When it came on line in 2011, the $176.1 million Nacimiento pipeline was hailed as a monumental achievement that would provide peace of mind, especially in times of drought.
That drought is here, but as Tribune writer Tonya Strickland reported last week, the Nacimiento pipeline is not operating as promised. The expensive project has been shut down since late June on account of cracks that developed in a segment of pipe crossing below the Nacimiento River.
We’d expect leaks in much older pipes — such as the 90-year-old pipe that ruptured in Los Angeles and flooded parts of UCLA — but this project is practically brand new. Cracks in a pipe of this age should not be occurring.
The county has brought in a forensic pipeline expert to investigate — a process that involves sending in divers to take samples from the cracked pipe. The pipe will then be patched and as soon as that work is done, the pipeline will be brought back into service. Mark Hutchinson of county public works estimates that could be as early as two to three weeks, though he cautioned that it could take longer.
Meanwhile, an inspection is underway this week at another section of pipe at a different river crossing. That segment is a concern because it was installed by the same subcontractor, using the same type of material.
County officials say they want a permanent fix — not a Band-Aid. We wouldn’t expect them to settle for anything less. The county is in contact with Teichert Construction, the main contractor on the project. While it will take time to sort out liability issues, ideally this will be resolved expeditiously, at no additional cost to the local agencies that partnered on the project.
Residents of those communities — Atascadero, Cayucos, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo and Templeton — already are paying their share, in the form of increased water bills. They should not be stuck with expensive repairs or with extended periods of doing without Nacimiento Lake water.
Ratepayers deserve to have a well-engineered, well-constructed project that will hold up for decades to come. We look to the county to make sure they get that.