Richmond mayor sounds alarm on Marin plans for water line across bridge

Richmond mayor sounds alarm on Marin plans for water line across bridge
Photo credit: Metropolitan Transportation Commission

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt says plans by the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) to construct a water pipeline across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and related facilities in Richmond will have adverse impacts in his city. He feels Richmond’s concerns and proposals for alternatives and mitigation measures are being ignored in order to rush through the project, which aims to support MMWD’s roughly 190,000 customers amid drought conditions.

“Richmond is expected to suffer the consequences of poor planning and lack of water conservation by the 14th richest county in America,” Mayor Butt charged in his e-forum newsletter on Monday, the day before the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) Board of Directors will be asked to approve the pipeline project.

MMWD is proposing an agreement with the Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) to construct a water line connecting to the East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) distribution system in Richmond in order to augment MMWD’s water supply during drought periods. The proposed pipeline would allow MMWD to purchase water on the transfer market when supplies are low. While that would benefit MMWD’s ability to service its customers, Mayor Butt says both the operation of the project, along with the estimated six-month timeframe for construction, “will have significant adverse effects on the City of Richmond and its residents in many ways.”

Citing project plans in the agenda report for the MMWD Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday, Mayor Butt said residents and businesses would be subjected to noise and air pollution from pump station and diesel generators if they are located near Castro Street and Tewksbury Avenue. The mayor additionally pointed to construction impacts closing the San Francisco Bay Trail, and potentially causing traffic congestion. The project also involves installing and replacing about 1,400 feet of 6-inch pipelines in the Point Richmond neighborhood, including segments in Clarence Street, Contra Costa Street, Western Avenue, Eddy Street, West Richmond Avenue, and Marine Street. “These pipelines would be needed to ensure that pressure changes associated with the Richmond Pump Station do not affect existing EBMUD customers,” according to MMWD.

MMWD seeks an emergency exemption under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to move the project forward in a more timely manner.

In his e-forum newsletter, the Richmond mayor pitched a few alternatives, including locating the Richmond pump station, generator and piping in a different location, “in the industrial area on the other side of I-580,” to reduce impacts on residents and businesses. The mayor is also advocating for a public process that includes Council approval of a required encroachment permit for the project. He said the project’s additional requirement of a BCDC permit allows for opportunities to request modifications and conditions of approval.

“BCDC recently adopted Environmental Justice and Social Equity permitting requirements that should be applicable when imposing the brunt of the project’s adverse impacts on a City with a diverse and underserved population of color,” the mayor said.

According to MMWD’s current project plans in Richmond, the proposed pipeline east of the Richmond San Rafael Bridge would extend “from the Richmond Pump Station in the multi-use pathway adjacent to East Standard Avenue, within the pathway along the west side of Marine Street beneath I-580, and then continues along the pathway on the north shoulder of I-580. This segment of the pipeline would be buried. At the Scofield Avenue undercrossing of I-580, the pipeline would be attached to the soffit of the freeway bridge. West of the Scofield Avenue undercrossing, the pipeline would be installed beneath the multi-use pathway west to Stenmark Drive where it would become above grade at the eastern abutment of the RSR Bridge.”

From Stenmark Drive, the proposed pipeline continues across the Richmond San Rafael Bridge and would be installed along the underside of the upper deck. Where the bridge transitions to a single-deck configuration, the pipeline would be installed on top of the
concrete pile caps of the bridge on the north side of the deck. “MMWD continues to work with Caltrans regarding the specific location and means of construction across the RSR Bridge,” the plans state.

The project also features a pump station and two storage tanks on the Marin side, near Pelican Way and Kerner Boulevard, along with transmission pipeline in public rights-of-way.

Read more on the project plans here.