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Publication Date: Friday, March 01, 2002

MV Council supports bills to fix ailing water system MV Council supports bills to fix ailing water system (March 01, 2002)

Hetch-Hetchy water system needs improvements Hetch-Hetchy water system needs improvements (March 01, 2002)

By Bill D'Agostino

Mountain View's city council wants the state to force San Francisco to improve to the water system that serves much of the Bay Area, in order to protect against catastrophic failure.

The council decided at Tuesday night's meeting to support a state assembly bill that would protect the Bay Area's water supply by requiring the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission _ which owns and operates the Hetchy-Hetchy water system _ to make necessary improvements to the water system by 2015.

According to a January 2000 study by the utilities commission, a major earthquake could cause loss of water service for up to 60 days for Hetch-Hetchy's 2.4 million Bay Area water users. The system's main pipeline crosses three major faults _ the Calaveras, Hayward, and San Andreas _ as it brings water from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite to Mountain View and many nearby municipalities.

About 85 to 90 percent of the city's water comes from Hetch-Hetchy, and a failure of the system would leave the city's businesses and residents in a dire situation. Currently, the city is upgrading its water reserve, but even when completed Mountain View would still have to heavily ration its water if Hetch-Hetchy were to go down.

The water system is entirely owned and controlled by San Francisco despite the fact that two-thirds of the system's costumers are residents of other municipalities, including Mountain View.

The Bay Area Water Users Association (BAWUA) _ which represents many of Hetch-Hetchy's nearly 30 agencies including Mountain View, Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Stanford _ has been lobbying the SFPUC for years to improve the system so that it's users will not face long water outages.

San Francisco politics, however, has consistently put the system's upgrades on the back burner, so last year many local leaders began lobbying the state to take action.

Council member Rosemary Stasek who has been an active campaigner for the mid-peninsula users, said the SFPUC is "not being a responsible steward of our water supply."

The bill _ AB 1823, co-sponsored by Assemblyman Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and Lou Papan, D-Millbrae _ would require San Francisco to complete multiple construction projects to protect the water system from service interruptions.

The projects' construction costs, estimated to be around $4 million dollars, would come from increases in retail water rates.

If the repairs are not made, the bill would not take the system away from the SFPUC. That's important, according to Art Jensen, general manager of BAWUA, because otherwise the debate about the bill would center on taking away power from the SFPUC and not on repairing the ailing system.

The council also gave their support for two other bills that would establish a joint powers authority and give more influence to the water system's users outside of San Francisco.


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