I was the one who wanted it because it is very important for Ramona,” said Division 1 Director Darrell Beck.

   But Beck questioned Southwest’s role, asking  that, if the firm is “going to take this over and sell us water, is this going to be their investment to do this?”

An advantage to having the plant in operation again, Beck said, would be for an emergency supply of water if the district’s  pumping station in Poway experiences a power outage. The water to the Barger plant would be gravity fed. Beck also said the water would be cheaper and better.

   Those comments led to the issue of the water source. Water to the Bargar plant comes from Lake Sutherland, which is owned by the city of San Diego and relies on rainfall. Beck said that, after reviewing records, it appears Sutherland has adequate water eight out of 10 years.

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