District breaks ground on backup power project

From left, Ramona Municipal Water District Directors Joe Zenovic, George Foote and Darrell Beck ceremoniously break ground for the district’s Poway Pump Station Secondary Power Source Project that will bring a natural gas line to the pump station. Photo courtesy of Ramona Municipal Water District
From left, Ramona Municipal Water District Directors Joe Zenovic, George Foote and Darrell Beck ceremoniously break ground for the district’s Poway Pump Station Secondary Power Source Project that will bring a natural gas line to the pump station. Photo courtesy of Ramona Municipal Water District

By Karen Brainard

Directors of the Ramona Municipal Water District ceremoniously broke ground Tuesday to mark start of construction on a secondary power source for the district’s main pump station.

RMWD General Manager David Barnum called the project “a more reliable way to provide service to this community.”

“This is a project that is borne out of the 2007 fires and the 2011 power outage,” Barnum told the board when seeking authorization to award the $240,398 construction contract to Atom Engineering Construction Inc.

The district’s Poway Pump Station that sits at the eastern edge of Poway near the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve pumps water from San Diego County Water Authority lines 1,000 feet uphill to Ramona. Because the pumps run only on electricity, they cannot operate if there is a power outage. That happened during the 2007 Witch Creek fire and the September 2011 San Diego Gas & Electric regional blackout.

RMWD’s project will add a natural gas line to the pump station so pumps  can be switched to run on gas during an electrical outage. As an added benefit, the gas-powered pumps could be used during peak electrical times to reduce costs.

The district expects to have the project completed by September.

Because of the pump station’s location, the district had to work with the City of Poway, Blue Sky Preserve, California Fish and Wildlife, County of San Diego and San Diego Gas & Electric, which has a natural gas line running down Espola Road in Poway, about two miles east of the pump station.

The district estimates the project will cost $2 million.

Barnum said that initial bids for the pipeline installation came in $250,000 to $500,000 higher than anticipated due to contractors’ uncertainty with the ground density. Looking to bring the cost down, the district hired a consultant for approximately $3,500 to test the ground and released the findings to contractors, Barnum said. RMWD went back out for bids, which came in lower, saving approximately $250,000, said Barnum.

Before approving the contract by a 3-0 vote, directors praised the work of Barnum, RMWD Water Superintendent Johnny Brean, and Mike Metts and Ricardo Soto, the district’s contracted engineers from Dudek Engineering.

“The fact that we’re going to have two ways of pumping water, that’s good. I think this is really well worth waiting for,” said board president Darrell Beck.

   
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