Freeport facility major boost for south Sacramento drinking water

7:00 PM, Apr 8, 2010   |    comments
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  • Freeport Regional Water Project
  • Freeport Regional Water Project

SACRAMENTO, CA - Motorists driving on Interstate 5 probably wonder what it is. 

For two years workers have been constructing the Freeport Regional Water Project, a massive facility on the Sacramento River near the town of Freeport.

"It's a facility designed to divert up to 185 million gallons of water a day," explained Forrest Williams.  He's the program manager for the joint venture built by the Sacramento County Water Agency and the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD).

Giant two-story pumps will pull the water out of the Sacramento River into an underground vault.  A special system will rid the water of sediment and provide enough clean water for up to 1.6 million customers.

"Eighty-five million gallons a day is for the Sacramento County Water Agency," Williams said. "One hundred million gallons a day is for EBMUD.  They will use it for a drought year supply which is expected to occur every three out of 10 years."

The deal is the result of a 38-year legal battle over water. "It started in 1970 when EBMUD acquired some water rights," said Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Creek.  "All hell broke loose because the plan was to take water out of the American River at the Folsom South Canal."

Garamendi said, "Sacramento went crazy."  Experts said the move would dry up the American River, taking endangered species, recreation and Sacramento's drinking water supply with it. 

When he served as Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Interior, Garamendi said he brokered a deal for EBMUD to divert water south of Sacramento where the water intake facility stands now.

Garamendi said the project protects the American River, the environment, and endangered species such as Chinook salmon.  "There are fish screens at this facility that keep aquatic species out of these pumps and pipes," Garamendi said.

He pointed out the river and recreation are also saved, saying the intake facility is a win-win for Sacramento County and EBMUD.

By Karen Massie,


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