CORONA, Calif. – More than 100 elected officials and agency representatives gathered here Dec. 11 at the Green River Golf Club to celebrate the completion of a $92 million project to relocate the Santa Ana River Interceptor Line, a critical infrastructure facility, that will ensure the continued operation of industry in the river’s upper basins, protect wastewater operations for 2.3 million people and eventually allow Prado Dam to operate at its new increased design capabilities.
“This was a massive undertaking, a major accomplishment,” said Todd Spitzer, vice chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. “For communities at risk, this clearly provides a significant regional benefit.”
The SARI Line is a 52-inch diameter pipe designed to convey 43 million gallons of wastewater per day. It serves the sewage disposal needs of Yorba Linda, east Anaheim, Orange and portions of Garden Grove, Santa Ana and Fountain Valley. It also serves parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties and manages salt levels in groundwater throughout the region.
Over the years, erosion put four miles of the SARI Line located in the river channel in jeopardy of failure during heavy rainstorms. Recent upgrades to Prado Dam and other improvements by the Corps significantly increased the potential rate at which floodwater can be discharged into the Santa Ana River. For these reasons, the relocation of the SARI Line outside the floodplain was required.
“SARI line relocation is an important feature, a critical feature of the overall $2.3 billion Santa Ana River Mainstem Project,” said David Van Dorpe, deputy district engineer for programs and project management for the Army Corps’ Los Angeles District. “Without it, we would not be able to operate Prado Dam as intended. Residents downstream can actually live a little safer with the SARI Line in its new location.”
Van Dorpe said the increased safety is the result of the way Orange County Public Works, Orange County Sanitation District, the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, the San Bernardino Valley Metropolitan Water District and others worked together.
“When it comes to infrastructure projects, I think we work best when we work in collaboration,” Van Dorpe said. “Our infrastructure projects are complex. They often have complicated technical and political challenges or are wrapped up in regulations or opposing policies. But I also think that when we collaborate towards our common watershed goals, that is when infrastructure projects become most valuable. So whether we are talking about flood risk management, water treatment and supply, or our environment, it is our strong partnerships that keep these projects relevant to our communities and our nation.”
The Santa Ana River Mainstem project is about 85 percent complete, Van Dorpe said, and significant work remains before Prado Dam can release 30,000 cubic feet per second.
“There are still areas of the river downstream of Prado that require bank protection,” he said. “We must also ensure the safety of the BNSF railroad bridge, which travels through the canyon here and is a major connection between the ports in LA and Long Beach and all parts of the nation.”
Van Dorpe said although the SARI Line relocation is a major accomplishment, it is still only a step in minimizing the risk of flood damage.
“Today is important to remind us,” he said, “that we must not lose the momentum to complete the mission of reducing flood risk to the communities in Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties.”