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Second Phase of Esmeralda Tunnel Emergency Repairs Nearing Completion

Post Date:11/23/2015 11:15 AM

News Release Mast

Contact: Jesse Saich, Public Information Officer, (530) 642-4127,  

On September 21, 2014, a portion of the Esmeralda tunnel collapsed due to a failure of its timber support structures, completely blocking the tunnel with earth and debris. On October 14, 2014, the EID Board of Directors declared an emergency for repair of the tunnel and awarded a contract for crews to begin mobilizing the following week.

The Esmeralda tunnel is a segment of EID’s federally licensed Project 184 El Dorado canal and flume system located east of Pacific House. It delivers up to 15,080 acre-feet of drinking water to EID’s customers. The 1,500-foot tunnel was constructed in 1930 to bypass an old section of the canal that was impacted by rockslides and landslides which took out a large portion of the canal downstream.   

“EID’s infrastructure consists of a wide variety of important pieces like the Esmeralda tunnel,” said EID General Manager Jim Abercrombie. “We use our capital planning process to identify and prioritize the regular repair and replacement of this vital infrastructure. But emergencies like the tunnel collapse happen and we prepare for that as well.”

The repair of the tunnel initially required an extended outage of the El Dorado canal—this formed the first phase of the repair. The loss of the tunnel resulted in a loss of power generation at the hydroelectric plant as well increased pumping costs. Since EID has an integrated water system, water was diverted from Jenkinson Lake during the outage and—most importantly—customers did not see an impact to their water service.

“To pay for some expensive, long-lived repairs—emergency or planned—we use bonds to finance them, spreading the cost over a longer period,” said Abercrombie. “The funds expended on the emergency Esmeralda repairs—$6.1 million by the time it’s complete—can be reimbursed to the district from the proposed bond issuance detailed in the Proposition 218 notice.”

Work is continuing on the second phase of the tunnel project during EID’s regularly scheduled canal outage until mid-December of 2015. After that time, the tunnel will be operated to transport water as normal. Workers will begin work on the third and final phase of the project during the regular 2016 canal outage period.

EID undertakes a comprehensive capital planning process to maintain, repair, and sometimes rebuild its extensive water, wastewater, recycled water, and hydroelectric infrastructure.

A capital improvement plan (CIP) is a five-year plan that EID staff updates each year to identify and plan for necessary improvements that ensure the safety and reliability of the district's infrastructure—to keep things in good repair and head off emergencies before they happen.

“Emergencies can happen at any time,” said Abercrombie. “In conjunction with the important infrastructure repair and replacement scheduled in the district’s CIP, EID remains vigilant and prepared for emergencies year round.”



EID is a public agency dedicated to providing high quality water, wastewater treatment, recycled water, hydropower, and recreation services in an environmentally and fiscally responsible manner.

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