Nipomo to take bids for pipeline

The Nipomo Community Services District board will seek bids for an estimated $14.1 million project that would construct a scaled-down pipeline project to bring water to the community from Santa Maria.

The board voted 4-1 Wednesday, with member Bob Blair dissenting, to direct district staff to put the first phase of a pipeline project out to bid.

The board will consider awarding a contract in April, and if the project moves forward, construction could start as soon as May and be completed by September 2014.

In the meantime, the Supplemental Water Alternatives Evaluation Committee — formed last year to re-examine alternative ways to get additional water — has considered a range of potential projects, including the pipeline, desalination and tapping into the State Water Project.

The committee plans to present its final report Feb. 27. The committee shared its preliminary findings last week, including a ranking of various alternatives based on an 18-point scoring system.

The pipeline project garnered the highest raw score, but the committee still has some “weighting criteria” to take into account, said district General Manager Michael LeBrun.

If the committee finds an alternative “that’s quicker, faster and cheaper” than the pipeline, the board could cancel the bid for the pipeline work, he said.

Finding a supplemental source of water is necessary, district officials have maintained, to reduce over-pumping of the community’s only source of water, an underground aquifer.

The pipeline project is a phased plan that doesn’t rely on a new tax — unlike the proposal that went before Nipomo Mesa property owners last year. The first phase would connect a pipeline to Santa Maria’s water system, install it across the Santa Maria River and connect to the community’s water system. Two other phases of the project are planned to increase the pipeline’s capacity.

Last May, property owners rejected a plan to finance a $26 million project to build a pipeline to pump water from Santa Maria.

The revised plan would be funded with state and district funds, including a $2.2 million grant from the state Department of Water Resources. 

The Nipomo district board also voted 4-1 Wednesday, with Blair dissenting, to approve a proposed financing plan for the project’s first phase. Two additional phases of the pipeline are planned at a later time to increase its capacity.