City Lands Big Water Grant

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.

August 26, 2022

The City of Morro Bay is celebrating a big grant from the Federal Government’s infrastructure bill, supporting the costs of the wastewater recycling portion of its Water Recycling Facility Project.

The City announced an allocation of $9.3 million from “President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” the City said in a news release, “as part of $1 billion Department of the Interior ‘WaterSMART Water Recycling and Reuse’ grants.”

The city manager was pleased with the windfall. “We are grateful,” City Manager Scott Collins said, “to receive this $9.3 million grant funding as we complete construction of key components of the City’s largest-ever infrastructure project. Receiving this additional federal funding for the WRF Program was a team effort by the mayor, City Council, City staff, project team and Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Alex Padilla and Representative Salud Carbajal that will help bring an additional water source to our community at a critical time.”

The grant should come as welcomed relief for residents who have seen the City’s original $126 million project — already the largest infrastructure project in City history — balloon to over $160 million with delays and cost overruns. The City broke ground on the WRF in April 2020

The City has already used the recycling aspect of the WRF to secure low-interest Federal and State loans to finance the project. 

However, recycling the wastewater has morphed from a system that the City said could produce 80% of the city’s annual water demand, to one that will inject the wastewater into the Morro Creek aquifer and act as a drought buffer and seawater intrusion blocker when pumping the City’s wells at Lila Keiser Park.

Indeed, the City is still testing the proposed injection well field, located on the northeast corner of the Morro Bay Power Plant property. A contract was recently awarded to dig the first injection well and test its effectiveness.

Collins said, the $9.3 million, “will be used for the reclamation components of the WRF Program, which includes recycled water elements, a recycled water storage tank and pump station at the WRF, recycled water pipeline and the purified water injection wells and distribution line. 

“The City received its full funding request from the Department of Interior, which was submitted in accordance with funding program requirements.”

According to the news release, the project includes “construction of a new one million gallon per day advanced treatment facility, two new lift stations, an approximately 3.5-mile pipeline alignment, and wells to inject the purified water into the groundwater aquifer, which can be extracted for reuse through the City’s existing infrastructure. Construction is expected to be completed by 2023.”

The WRF treatment plant, sited on a hillside above the terminus of South Bay Boulevard, is pretty much now completed and awaiting completion of the conveyance system, so it can be tested and put online, expected to be in early 2023.

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