Commentary: Setting the record straight on the Canyon Drive pipeline

I want to take this opportunity to clear up the misstated facts made by former Mayor Eric Bever in his commentary, “Railroaded over the Canyon Drive pipeline action” (April 6.)

On March 26, the board of directors approved a cooperative agreement, which is a three-party agreement among the Costa Mesa Sanitary District, Orange County Sanitation District (OCSD) and the city of Newport Beach that describes each agency’s role in the project.

The CMSD did not award contracts for engineering designs and/or construction because the cooperative agreement has not been approved by all three parties, permits have not been issued by regulatory agencies and bid documents need to be prepared. The district has every intention of completing its fiduciary responsibility to our ratepayers by soliciting bids from qualified contractors, evaluating bids received and then approving a contract to the responsible low bidder.

In regards to Mr. Bever’s transparency claim, the district has always discussed this project in an open, public forum since 2007. In addition to March 26, the district has discussed this project on Feb. 10, July 22, 2014, and July 31, 2013. And by subscribing to the district’s e-mail subscription residents will always be made aware of this project.

Also, Mr. Bever believes the district did not listen to concerned residents, but the truth is the district did meet several times with concerned residents regarding Talbert Regional Park, and the district even considered adopting the residents’ preferred alternative identified in the environmental impact report, the Victoria Street Gravity Alternative, but it was determined that the impacts and disruption to Victoria Street would be too great. However, the district did agree to reduce the project scope to protect Talbert Park and save nearly $1 million.

The district has always acknowledged that residents on or near Canyon Drive will be temporarily disrupted during construction, but the disruption will be no way near the two-year time frame that was once reported in the newspaper.

Disruption on Canyon Drive could be as long as three weeks in any one location, which is why the district is going to schedule open meetings with residents. The district wants to show residents the proposed designs, traffic plan, mitigation measures including dust control, noise abatement and other factors, but to accomplish this we need a set of detailed plans and those plans are not prepared yet because the district still has to solicit bids and award a contract for engineering design.

Finally, I want to reiterate why the Board of Directors believes this project is important to Costa Mesa. This project, when complete, will decommission force main pipes and seven lift stations (five stations belong to the district). Force main pipes and lift stations are the No. 1 concern in the wastewater industry because if the pipe fails wastewater would spray like a geyser and contaminate anything it comes in contact with. Lift stations require an enormous amount of energy to push the wastewater. When lift stations fail due to power outages the wastewater will rise in the station and overflow into storm drains and contaminate beaches and waterways.

This project will eliminate the risk to the public’s health and the environment, which is the district’s overall mission, “Protecting our community’s health and the environment by providing solid waste and sewer collection services.” If this project does not proceed, the district will have to reconstruct all the force mains, lift stations and install gravity sewers on Wilson and Hamilton streets, all of which is more expensive and would lead to substantially more disruption than the decommission option. The same holds true for OCSD, if they do not construct their portion of the decommissioned network, they will have to upsize their existing trunk sewer in Fairview Road, which would also lead to far more disruption than constructing their portion of the abandonment sewers.

Yes, Mr. Bever is correct that this project will be a temporary disruption in some neighborhoods but we believe maintaining the health and safety of the public and the environment significantly outweighs a temporary disruption. The district will do everything within our means to ensure the public’s quality of life is not disrupted during construction and we will make sure the public is well informed about the construction timeline and scope of work.

SCOTT CARROLL is general manager of the Costa Mesa Sanitary District.