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City Poised to Pump $14 Million Into Water Projects

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica

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By Jorge Casuso

June 18, 2021 -- The City Council is poised to take a major step Tuesday towards weaning Santa Monica away from outside water sources by funding two major projects totaling nearly $14 million.

The Council is expected to authorize a $13,417,355 contract with Blois Construction, Inc. to equip three wells along Olympic Boulevard and install the pipes to convey the groundwater to a new treatment plant.

The Council also is expected to authorize a $521,795 contract with Willdan Engineering for construction observation services for the two projects.

One of the projects would equip the three wells located within the median along Olympic Boulevard with "mechanical, electrical, piping, an artistic fence that would serve as the well enclosure, and civil improvements to make them fully operational," staff said.

Jones of the Bay

The other project would install approximately 7,330 linear feet of water transmission pipes to convey the groundwater pumped from the wells.

The water would end up at the new Olympic Advanced Water Treatment Facility (Olympic AWTF) where it would be treated and ultimately distributed to the City's water customers.

The projects would be funded by the City’s Water Fund and Gillette-Boeing Settlement Fund, staff said.

The projects are part of the City's water self-sufficiency plan, which has the goal of "delivering 100 percent of the City’s water demand using local water sources by 2023," staff wrote in its report.

The plan was adopted by the Council due to the "statewide challenges surrounding a reliable water supply in recent years and the high cost of imported water," staff said.

But the City's plan has recently hit a major roadblock.

In March, staff reported a funding gap of approximately $53 million for water self-sufficiency projects due to the impacts of the COVID-19 shutdown.

To bridge the gap, the Council on March 23 authorized the City Manager to seek up to $84.5 million in federal credit assistance.

The budget gap came one year after Santa Monica doubled its water rates in an effort to meet its water self-sufficiency goal.

Under the new rate structure -- which affects some 93,000 residents and 2,700 businesses -- water and sewer bills increase an average of 17 percent each year over the next five years.

City officials said that even with the "substantial" increase Santa Monica's rates remain among the lowest in the region because half of its water comes from 10 wells the City bought a century ago.

The 2018 Sustainable Water Master Plan Update (SWMP) adopted by the Council is expected to start paying off in 2029, six years after the projects are scheduled to be completed, staff said.

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