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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the Clearwater Program?

The Clearwater Program is a comprehensive planning and engineering effort to provide for cost-effective and environmentally sound wastewater management services and recycled water supply for the Sanitation Districts’ Joint Outfall System (JOS) through the year 2050.  Under the Clearwater Program, the Sanitation Districts prepared a new Master Facilities Plan (MFP) and associated Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which were approved and certified by the Sanitation Districts’ Board of Directors on November 28, 2012.

2. What is the scope of the Clearwater Master Facilities Plan?

The Clearwater MFP evaluates the long-term needs of the JOS for the next 40 years.  The MFP addresses wastewater conveyance and treatment, solids processing, biosolids management, and effluent management for the JOS.  A major component of the MFP is the evaluation of our aging infrastructure.  The Sanitation Districts are concerned with the condition of the existing tunnels that convey effluent from the Joint Water Pollution Control Plant (JWPCP) in the city of Carson to the Pacific Ocean.  The tunnels were built in 1937 and 1958 and have not been inspected since 1958, therefore, the MFP analyzes a range of alternatives to address this concern, including the need for a new or modified ocean discharge system.

3. Why was an Environmental Impact Statement prepared in addition to the EIR?

Certain elements of the Clearwater Program MFP will require federal permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps).  Consequently, the Sanitation Districts and the Corps partnered to prepare a joint Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS). 

4. What is the schedule for the Clearwater Program?

The schedule for the Clearwater Program is as follows:

·¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Community Outreach/Participation: ¬†2006 ‚Äď 2022
·¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Facilities Planning/Preliminary Engineering: ¬†2006 ‚Äď 2011
·¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Environmental Documentation (EIR/EIS): ¬†2008 ‚Äď 2012
·¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Final Design: ¬†2012 ‚Äď 2015
·¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Construction: ¬†2015 ‚Äď 2022

5. What is the recommended plan?

The MFP provides both program-wide recommendations that will be implemented over a long period of time and project-specific recommendations that will be implemented in the near term.  The program-level recommendations include:

·¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Conveyance Improvements:¬† Construction and operation of approximately 33 miles of relief sewers within the JOS
·¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Plant Expansion:¬† Construction and operation of a 25-million gallon per day (MGD) expansion at the San Jose
      Creek Water Reclamation Plant (WRP)
·¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Process Optimization:¬† Construction and operation of process optimization facilities at the San Jose Creek WRP,
      Pomona WRP, Los Coyotes WRP, and Long Beach WRP
·¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† WRP Effluent Management:¬† An increase in effluent reuse at all WRPs
·¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Solids Processing:¬† Construction and operation of six new digesters at the JWPCP
·¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Biosolids Management:¬† An increase of 20 truck trips per day in biosolids hauling
·¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† JWPCP Effluent Management:¬† A new or modified ocean discharge system and rehabilitation of the existing ocean

The program-wide alternatives analysis demonstrated an immediate need to address JWPCP effluent management at a project-specific level.  From the more detailed analysis, it is recommended that the existing ocean discharge system be modified and the existing ocean outfalls be rehabilitated.  As part of the modifications, a new onshore tunnel will be constructed and connected to the existing ocean outfalls.  The new system will have a maximum hydraulic capacity of approximately 1,080 MGD, which will accommodate the peak wastewater flows of 927 MGD projected for the year 2050.  Upon completion, the two existing effluent tunnels can be dewatered, inspected, and repaired and/or rehabilitated as necessary.  The project elements that comprise the recommended plan for the project include a new tunnel aligned between the JWPCP and Royal Palms Beach (below streets such as Figueroa Boulevard and Western Avenue), a shaft site at JWPCP, a shaft site at Royal Palms Beach, and rehabilitation of the existing ocean outfalls.

6. How much will the new tunnel and ocean outfall rehabilitation cost, and how will it be funded?

It is estimated that the new tunnel and ocean outfall rehabilitation will cost approximately $550 million.  The Sanitation Districts will be pursuing state and federal grant funding sources, as well as low-interest loans and bonds, to help finance construction.  Over time, the ratepayers in the Sanitation Districts’ JOS service area will pay off the loans and bonds through connection fees and annual service charges.

7. Whom will the new tunnel/ocean outfall serve?

The new tunnel/ocean outfall will primarily serve the residents, businesses, and industries of the 73 cities and unincorporated Los Angeles County areas within the JOS.

8. Can the existing tunnels be inspected and repaired without constructing the new tunnel/ocean outfall?

The Sanitation Districts have investigated the feasibility of inspecting the existing tunnels, but it is evident that such an operation, if possible, would present immense technical challenges and high risks.  In order to thoroughly assess the condition of the existing tunnels, each tunnel would need to be inspected in a dry state, which would require constructing new facilities to hydraulically separate the tunnels to make them independent and temporarily diverting approximately two-thirds of the wastewater currently treated by the JWPCP.  A diversion of at least 200 MGD would be required.  At this time, the Sanitation Districts have not been able to identify a means of diverting this much flow to allow for an inspection.

9. San Pedro and Wilmington are located outside the Sanitation Districts’ service area.  How will these communities benefit from a new tunnel/ocean outfall?

These communities will benefit from having a more reliable infrastructure in their vicinity.  Without a new tunnel/ocean outfall, an emergency response to the existing system would mainly affect San Pedro and Wilmington. Specifically, the failure of the existing tunnels could affect Wilmington Drain, Machado Lake, and the Los Angeles Harbor, the only alternative discharge locations for JWPCP effluent.

10. What are some of the benefits that the Sanitation Districts have provided the communities in the immediate vicinity of the JWPCP, including Carson and Wilmington?

Over the years, the Sanitation Districts have provided land for the Wilmington Jaycees Athletic Complex, Wilmington Boys and Girls Club, and the Carson Depot Commercial Center. The Sanitation Districts have also constructed new sidewalks; added street trees and landscaping; erected ornamental fencing; virtually eliminated plant odors; and built a natural gas fueling station for public use. The Sanitation Districts have recently restored the 17-acre Bixby Marshland at the corner of Sepulveda and Figueroa, which now includes parking and viewing areas for visitors. The Sanitation Districts purchased the old Fletcher Oil Refinery Company site and removed the refining equipment and oil storage tanks. New landscaping and block walls have been constructed around the perimeter of the property. The site is being cleaned up to remove soil and groundwater contamination left by the refining operation, and in the future will be used for new regional wastewater treatment facilities.

11. How will tunnel construction affect my home, my community, and me?

The Sanitation Districts will construct a tunnel utilizing a state-of-the-art tunnel boring machine (TBM).  The new tunnel will mostly be located within the public rights-of-way approximately 70 to 450 feet below ground surface, so there will be no noticeable vibration or noise.  The most visible element of the tunneling project will be the presence of construction shaft site at the JWPCP in Carson, which will be needed to lower the TBM and construction material into the ground, remove soil from the underground excavation, and provide labor access during construction.  The construction shaft site will be screened with barriers as necessary to minimize any visual and noise impacts.  A smaller exit shaft site will be used at Royal Palms Beach to retrieve the TBM and to connect the new tunnel to the existing ocean outfalls.  The EIR/EIS assessed the overall impacts of the project and proposed appropriate mitigation measures.  The Sanitation Districts have adopted and will implement the mitigation measures recommended in the EIR/EIS.

12. How has the new tunnel/ocean outfall been sized?

The new tunnel/ocean outfall has been sized based on the findings of the Clearwater MFP.  At a minimum, the new tunnel needs to be large enough to accommodate peak flows at the JWPCP through the year 2050 planning horizon. The Sanitation Districts prefer to convey as much flow by gravity as possible to increase reliability, conserve energy, and reduce operating costs.  It is estimated that the tunnel will have an excavated diameter of approximately 20 to 22 feet and an internal finished diameter of approximately 18 feet.

13. Do the existing tunnels have the capacity to accommodate future projected flows at the JWPCP?

No.  In fact, the existing tunnels are currently at their limits in terms of handling the peak wet-weather flows at the JWPCP.  This was demonstrated during the storms in January 1995, when the 670-mgd peak capacity of the existing system was reached.  Future population growth will lead to more wastewater being produced in the JOS, and the Clearwater MFP evaluates the quantity of wastewater to be treated at the JWPCP.

14. What street(s) will the tunnel be going under?

The alignment selected for the new tunnel will utilize long, contiguous public rights-of-way (e.g., streets) between the JWPCP and the coast to the extent feasible.

The tunnel will start under the west side of the JWPCP, then under Figueroa Boulevard, Harbor Regional Park, North Gaffey Street, Capital Drive, Western Avenue (through South Dodson Avenue), and terminate under Royal Palms Beach.

Because the tunnel will be constructed approximately 70 to 450 feet below ground, street level impacts are anticipated to be minimal or non-existent.

15. Will the new tunnel/ocean outfall result in more air pollution in the Harbor area?

Any increases in air pollution will be limited to the construction phase of the tunneling project, not the long-term operation.  Tunnel construction will result in vehicle and dust emissions at the tunnel shaft sites. The Sanitation Districts have assessed these and other impacts associated with the project in the EIR/EIS and have adopted mitigation measures to eliminate or reduce such impacts to the extent feasible.

16. Will the new tunnel/ocean outfall result in significantly more local traffic?

As part of the environmental impact analysis for this project, it was determined that potential traffic impacts will be less than significant.  Furthermore, the Sanitation Districts will explore different truck hauling routes to and from the shaft sites to help minimize impacts to the community.

17. Will it be necessary to utilize private land for the project?

The Sanitation Districts intend to build the project in the public rights-of-way (streets) to avoid the need to take any private land.  The Sanitation Districts will need some subsurface easements for portions of the tunnel project.  Where easements are needed, the Sanitation Districts will compensate the property owner at the fair market value of the easement.  The Sanitation Districts may also need land for temporary occupational right of way.  Again, the property owners will be compensated at fair market value of temporary occupation.

18. How does the MFP address the future use of recycled water to assist Southern California during this prolonged period of drought?

The Sanitation Districts are strong proponents of the use of recycled water (commonly referred to as water ‚Äúreuse‚ÄĚ), and have been aggressively marketing its recycled water for over 45 years. ¬†Our recycled water is beneficially reused for a variety of purposes including groundwater replenishment, landscape and agricultural irrigation, industrial applications, and wildlife habitat enhancement. ¬†Even so, a significant portion of the recycled water is still being discharged to the Pacific Ocean via concrete-lined rivers and flood control channels. ¬†As part of the facilities planning effort, the MFP identifies new users and reuse sites for the remaining available recycled water being produced at the upstream WRPs and recommends the continued practice of seeking new reuse opportunities.

19. Will water conservation efforts reduce the need for additional effluent management capacity?

Over the past decade, water conservation efforts have delayed the need for additional facilities, and to some extent, it is anticipated that this trend will continue into the future.  The Sanitation Districts recognize the environmental and economic benefits of water conservation and support the efforts of water supply agencies to increase use of water conservation fixtures, such as high efficiency toilets.  The MFP assesses the overall impact of water conservation on flow projections.

20. In the Palos Verdes Peninsula we have an active landslide and our homes and roads are continuously at risk.  How can you guarantee that this construction will not trigger another event or make an existing situation worse?

The recommended tunnel alignment does not cross an active landslide area.  Additionally, mitigation measures, including various geotechnical investigations will be implemented as part of the project.

21. The new tunnel alignment crosses potentially active earthquake faults.  What would happen in a major seismic event?

The new tunnel will be designed and aligned in a manner in which the impacts from a seismic event will be minimized.  Prior to construction, the local geology will be well characterized to assure that the new tunnel will cross a fault in the safest possible way.  Furthermore, the tunnel itself will be engineered to allow for the movement or displacement that may be caused by an earthquake.  Compared to the existing tunnels, the new tunnel will be more resistant to seismic damage and provide far more reliability for disposal of the treated wastewater than currently exists today.

22. What are the plans for the existing tunnels and ocean outfalls?

The two existing tunnels and the four existing ocean outfalls are valuable public assets.  In combination with the new facilities, the existing tunnels will provide redundancy and operational flexibility for this critical wastewater infrastructure into the future.  The Sanitation Districts plan to inspect and, if necessary, repair the existing tunnels after the new tunnel is placed into service.  The condition and performance of the four existing ocean outfalls have been evaluated and three of them will be rehabilitated for continued future use as discussed in the MFP and EIR/EIS.

23. How will the California Fish & Game‚Äôs newly designated ‚Äúmarine protection area‚ÄĚ (MPA) off the Palos Verdes Peninsula affect the existing and proposed tunnels and outfalls?

In December 2010, the California Fish & Game Commission established new marine protected areas (MPAs) along the Southern California coastline.  Under state law, these areas are meant to protect and restore depleted fish stocks and other marine resources.  Two of the new MPAs are located off the Palos Verdes Peninsula close to the Sanitation Districts’ ocean outfall system.  These two MPAs would have required another state agency to consider placing new and extremely costly regulations on the Sanitation Districts’ ocean outfall system.  The Sanitation Districts raised this concern, and in response, the State Water Resources Control Board amended the California Ocean Plan on October 16, 2012, to clarify that the new MPA designations could not be the sole basis for imposing more restrictive discharge limits on existing outfalls.