Although work has already begun on the College Lake Integrated Resources Management Project, a group of dignitaries, construction workers and a cast from the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency gathered Friday for a groundbreaking ceremony to herald in the project, which is expected to bolster water supplies and slow groundwater extraction from the critically overdrafted Pajaro basin.
The project by PVWMA will utilize the naturally-occurring lake—which historically has been drained in the summer to make way for crops—as a permanent source to supply 1,700 acre-feet of water annually to local growers.
“This will help solve our problem of critical overdraft and salt water intrusion,” PVWMA General Manager Brian Lockwood said. “This is a really important project. It’s taken an army worth of people to help get it to this point from our board of directors both past and present.”
An acre-foot is equal to 325,851 gallons, or one foot of water covering an acre of land.
Work crews have been surveying work and “potholing” to identify existing underground utilities before construction of the pipeline begins.
“As we all know, agriculture is the economic engine of this area. And it is important—you can’t have ag without water,” Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren said. “This project is going to solve the saltwater intrusion problem, and it is going to provide water for thousands of acres of agricultural land. It is also going to help the fish.”
Trenching will begin this week in the roadway in the area of East Lake Avenue and Holohan Road, said PVWMA Water Conservation and Outreach Specialist Marcus Mendiola.
The $68 million project includes a weir structure, a treatment plant and a six-mile pipeline that will convey treated water from College Lake to connect to the coastal distribution system.
Crews have already cleared land for some of the underground pipe that will convey the water.
The College Lake Pipeline Project will be a six-mile, 30-inch water main that will transport treated water from a facility at College Lake to more than 5,000 acres of farmland via an existing system of 22 miles of pipeline.
The project will also improve fish passage and bypass flows for the endangered south-central California coast steelhead.
It is the largest new source of water in the Pajaro Valley since the completion of PV Water’s Watsonville Area Water Recycling Facility in 2009.
“This is a glorious milestone for this agency,” said Amy Newell, PVWMA Vice Chair, as she described the project as an “absolutely essential element of what will be the path to sustainability for this agency.”
Newell took time to underscore major drivers of the project, including Tom Rider, one of the founders of PVWMA, and a list of “talented staff.”
The PVWMA board awarded two contracts to Mountain Cascade, Inc. for each project component: the College Lake Water Treatment Plant and Intake Facilities Project in an amount of $44,989,854, and for the construction of the College Lake Pipeline Project in an amount of $23,707,310.
Construction is expected to take 22 months.