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Laguna Beach

 Volume 14, Issue 96  |  December 2, 2022

Water district OKs contracts for South Laguna reservoir expansion, Mission Hospital pipeline improvements


Last week, a local water district unanimously agreed to moved forward in replacing and expanding a South Laguna reservoir, and, in a separate action, approved Mission Hospital’s pipeline improvement project. 

South Coast Water District (SCWD) board members voted 4-0 on Thursday (Nov. 17) to award a $564,100 contract to AKM for construction management and inspection for the reservoir 2B replacement project. The action also approved change orders up to $56,410 (10% contingency), if required.

The age of reservoir 2B, structural deficiencies, recent shell leaks, and difficult access prompted the district to evaluate replacement options and access improvements.

SCWD’s reservoir 2B is an above ground steel welded tank located off Ceanothus Drive in South Laguna. It was erected in 1946, District Engineering Manager Taryn Kjolsing noted.

“It’s our oldest reservoir in our system,” she said. 

It currently has a 0.1-million-gallon capacity, or approximately 100,000 gallons. This project will include demolishing the existing reservoir and build two in its place for a total capacity of 200,000 gallons.

“We are doubling our tank capacity up there,” Kjolsing said. 

The district has been working hand-in-hand with the City of Laguna Beach in regards to their wildfire efforts, said District General Manager Rick Shintaku. 

“I do want to note that we do have sufficient storage for Laguna Beach, but there was an intent for the city to have more closer, geographically located, storage out there at the wildland interface,” Shintaku said. “This is an excellent example of how South Coast partnered with the community to double the storage capacity at this site to assist with wildland fires.”

It’s located in a hilly wildland-urban interface above a residential neighborhood, surrounded by Orange County Parks hiking trails. Access to reservoir 2B is through a steep, winding, unimproved road. The reservoir’s site is tight with limited area for expansion.

“It’s a very complicated project,” Kjolsing said. “We’re confident through AKM’s past experience working with us and other local agencies that they will help us deliver a successful project.” 

The road getting up to the reservoir is steep, she noted, so construction will be challenging.

Answering a board member question, Kjolsing explained that the difficulty in construction increased the cost of the project. 

“It’s an extremely steep road getting up there, it’s a dirt road,” she said. “Our operators can tell you, it’s very challenging to drive up there after a rain event.”

The project also includes paving the road and adding drainage features, she noted.

They are also anticipating that it will be difficult to pump concrete that far. They are steel tanks, but they have a concrete ring wall, she explained. There’s also a steep back slope and not a lot of room for the contractor to stage, Kjolsing explained. 

“We’ve added some contingency to that project just because the constructability is going to be very difficult,” she said.

Water district OKs contracts for South Laguna reservoir 2B

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

SCWD’s reservoir 2B, an above ground steel welded tank located off Ceanothus Drive 

Board President Rick Erkeneff asked about public outreach and mitigation for closing the road and trails during construction. 

“Folks use that road and that trail for hiking and accessing the wildland,” Erkeneff said. 

Kjolsing confirmed that some of the area will need to be closed for safety reasons. 

“We will have to close down the hiking trail during construction, that’s strictly for public safety. It would be great if we could keep it open and have construction and pedestrians going through at the same, (but) that’s really not a safe practice,” she said. 

They’ve started engaging with a public outreach firm, a sub-consultant to the design engineer. They are well plugged-in with the project, Kjolsing noted. 

There will be some construction required on the street, Kjolsing said. A new valve will have to be installed to shut off the tank and not put any customers out of service, she explained. They will be actively engaging the community, she added. She wants to get through the city process first to get a better idea of schedule and construction before any significant public outreach. 

MKN is expected to complete the design, plans and specifications by February 2023. The district would then solicit construction bids from contractors and construction would begin in July 2023.

The work AKM would be performing would include part-time construction management and full-time inspection, Kjolsing explained. The district has their own inspectors but they are responsible for all projects throughout the district, so this would allow one firm to fully focus on this project.

MKN is working to complete the design, which is currently at 90%.

The construction management firm will be responsible for construction management and inspection services for the project.

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Proposals were solicited from three firms on the district’s construction management as needed list. The district received three proposals with one firm providing a letter stating that they were declining to propose due to current workload, Kjolsing explained. After engineering staff reviewed and scored each proposal, they recommended awarding the contract to AKM because the company has successfully managed other projects for SCWD and completed other reservoir projects throughout Southern California.

AKM’s first task will be to perform a constructability review of the 90% drawings. This will allow AKM the opportunity to provide input during the design process. During their review, staff from AKM will look to uncover and correct issues that may be encountered during construction such as design errors, omissions, ambiguities and document conflicts which may lead to change orders or project delays during construction.

In addition to the construction management, project costs include (estimated) $566,164 for engineering design services (including 10% contingency), $4 million for construction, and $100,000 for geotechnical inspection. The total project is estimated to cost $5,286,674.

Water district OKs contracts for South Laguna Mission Hospital

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

South Coast Water District is moving forward with pipeline improvements near Mission Hospital in South Laguna 

Also on Thursday’s SCWD agenda, board members unanimously approved the California Environmental Quality Act mitigated negative declaration and an initial study for the Mission Hospital pipeline improvement project. 

This project is a part of SCWD’s modified CIP to replace aging infrastructure and meet fire flow requirements to support wildfire mitigation efforts and increase fire water supply.

The board approved the initial design and construction contract last September. 

SCWD prepared an Infrastructure Master Plan update in 2017 to provide a comprehensive Capital Improvement Program for the district. The IMP update details planned improvements to water distribution, wastewater conveyance, and recycled water distribution infrastructure in the district and identifies existing and potential system deficiencies in the district’s infrastructure that will need to be addressed in the future. 

As part of the IMP update, the district’s design criteria includes a requirement for commercial properties that 4,000 gallons per minute (gpm) of fire flow be available at 20 pounds per square inch (psi) residual pressure, Kjolsing explained.

Based on updated criteria, one location of deficient fire flow is a section of approximately 1,200 linear feet of six- and eight-inch diameter pipe serving the 490-pressure zone in Sunset Avenue near Mission Hospital. It’s required to be upsized to 12-inch diameter to meet the fire flow requirements.

The project involves replacing the water main with 12-inch PVC pipe, installing valves and valve clusters as required, and reconnecting service connections and fire hydrants as required. 

The pipeline alignment runs south along Mar Vista Avenue from 3rd Avenue to Sunset Avenue, south along Sunset Avenue to 8th Avenue and also down a hill from Sunset Avenue to Mission Hospital.

Project construction would consist of excavation, backfill, pipeline installation and repaving. The pipelines along Mar Vista Avenue and Sunset Avenue would be installed a minimum of 40 inches below ground level and the pipeline that runs down a hill from Sunset Avenue to 5th Avenue would be installed at 24 inches below ground level. Streets affected by construction would be repaved to their pre-disturbance conditions. 

The current available fire flow as determined by the hydraulic model is 3,780 psi. Although this is within 6% of the recommended fire flow (4,000 gpm), this section of main is one of the feeds for Mission Hospital and is located adjacent to a Cal Fire designated “very high hazard severity zone.”

This project is about 90% designed, Kjolsing noted. 

They are still working through the city process and will likely be on the Planning Commission agenda early next year, Kjolsing noted. Construction will start in early summer and take approximately 3.5 months to complete.

The district only received one comment letter from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The department’s comments were minor, Kjolsing said, and they were able to adequately address them.


Sara Hall covers City Hall and is a regular contributor to Stu News Laguna.

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