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June 18, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, June 18, 2004

Digging up dirt Digging up dirt (June 18, 2004)

Construction begins on new underground reservoir

By Corey Pride

Excavation of enough dirt to fill roughly 23 Olympic-sized pools began June 7 as Mountain View began a multi-year construction plan that will place an eight-million gallon reservoir under the Graham Middle School playing fields.

The city has been planning the $12-million reservoir project since 2001 as a way to increase Mountain View's water storage capacity. It will also provide a backup plan if a natural disaster strikes and the city is cut off from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, its current water supply.

As part of the deal made to place the reservoir at the school, the city agreed to renovate some campus playing fields.

Civil Engineer Minh Le is supervising the project and said it will occur in three parts and be completed in 2006. Excavation of 82,000 cubic yards of dirt and surface grass begins this summer. In October, construction of a water tank and the placement of it underground, which is scheduled to last a full year, will begin. Finally, in October 2005, renovation and construction of the school playing fields will commence.

The logistics of the construction project have made some residents in the area nervous.

Heidi Flaherty lives near Graham Middle School and is concerned about traffic, dust and mice.

"We heard there could be up to 100 truck trips a day. Then there is the dust, and apparently when the city built another sports complex before, there was a problem with field mice (coming from the ground)," Flaherty said. She and many other residents in the area brought their concerns to the city.

Le said precautions have been taken to mitigate any harm or inconvenience to residents.

"We are starting this project in the summer so there won't be a lot of traffic with parents bringing kids to school or people in the area to be harmed by dust," he said. "We brought in a pest control company, and they didn't find any mice."

Although trucks transporting dirt will take specially designed routes so as to disrupt traffic as little as possible, 2,300 trips to and from the project site are anticipated. The dirt will be split into two sections. The first section, which is 46,000 cubic yards, will be transported to Shoreline Park and used to solidify an embankment. The second section, 36,000 cubic yards, will be stockpiled at the Graham site and placed back in the hole to cover the reservoir tank.

Graham Middle School Principal Judy Crates said the school's sports teams have had to, and will continue to, play at various parks elsewhere in the city since many of their playing fields are no longer available to them. She also said when school begins next fall, no classes will be held in the wing of the school closest to the construction.

The school, however, is looking forward to its new facilities.

"For us, the inconvenience is outweighed by the benefit of the new track and field surface we are getting," she said.

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