Engineering Contracts Amended, Awarded

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

March 1, 2024

County Supervisors approved changes to one sizable engineering contract for an old project and awarded another contract for a brand-new project — both to the same firm.

Fixing a Key Road

Supervisors in January approved an engineering contract to make significant repairs to the only access road to a main drinking water pipeline hub damaged in last winter’s heavy storms.

The Chorro Valley Access Road, “contains the Chorro Valley Pipeline and is the only access to the south portal of the Cuesta Tunnel,” reads a report from the Public Works Department. 

The Chorro Valley Pipeline delivers State Water to Morro Bay and the entities in Chorro Valley that subscribe to the SWP. 

Also, “The Cuesta Tunnel,” the report said, “is a drinking water conveyance conduit for the Nacimiento Water Project, Salinas Dam, and State Water Project to the City of San Luis Obispo, City of Morro Bay, County Operations Center, Cuesta College, California Men’s Colony, and all State Water Contractors south of the portal.”

(The Los Osos Community Services District is currently studying a possible project that would tap the Chorro Valley Pipeline as it approaches Morro Bay and bring some 200-acre feet a year of treated drinking water to the South Bay to prop up the town’s water supply.)

Some Repairs Were Made

The County said they made some repairs to the road after it was damaged in the storms, but, “the roadway slope remains unstable and vulnerable to additional erosion that could cause damage to the Chorro Valley Pipeline and restrict access to the other drinking water conveyance infrastructure.”

The County Flood Control and Water Conservation District is responsible for maintaining the various pipelines and subscribers pay for it. The Supervisors are the governing board of the Flood Control District but every city in the County has a representative on the District’s advisory board. County Public Works acts as the District staff.

Design Contract Let

Supervisors awarded a contract with Cannon Corporation for $274,000 to design and prepare construction documents to repair the roadway’s eroding slope.

They also officially created a new capital “project” and seeded it with some $450,000 taken out of the current State Water Project Operating Reserves. 

Cannon Corp.’s contract includes an additional 10-percent — $27,400 — in contingencies. If the contract needs to go past that total amount, Supervisors will have to OK it.

Red Tape Gets Started

Such projects have a lot of red tape, but Canon will now be able to get started on wading through it all.

Cannon will prepare an “Alternatives Analysis,” of the project; prepare 30% Design Documents; 60% Design Documents and final designs; plus hang around for the construction bidding and actual construction phase.

Costs Just Starting

The County isn’t done dipping into the SWP reserves, as the $450,000 budgeted by Supervisors is the first installment for what’s anticipated to be a multiple-year project at an unknown cost.

“Construction of a repair project,” the report said, “is expected to occur in Fiscal Year 2024/25, but costs are unknown because an alternative has not been selected yet.”

Costs to be Shared

Given the importance of the Cuesta Tunnel and the water supplies it delivers, everyone will help pay for the road repairs.

“This project will repair a critical road used for accessing the Nacimiento Water Project, Salinas Dam, and State Water Project,” the report said. “Therefore, the costs, less potential FEMA reimbursement, will be divided equally between State Water Project Fund, Nacimiento Water Project Fund, and Salinas Dam Fund upon completion of the project.”

Another Contract Amended

Repairing the Cuesta Valley Access Road wasn’t the only big contract Cannon has with the County. On the same agenda, Supervisors approved a sixth contract amendment for Cannon with regards to the Morro Bay-Cayucos Connector Pathway Project, a proposed dedicated bike lane running from the south end of Studio Drive in Cayucos to the north end of Toro Lane and the North Point Natural Area in Morro Bay.

This latest amendment was for $423,000 with a $40,000 added contingency for, “additional engineering services under the existing Engineering Consultant Services Contract that was authorized by [Supervisors] on Aug. 26, 2014.”

The change came along with another allocation of tax monies from the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, which allocated an additional $650,000 towards the connector project.

Connector a Safety Project

The Connector Project is intended to make pedaling the area safer. It would take cyclists off the highway and onto a new, separated path, though Caltrans’ recent completion of a new, wider, northbound Toro Creek Bridge, and removed one significant safety concern. 

That old bridge, which dated back to the 1930s, wasn’t originally built with the intent of making room for cyclists, causing a short bottleneck with speeding traffic crossing the bridge. 

The new bridge, built to modern standards, has plenty of room for two lanes of vehicle travel and a Class-B bike lane.

Project Nearly ready

The 1.25-mile Connector Project has already been approved by government agencies, including the Coastal Commission, and has been held up due to a lack of funding.

But that obstacle was recently lifted too.

According to the County report, the California Transportation Commission approved $7.4 million from the Active Transportation Grant Program to fund construction of the Connector Project. 

Once Canon is finished with the design and all of its other duties they should be ready to go out for construction bids. 

The amendment for Canon is to finish the design work. “Contract Amendment No. 6 to the Cannon Corporation contract,” the report said, “will allow the Cannon Corporation, under the direction of County staff, to complete the Plans, Specification, and Estimate [PS&E] package from the current 60% completion milestones to the final 100% completion milestone. 

“Once completed, the Department of Public Works will be positioned to request authorization to enter the Construction phase from Caltrans.”

Connecting The Coastal Trail

Overall, the MB-Cayucos Connector will link up existing bike paths in Cayucos — from Norma Rose Park by the cemetery and through to Morro Bay ending at the Cloisters. 

It’s all planned to become part of the California Coastal Trail. 

Project Goes Back Years

It’s been a long and winding road for the Connector Project.

“In 2003,” reads the County report, “County Parks obtained a transportation grant [through SLOCOG] for a feasibility study, which was completed in 2006, showing this trail segment is feasible. 

“In 2008, Parks received another transportation grant for preliminary design and completion of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).”

Supervisors certified the Final EIR in 2019, the report said, and in 2013 and 2014, “County Parks received additional transportation grants to complete the design, engineering, National Environmental Policy Act [NEPA] process, right-of-way acquisition, permits, and construction documents.”

NEPA is the Federal Government’s version of the California Environmental Quality Act or CEQA and is required because the transportation monies funding it originate at the federal level (paid by consumers who purchase gasoline and diesel fuel).

The majority of the right-of-way needed was owned by Chevron, which owned and operated the Estero Marine Terminal from 1929 to 1999, shipping oil out of Estero Bay from the Central Valley and San Ardo oilfields.

The Cayucos Sanitary District actually negotiated the purchase of Dog Beach (Chevron’s beach is an off-leash, dog friendly stretch of Morro Strand), purchasing one of the old undersea loading lines for use as a discharge pipe for its new sewer treatment plant located about a mile up Toro Creek Road.

The Sanitary District, County Parks, Cayucos Land Conservancy, City of Morro Bay, and Morro Bay Open Space Alliance worked together to acquire the beach from Chevron. Morro Bay agreed to take what’s now called “Dog Beach” and the groups are now working on the rest of Chevron’s property, including a large valley stretching behind Del Mar Park.

Time’s a Wastin’

As usual, transportation monies come with deadlines, and the Connector Project is no exception. The clock is literally ticking.

“Funding requirements associated with this grant,” the County report said, “require the Project to be in the active construction phase by early 2025.”

You May Also Like…