Sanitation board OKs analysis, first step in sewer tunnel under Santa Clara River

The Santa Clara Riverbed is seen near the Iron Horse Trail on Monday, April 2, 2018. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal

Local sanitation officials are proceeding with their plan to drill a tunnel under the Santa Clara River that would accommodate a “relief sewer” pipeline, after voting Monday to pay someone to first analyze the watershed.

On Monday, members of the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District board met at Santa Clarita City Hall and voted unanimously to pay engineers in Fountain Valley about $73,400 to do the analysis.

The civil engineering firm they want to hire is called, Pacific Advanced Civil Engineering or PACE, which specializes in coming up with unique engineering solutions to water challenges.

“It’s safer than building a bridge and then building a pumping station under it,” Sanitation head Robert Ferrante explained to the three members of the local board. 

The board of directors for the Sanitations Districts of Los Angeles County of which SCV is a part, appointed Ferrante the new Chief Engineer and General Manager in July.

Sanitation District governing board member Marsha McLean asked how the district would safeguard the river when tunnelling gets underway.

“We check it out to make sure it has no leaks,” Ferrante said, describing the process as a “closed circuit TV camera pulled through the sewer.”

Ed Dunn, former president of the former Newhall County Water District board of directors, told the board during this three minutes allowed for public comment that $73,400 was too much to pay for the pre-tunnelling analysis.

“Some of us here will take a look at this for a lot less,” he said. “This is an expensive way to go.”

Douglas Fraser, who identified himself as a 25-year resident of Canyon Country, told the board that staffers at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works could make the assessment.

“Public works could determine the analysis on their regular salaries,” he said.

Board member Laurene Weste said: “I fully support this plan.”

In the end, she, McLean and board chair Supervisor Kathryn Barger voted in favor of paying PACE to carry out the study.

Specifically, PACE would be paid to come up with a design for installing a pipeline under the river.

“The project will likely involve installing a 2-foot diameter sewer pipe under the river using a ‘trenchless technology.’  The best technology will be selected based on the results of the study mentioned in the agenda,” Brian Langpap, spokesman for the SCV Sanitation District, said Friday afternoon.

Trenchless technology refers to subsurface construction and could include a variety of tunneling methods.

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