City Seeks Bids for Sewer Pipes Job

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.

July 7, 2020

The City of Morro Bay is seeking bids on the next big contract for its new sewer project.

The City started advertising for bids June 15 on the 3-mile conveyance system needed to pipe raw sewage out to the new treatment plant located on a hillside above the terminus of South Bay Boulevard, east of town (officially 555 South Bay Blvd.).

The deadline for sealed bids is 2 p.m. July 28, according to a notice posted on the City website, and unsealing of bids by the City Clerk is set for City Hall and is open to the public. The engineer’s estimate on this part of the project is $27 million.

The scope of work involves “the construction of lift stations and offsite pipelines; and shall consist of furnishing and supplying labor, materials, tools, equipment, and other necessary provisions in completing the two sanitary sewer lift stations, offsite pipelines, and other appurtenant facilities for the new Water Reclamation Facility currently under construction,” reads the City’s notice.

The job has a time limit. “The work shall be completed 495 calendar days [about 16 months] from the “Notice to Proceed.”

Companies wanting to bid have certain requirements. “No bid will be accepted from a Contractor who is not licensed with either a class ‘A’ license or another license or combination of license classifications that are appropriate for the work being done and as approved by the City Engineer. The City reserves the right to reject any and all proposals, to waive irregularities, and make an award deemed in the best interest of the City.”

The job is a prevailing wage one, which means the workers should be making about $27 an hour, straight time, and any companies wanting to bid must attend a pre-bid meeting at the site of the treatment plant at 1 p.m. Tuesday, July 7.

Bidders are also being urged to visit the job site beforehand. “The objective of the walk through is to acquaint bidders with the site conditions.”

Those site conditions changed recently. On May 5, according to the City’s recent quarterly project update, a crack in the earth opened up in a hilly area being graded flat.

“The event has been classified as a soil slip or landslide with a volume of approximately 30,000 cubic yards,” according to the report. “The soil slip was evaluated by several geotechnical firms and the issue has resulted in a change to the grading plans for the upper area of the site.”

The landslide will of course have a price, but who will pay? “Dealing with the soil slip and design changes has a cost, but it has not yet been determined who will be responsible for the additional costs [i.e., City or design-build team, or shared cost].”

The conveyance system is the second major portion of the project that will build a new treatment plant, and recycle the treated effluent by piping it back into town where it would be injected into the Morro Creek groundwater aquifer and extracted again via the City’s existing water wells at Lila Keiser Park, though none of this has been settled at this point.

According to the City’s “OneWater Plan,” the City believes it can get some 800 acre feet a year of recycled water that would need to be treated at the existing emergency desalination plant, before being delivered to customers. The City wants to convert the desal plant to a full time reverse osmosis treatment plant.

Also as part of that plan, the City wants to get out of its State Water contract and give up its water rights in the Chorro Valley. State Water provides up to 1,313 acre feet a year of fully treated drinking water and Chorro Valley groundwater wells can produce over 900 AFY but are restricted by stream flow requirements for Chorro Creek.

The contract for the sewer treatment plant, which has been under construction since March, recently had its third round of change orders approved by the City Council and totaled $5.99 million for the 26 change orders approved by City Council.

The contract for the treatment plant now tops $70M and the overall project is now over $130M, up from its original price tag of $126M.

The conveyance system is far from set to build, however. The City and Dynegy Inc., the owners of the Morro Bay Power Plant are still haggling over the City’s desire to run a sewer pipeline through the side of the plant property from the No. 2 lift station (located under the Front Street parking lot on Embarcadero) to a new lift station planned for a small property on Main Street next door to the Lemos Ranch Pet Supply Store.

The City is pursuing eminent domain against Dynegy to force the Texas company into an easement agreement for the new pipeline.

It’s the first time the City has ever used eminent domain, as the City Council has always chosen negotiations to settle such matters.

A judge will decide whether the City can force the easement through and will set the price for it, too.

Still to be decided in the largest public works project the City of Morro Bay has ever undertaken is the third major portion — the recycling system, which will require installing injection wells to put the water back into the ground.

According to the City’s last quarterly update, the final technical memorandum on this (due June 19) was expected to recommend “to pursue the west injection area solely;” and “longer groundwater retention times than what was previously indicated.”

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