A financial “disaster” is staring the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission in the face, as The City’s provider of drinking water and public electricity has $467.7 million worth of work to do over the next decade on the network of pipes and tunnels that delivers water from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir — and no immediate way to pay for it all.
“It’s a description of a disaster,” SFPUC commissioner Anson Moran said Feb. 11. “It’s not a plan for survival. … We need a 10-year plan. And we don’t have one.”
Driving the deficit is the recently discovered need to rebuild or replace a 12-mile-long underground conduit called Mountain Tunnel. Continuously in service since the 1920s, with only “minimal” maintenance done in that time, the tunnel delivers 85 percent of the 265 million gallons of water the SFPUC provides a day. It also connects The City’s main hydroelectric power station with its water source in Yosemite National Park.
Inspections conducted last summer revealed the tunnel needs to be repaired or replaced.
The SFPUC needs $628 million or more to fix the tunnel, a major unexpected cost that is leading to a budget deficit agency officials have dubbed a “fiscal cliff.”
No funding source for the repair has yet been identified, but some potential solutions include the SFPUC, which sells most of the water it delivers to cities such as Palo Alto and San Jose, adding customers. The agency could raise rates on existing customers, including The City’s homes and businesses.
The SFPUC plans to make a decision by June, agency General Manager Harlan Kelly said.
The sudden news of Mountain Tunnel’s fragility, which comes after much of the Hetch Hetchy water system underwent a major seismic-safety upgrade, was “sudden and alarming,” according to Nicole Sandkulla, CEO of the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, which represents the 1.7 million people on the Peninsula and in San Jose who buy water from the SFPUC.
The earliest the tunnel could be repaired or replaced is 2022, according to SFPUC documents.
In the meantime, the SFPUC needs to craft a short-term emergency plan in the event the tunnel collapses, Sandkulla said.
That could come as early as March, before the blueprint for a long-term fix is due in June.
“It’s a single conduit through which 85 percent of our water” is delivered, she said. “Without it, we’re cut off … That’s pretty significant.“
The comments that followed this online article also shared below:
SF has an $8 Billion annual budget but can’t afford to repave streets without a special bond. So is this story surprising to anyone?
In many ways we’re just like Detroit with a much bigger budget. Meanwhile we give away $500 million per year of taxpayer money to non-profits who are not accountable to taxpayers. That amount of money could buy a lot of infra structure on a CASH BASIS. – Missiondweller
Plan Bay Area and its government funded high density housing development will eventually bankrupt the state.
The legislature passed a bill that gives Plan Bay Area $300 Million over the next 20 years. The taxpayers are getting royally hosed by this plan. Don’t tell me there’s a budget shortage. – Stop Plan Bay Area Now
oh dear. just borrow some funds from the dpw and the sfmta.
they are rolling in it, double time, triple time.
for the city, an ’emergency’ repair is the ticket to paradise. – Please don’t sit and lie
Got debt and a U.S. Mint, but no revenue. The loss of 85% of the water supply, resulting from the San Francisco culture of corruption and deferred maintenance could occur anytime. – Awayneraramsey
More and more like a 3rd World country everyday. Keep electing the same failures to lead and the city is doomed. -sfsoma
As is typical in San Francisco, critical infrastructure maintenance is endlessly deferred so that the City can fund the important priorities such as gigantic municipal worker pensions, funds for an endless stream of parasitical non-profits dispensing their questionably effective services, $1.7 billion streetcar tunnels and whatever else the clowns in City Hall deem worthy.
When DiFi was mayor in the late 70s, she began the habit of diverting surplus money from the S.F. Public Utilities Commission, a practice which has continued to this day. Thus, instead of creating a “sinking fund”, the City’s response to the clapped out water and sewer system was an enormously expensive bond. Typical. Well, when a city is run by a leftist cabal for over 40 years you can’t expect anything more. – David Zisser
Have the folks at SFPUC considered a bake sale? – Sam Rivers
Your thoughts here?