Here is the inevitable press release (link):
Water Main Replacement to Begin – On Monday, August 11, 2014, construction will begin on the replacement of the existing water main in North Mountain Trail Avenue. The existing main was installed in 1928 and has been subject to multiple serious leakage incidents in recent years.
A new 12 inch diameter ductile iron water main will be installed for the entire length of North Mountain Trail Avenue, from Sierra Madre Boulevard to Mira Monte Avenue. The Contractor, Stephen Dorek Equipment Rentals will be notifying individual project neighbors of the pending construction work. While every effort will be made to minimize inconveniences to neighboring residents, some impacts are unavoidable. The Water Department apologizes in advance for those inconveniences and asks for community patience with the project. The result will be a more reliable water distribution system.
Motorists are advised to take alternate routes. Construction activity will take place weekdays between 7 AM and 4 PM and the project is expected to be complete October 8. The Contractor will make provisions for trash pickup and vehicular access for residents of the project area. Questions regarding the project may be addressed to Bruce Inman, Director of Public Works at firstname.lastname@example.org or 626.355.7135.
There is nothing in this press release about where the money necessary for this lengthy project is coming from. And the assumption some might be making is that this is the result of our most recent water rate increases. That would be an unfortunate mistake. Because in reality the money is coming from Washington DC, and has been on its way for quite a while at that.
Here is how the Los Angles Register explained it a couple of weeks back in an article called "Local water projects tap Bush-era bill" (link).
About 2,500 feet of underground steel pipe, the concrete lining of which has worn away, will be ripped up to make way for new pipes, fire hydrants and water meters. The repair is expected to take two months.
“Our water main system dates back to the late 1920s and has become almost famously unreliable, as seen by major leakage and significant damage to the street,” said Sierra Madre Public Works Director Bruce Inman.
The project is partially funded by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, made available through the 2007 Water Resources Development Act. The federal bill set aside $23 billion for more than 900 nationwide projects and programs, including $25 million for a Los Angeles River revitalization study.
Just so you know.
While it is all tax money, and ultimately comes out of the hide of we the taxpayers, it is nice to think that the Feds care enough to help with those nagging water main problems that have bedeviled us for so long. But what is troubling is the notion that unless we continue to get this kind of dough nothing much else will ever get fixed. Again from the Los Angeles Register:
Sierra Madre’s long-term plan is to repair water transmission lines one by one as money becomes available, officials said. This is the second main to be replaced but the first to receive funding through the federal bill.
You might recall that the previous water main repair took place on an eastern stretch of Sierra Madre Boulevard a few years ago, and was funded by money taken from Sierra Madre's now vanished Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). A source that today no longer exists.
Now correct me if I am wrong, but wasn't one of the reasons the recent water rate increases happened was to accumulate the cash necessary to fix infrastructure such as that on Mountain Trail? This from a water fund PowerPoint presentation put out by the City during the recent run up to the latest water rate increases:
So then why would the City be waiting for more money to become available to take care of all of those other water mains that need to be replaced? The water rate increases did go through, so therefore those revenues are now being set aside to raise up on high the water infrastructure for the rest of Sierra Madre as well, correct? Perhaps not.
There were two other items on that "Water and Sewer Fund - Concerns" list. They might be more to the point.
The Water Department, as you know, is the home of that $37,800 a year health care plan that has been discussed here so often. One that many believe is the highest of its kind in California. So #5 could certainly be playing a role here.
So where will future water main repairs be getting their funding? According to this Examiner article, it probably won't be coming from Uncle Sugar any time soon.
At the time it was passed, the Water Resources Development Act faced intense opposition from the executive branch. President George W. Bush vetoed the bill in November 2007, saying that the money allotted to such projects had more than doubled.
“The House of Representatives took a $15 billion bill into negotiations … and emerged with a Washington compromise that costs over $23 billion,” Bush said in a 2007 statement announcing his decision to veto. “It is not fiscally responsible.”
Bush also objected to the lack of priorities in the bill, which he said threw funds indiscriminately at local counties without debating the value of each project or which should receive funding first.
While the bill ultimately passed, gaining enough votes to override the presidential veto, new legislative reforms since have cracked down on earmarks and riders, which members of Congress insert into federal spending bills to fund projects in their home constituencies.
In 2010, the House Republican Conference approved a ban on earmarks that is still in effect.
“The whole appropriations process has been changed due to congressional reforms, so we haven’t gone back yet to request more,” Inman explained when asked about future grants to Sierra Madre.
“We’re sort of waiting for the dust to settle.”
Just the way things go, I guess. Maybe this will take another bond sale or something.