The East Bay Municipal Utility District, which supplies drinking water and water treatment to East Bay cities from Castro Valley to Crockett, has announced plans to lay new three-foot-wide water pipes beneath a stretch of 23rd Street. The project is part of a 10-year effort to expand capacity in the district’s pipelines and water treatment plants to meet rising demand for water. EBMUD does not plan to begin construction until 2021, but is seeking public input now.
The project in Richmond, called the Central Pressure Zone Pipeline, is one of 22 projects planned across the East Bay over the next two decades. EBMUD intends to install new pipes beneath 23rd Street, between Nevin Street in Richmond and Road 20 in San Pablo, crossing Wildcat Creek. The existing pipeline, which runs primarily beneath 20th Street, was built in the 1930s, and after 70 years of population growth, it can no longer transport enough water to meet the needs of local cities and fill the reservoir at the end, said Timothy McGowan, an associate civil engineer at EBMUD who is heading up the project. The new pipeline is designed to restore EBMUD’s ability to fill the reservoir and meet expanding water needs over the next two decades, McGowan said.
EBMUD does not plan to close 23rd Street. The work will require 20-30 feet of roadway, so EBMUD expects to close one parking lane and one traffic lane, leaving one lane open in each direction, McGowan said.
At a meeting of the 23rd Street Merchants’ Association where McGowan presented the plan, merchants voiced concern that the plans would disrupt business along one of Richmond’s main commercial arteries. Jorge Lerma, business agent for the 23rd Street Merchants’ Association, said he had fielded calls from a dozen worried merchants on Wednesday as they got wind of the project.
“I’m glad to see that the project is far enough away that you can relieve a lot of anxiety and concerns,” Lerma said, adding that he hoped EBMUD and the city would work together to ensure that bus lines and pedestrian traffic continued even as some lanes were shut down.
“I think there’s a psychological, personal impact here that has nothing to do with East Bay MUD per se, but I just wanted to prepare you for that,” Lerma said. “The thing is, we’re mostly people of color here. And we’ve got so used to people doing probably well-intended things for us — without including us. We want you to be sensitive to that – hyper-sensitive to that, and I think that things will work out.”
EBMUD is just now finishing the study that determined where the pipe should be laid. It will begin an environmental impact report in December, and expects to have a draft EIR ready next November.
McGowan said the construction will not cut off water to local residents. The new pipes are long-distance transmission lines, and are laid alongside the much smaller, foot-wide distribution pipes that feed individual houses and businesses, McGowan said.
Construction will last about12 months, McGowan said. But, he said, the pipe will be laid in sections of 80 to 200 feet each day, so any one stretch of 23rd Street can expect to be affected for one week when the pipe is laid, and one more week when crews return to repave each section.
At the end of the presentation, Rafael Madrigal, president of the 23rd Street Merchants’ Association, asked how many people the project would hire.
“I’m afraid I’m not an Obama accountant,” McGowan said. “I know he always talks about, ‘This project is going to deliver 1,000 jobs,’ and I can’t quite think like that. I think more along the lines of, this project’s going to be $10 million, and about half of that’s in the pipe, and half of that’s labor. So, it’s probably about $5 million in labor.”
“So they can come to our shops and restaurants,” Madrigal said, to approving laughter from the room.
The next public meeting on the project will be November 30, at Maple Hall Community Center in San Pablo.