By Karen Brainard
Ramona Municipal Water District is taking steps toward possibly adding a natural gas pipeline as a second power source for its Poway Pump Station.
If RMWD does take on the project, it will have to obtain a loan to pay for it, which could affect future electrical charges for customers, said David Barnum, water district general manager. Property tax revenues could also be considered to fund debt service, he added.
Ultimately, the natural gas “would bring down our cost of service,” Barnum said.
The pump station, near the Blue Sky Reserve in Poway, relies on electricity to pump water 1,000 feet uphill to RMWD pipelines.
When emergencies cause a disruption in electricity as it did during the 2007 wildfire and the 2011 San Diego Gas & Electric blackout, the water cannot be pumped into the lines. During a power outage, RMWD customers are often asked to conserve water and after an extended period face the possibility of being without water until the power is restored.
After the 2011 blackout, RMWD staff and board members discussed exploring alternative reliable energy sources for the pump station. Natural gas was found to be a possible solution.
“The advantage of natural gas was that it is accessible to us,” Barnum said, explaining that a gas line is less than a mile away from pump station. “There’s no shortage of natural gas. Ultimately it is cost effective, much cheaper than electricity.”
Barnum told district directors that he has met with officials from Blue Sky Reserve, the City of Poway and the Department of Fish and Game, and they are open to the idea.
“We have not yet seen any red flags,” he reported.
Blue Sky, he said, was concerned about traffic on Green Valley Truck Trail, but the water district has a right of way through the area that would be used to install the gas line.
Barnum said he is waiting for an estimate from SDG&E on its costs to put in a line and a meter, but said the district would most likely go out for bid for the project.
He told the water board he hopes to bring back a request for design in a couple of weeks. Timing is crucial, he said, because nesting season for habitat runs from March 15 to Septmber 15.
“The window between March through September is an environmentally sensitive time for habitat,” Barnum said.
If the board approves the project, Barnum said he hopes to have it completed before March 15, 2013. He said he does not have an estimated cost yet.