LA's MWD supports water tunnel between Orange, Riverside counties

Joint powers agreement to explore water, transportation tunnel between Orange, Riverside Counties authorized by MWD Board...

LOS ANGELES, May 10, 2005 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Offering a novel approach in planning for Southern California's future infrastructure needs, Metropolitan Water District today agreed to partner with Orange and Riverside counties in exploring a potential joint tunnel project under the Cleveland National Forest that would connect the counties.

The Metropolitan Board of Directors authorized participation in a proposed joint powers agreement with the counties to investigate the feasibility of a transportation and utility corridor between the regions.

"This partnership would offer a common-sense approach to exploring innovative, cooperative solutions to Southern California's infrastructure needs," said board chairman Wes Bannister.

"By bringing agencies together with vastly different objectives to work cooperatively on a potential project that might offer mutual benefits, we are paving the way for out-of-the-box thinking to prepare Southern California for future water and transportation issues," he added.

As part of this effort, U.S. Reps. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach), Gary Miller (R-Diamond Bar) and Ken Calvert (R-Corona) are securing $30 million in federal funds to study a multi-use tunnel and corridors that might accommodate individual tunnels. In addition to Metropolitan and the counties, the proposed joint powers agreement may include the cities of Irvine and Corona, as well as county transportation agencies and telecommunications interests.

A large-diameter water line that would tunnel through the Santa Ana Mountains was among the distribution system improvements Metropolitan identified in the early 1990s. In 1994, Metropolitan's board approved environmental documentation for a new water treatment plant near Lake Mathews and accompanying pipeline/tunnel project from western Riverside County to southern Orange County.

In the meantime, a tunnel between Riverside and Orange counties has been suggested as a way of alleviating traffic congestion on local highways. The Riverside County Transportation Commission and Orange County Transportation Authority have initiated a study of heavily congested freeways in an area outlined by State Route-91 on the north, SR-74 on the south, Interstate 5 and SR-55 on the west and I-15 on the east.

Metropolitan's CEO Dennis B. Underwood said a joint effort among the district and the counties during the next two to five years would enable combined technical studies of a multi-use tunnel, including comprehensive geotechnical and geologic explorations, to be completed at reduced costs. As part of the proposed partnership, the agencies would agree to cooperate in obtaining additional funding.

"In the end, it may prove to be more cost effective and cause fewer environmental disruptions to combine our efforts into a single transportation and utility corridor," Underwood said.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (www.mwdh2o.com) is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving 18 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other water-management programs.

###

More in Infrastructure Funding