As the centerpiece of the region’s award-winning Emergency & Carryover Storage Project, the San Vicente Dam Raise has long been viewed as a key regional asset – but no one realized how quickly it would pay dividends. Extraordinary conservation efforts across the region allowed the Water Authority to store 100,000 acre-feet of water in the enlarged San Vicente Reservoir during the fiscal year, creating a valuable hedge against future dry periods.
At the same time, the Water Authority completed the San Vicente Bypass Pipeline and began work on the Miramar Pump Station Rehabilitation and Nob Hill Improvements, elements of the agency’s ongoing effort to ensure water can be delivered when and where it’s needed.
On the planning front, a judge validated the Regional Water Facilities Optimization & Master Plan Update, rejecting a legal challenge to the plan. And, the Water Authority continued to explore a variety of strategies to reduce its energy costs to benefit water ratepayers.
Completed in 2014, the San Vicente Dam Raise is the largest component of the Water Authority’s Emergency & Carryover Storage Project. It proved especially beneficial when drought-related regional conservation efforts kicked into high gear by providing the Water Authority with a place to store conserved water. While many agencies in California took water out of storage to meet demands, the Water Authority stored 100,000 acre-feet of “carryover” water behind San Vicente Dam, years ahead of projections and in time to help the region pass the state’s drought response stress test. Along the way, the storage project was showered with awards.
San Vicente Dam Raise Timeline
In June, work begins to prepare original dam and foundation
In September, crews place first layer of concrete for raised dam.
In May, the dam raise reaches 220 feet, the height of the old dam. In September, the dam reaches its new full height of 337 feet.
In September, the dam raise is complete.
In April, the San Vicente marina is complete. In May, the bypass pipeline is complete.
Two construction projects at San Vicente Reservoir were completed in the spring, with modifications scheduled to continue into the summer. The new San Vicente Bypass Pipeline replaced a pipeline constructed in 1954, helping to ensure water can be delivered directly to the City of San Diego without passing through the reservoir. New marina facilities were constructed as part of the San Vicente Dam Raise project in partnership with the City of San Diego. They were designed to reduce boat launch wait times, provide additional picnic and shade areas, increase parking spaces and offer more areas for boat preparation.
All objections raised by San Diego Coastkeeper to the Water Authority’s 2014 adoption of its Regional Water Facilities Optimization and Master Plan Update and Climate Action Plan were rejected in August by San Diego Superior Court Judge Gregory W. Pollack. He found that all of Coastkeeper's objections under the California Environmental Quality Act were meritless, and that the challenged Water Authority documents and decisions complied with CEQA. The ruling confirmed that the Water Authority’s Board of Directors properly considered all relevant factors in approving plans and that Coastkeeper had improperly attacked critical water supply choices by the Water Authority.
In September, the Board of Directors approved a new Memorandum of Understanding with Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and authorized Water Authority staff to execute a $4 million contract for testing seawater intakes associated with a potential seawater desalination project at the base. Any such project is likely decades away; current studies are part of a multi-faceted effort by the Water Authority to protect the region’s long-term water security.
A 40-megawatt pumped storage project at Lake Hodges generated nearly $3 million for the Water Authority during the fiscal year, helping offset the cost of the agency’s water operations. The facility started operations in 2012, generating on-demand power for the regional grid when water flows downhill through a pipe from Olivenhain Reservoir to pump turbines 770 feet below on the shores of Lake Hodges. The facility was available for on-demand power production more than 97 percent of the time.
The Water Authority laid the foundation for expanded use of renewable energy by arranging to buy power from Hoover Dam through the Western Area Power Administration and advancing efforts to install industrial-scale batteries and floating solar panels at agency facilities. Negotiations on these projects during the year highlighted the Water Authority’s increasing activities in the energy sector to reduce water-related energy costs and supply environmentally friendly power. While the Water Authority is best known as the San Diego region’s water wholesaler, the state Legislature in 2000 granted the agency the broad authority to construct, own, and operate electric power generation facilities.
A potential major new energy storage facility at San Vicente Reservoir passed several regulatory hurdles as the Water Authority and the City of San Diego collaborated to assess the project’s feasibility. In July, the Water Authority and the city submitted a Preliminary Application Document and Notice of Intent for the project to federal regulators. That was followed in November by a public meeting on the concept. The Water Authority also hired an Owner’s Advisor to assess the economic viability of a potential project and possible business models for consideration by the Board of Directors
The San Vicente Energy Storage Project could generate 500 megawatts of on-demand electricity for the San Diego region. Pumped storage provides benefits by:
- Producing energy on demand
- Making beneficial use of surplus wind and solar energy that would otherwise be lost during low-demand periods
- Generating revenue to offset water system costs and help moderate water rates
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by using renewable energy to pump water to an upper reservoir during low-demand periods, then generating zero-carbon power by releasing water to flow downhill through turbines during high-demand periods
- Balancing the energy grid to enhance system reliability
It may look like something from outer space, but the Magnetic Flux Leakage device scans aging steel pipelines and allows staff to identify problem areas without damaging the pipe. During the fiscal year, 14 miles of cement-lined steel pipe were analyzed using MFL equipment, bringing the total miles of pipe assessed to 40 since 2011. Data generated by the device allowed staff to determine the need for repairs and update the projected lifespan of each pipeline. The equipment showed its value in March by detecting an area of concern in a major pipeline in Rancho Peñasquitos. Water Authority crews quickly repaired the section without impacting water delivery, a testament to the value of proactive pipeline assessments.
Construction started in the fall on two projects in Scripps Ranch. When complete in 2017, the Miramar Pump Station Rehabilitation and Nob Hill Improvements will help ensure the regional water conveyance system performs reliably during emergencies. The Miramar Pump Station upgrades include replacing old pumps with new, high-efficiency models and water-proofing the facility. The Nob Hill project involves replacing two pipelines at a high point in the delivery system with one at a lower elevation, increasing flow capacity and improving pipeline safety.
The Water Authority’s pioneering San Diego Region Water and Wastewater Internship Program trained 15 interns during the fiscal year in the technical skills required to operate and maintain water and wastewater systems. Since its inception in 2006, nearly 140 interns have participated in the paid internship program, with approximately 80 percent going on to work in the water and wastewater industries. In one decade, the internship program has revived interest in water and wastewater careers among local college students, helped fill the retirement gap, and developed a pool of operators for the region’s water and wastewater agencies to draw from.
Water Authority Pipelines by Size
Agency Operates 310 Miles of Pipeline