They did it. The folks at Fresno City Hall and various allies got the Southeast Surface Water Treatment Facility built on time and within budget.
Some of those most responsible for this success gathered at the new plant on Tuesday to celebrate. The plant, on Floradora Avenue between Fowler and Armstrong avenues, is the centerpiece of the $500 million Recharge Fresno project.
Lee Brand as a council member helped shepherd the proposed plant through a difficult legislative process. He’s now the mayor, ultimately responsible over the past 20 months for the plant’s construction. The buck stopped with him.
“I am proud of our city for successfully delivering our largest-ever infrastructure program on time and on budget,”
“With the Southeast Surface Water Treatment Facility and major pipeline projects now up and running, our community has a secure, drought-proof water supply.”
Added Michael Carbajal, director of the city’s Department of Public Utilities:
“You often hear of watershed moments. Quite literally, for Fresno, today marks a milestone for our watershed. But a watershed moment is also defined as a turning point, or a historic moment. I’m not sure that this moment could be anything but that, given the benefits this program will bring for generations to come.”
Carbajal praised the California State Water Resources Control Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their roles in securing $340 million in low-interest state loans to help fund Recharge Fresno. The loans will end up saving ratepayers an estimated $250 million in financing costs.
Said Kristin Gullatt, deputy water division manager for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region:
“Investing in water infrastructure with our state and local partners is a priority for the EPA. Federal and state funding for this project will help the City of Fresno alleviate groundwater depletion while diversifying municipal water supplies and providing high quality, safe drinking water for the community.”
The Southeast treatment plant is just one part of Recharge Fresno. If I recall correctly, the plant’s price tag is in the $160 million range. Other parts of Recharge Fresno include a pipe to bring Kings River water to the plant, a pipe to bring San Joaquin River water to the nearly 15-year-old treatment plant in Northeast Fresno and an improved system of delivery pipes throughout the city.
It may be just me, but I always include the city’s “purple pipe” (recycled water) system in Recharge Fresno. There’s still a lot of work to do before the purple pipe system extends throughout Fresno to the degree envisioned by City Hall. But immense potential is there.
The Southeast plant, combined with the Northeast plant and the groundwater recharging system, have transitioned from the “potential” stage to the “execution” stage.”
The Southeast plant is currently delivering an estimated 54 million gallons per day of treated Kings River water to residential and commercial customers. It ultimately will deliver an estimated 80 million gallons per day.
In a nutshell, Fresno now has the means to fully utilize the 180,000 acre feet of river it is supposed to get in a normal rain year. The city currently consumes about 120,000 acre feet per year.
The city’s aquifer, which remains a unique treasure chest despite decades of overuse, can be replenished on a somewhat consistent basis. When serious droughts hit, prudently tapping that treasure chest can help get Fresno through the worst of times.
Combine good years of rain and the Recharge Fresno infrastructure and what have you got? A dynamic city in a dynamic region in a dynamic state in the greatest nation on earth, a city with ample supplies of life’s most precious resource, a city well positioned to pursue its dreams.
Recharge Fresno got started when Ashley Swearengin was mayor. Tommy Esqueda was DPU’s director through much of the Recharge Fresno construction period.
The Recharge Fresno project received a robust public discussion before the City Council approved everything. From the citizens’ perspective, former Fresno County Supervisor Doug Vagim led the debate.
There wasn’t unanimity of views. There seldom is on big ticket, ratepayer-funded capital projects.
Recharge Fresno is here. Congratulations to all.