The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors directed county counsel January 26th to file a writ in Superior Court challenging the City of Los Angeles’ approval of the Venice Pumping Plant Dual Force Main Sewer Project slated for construction through county-owned Marina del Rey property.
The decision to file the writ was based on the unanimous approval by the Los Angeles City Council January 12th for the construction of a dual force sewer pipeline from the Venice Pumping Plant to Via Marina and Marquesas Way in Marina del Rey, ending at the Hyperion Treatment Plant in El Segundo.
Prior to this decision, the Board of Supervisors met in closed session January 26th to consider its options, said David Sommers, spokesman for county Supervisor Don Knabe, who represents the Fourth District, which includes Marina del Rey.
“Supervisor Knabe remains absolutely opposed to the route of this project and is interested in exploring the strongest legal options the county has available, including possibly filing a lawsuit to block it,” said Sommers.
“The city has chosen to route this project not in a way that makes the most sense, but rather, route it in a way that has minimal impact on city residents and maximum impact on the residents and businesses in Marina del Rey. That is an unacceptable solution,” Sommers said.
Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the 11th District, told The Argonaut that with all of the huge new development and renovations planned in the Marina, the need for upgraded sewer services is even greater.
“Supervisor Knabe, my friend and colleague and I, have agreed to disagree,” said Rosendahl.
“Constructing the pipeline down Pacific Avenue would create a police, fire and safety issue because the street is much smaller than Via Marina.”
Using Via Marina would allow the project to be completed more quickly because the street is wider, and while there would be disruption, it would be for a much shorter period of time, Rosendahl noted.
The sewer pipeline serves the Malibu, Topanga, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, parts of Culver City and all of the Marina, with the county and other communities relying heavily on it, said Rosendahl.
The existing pipeline is now 50 years old and runs underground along Venice Beach. In case of leakage or a complete break in the pipeline, there is no fallback solution without a new pipeline to depend on, said Rosendahl.
The city project was presented by project manager Sean Zahedi and environmental supervisor Jim Doty to the Marina del Rey Design Control Board in May, and to the Small Craft Harbor Commission in November as a way to inform the community since neither of these entities have the decision-making power to vote for or against the project.
The project would take between 11 and 12 months to complete at a cost of $47 to $54 million, according to Zahedi. The official notice of preparation for the project and public comment was in May 2005.
There were three separate routes studied for the new pipeline, but Zahedi said that the California Coastal Commission would probably oppose the project being built on the beach, since environmental standards are higher than they were when the original pipeline was built.
The project requires a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well, and Zahedi said he has been in contact with the agency. Zahedi said the city would have to apply for a permit to the Coastal Commission for the project regardless of which route is used.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION —
The proposed project entails the construction of a new 54-inch diameter force main sewer that will cross Grand Canal from the Venice Pumping Plant at 140 Hurricane St. easterly to Marquesas Way, then southerly along Via Marina crossing the Marina del Rey and Ballona Creek channels to an existing coastal sewer junction structure on Vista del Mar Lane near Waterview Street. This alignment is approximately 10,400 feet long.
The new force main would operate as a parallel system in conjunction with the existing 48-inch force main, which runs along the beach, to meet current peak wet weather flows, and to add operational flexibility and reliability, said Zahedi. Construction is tentatively set for August.
Zahedi said that the new force main is needed because during severe wet weather, peak flows to the Venice Pumping Plant have exceeded the capacity of the old existing force main that carries wastewater away from the plant, with a risk of spilling onto city streets and into surface waters.
Because the existing sewer line carries all of the wastewater away from the plant and is in constant use, he said there is no way to inspect the pipeline for leaks or corrosion, or to shut it down for inspection and maintenance.
The proposed construction method is “microtunneling,” with the line’s southern-most 1,300 feet requiring trenching. Microtunneling between pits spaced 800 to 1,000 feet apart reduces the extent of the impact, and traffic through the area will be maintained at all times — one lane in each direction — with minimal detours, Zahedi said.
The existing main sewer can handle about 60 percent of the flows that could otherwise run through the Venice Pumping Plant when all five of its pumps are running at full speed, according to Zahedi.
He said that when flows into the Venice Pumping Plant exceed flows out of the plant, levels at the plant rise and will overflow directly into Ballona Lagoon if the exceedance continues. During the heavy storms experienced in the winters of 1994-95 and 2004-05, the excess at the plant has come within minutes of overflowing into Ballona Lagoon, he noted.
Two other alternatives had been considered and Zahedi said that no matter which is chosen, there would be traffic and construction disruption during the project.
The project manager explained that another alternative was using Pacific Avenue, saying there would be no easement costs since it’s within the city’s right-of-way, avoids the least tern colony, and is the shortest route in linear feet. There are also few utilities to disrupt on Pacific Avenue, he said.
But the negative aspect to that, said Zahedi, is that there are major potential transportation/parking impacts; difficulty in locating a working pit north of the channel and major opposition to the project by residents and businesses.
Placing the new pipeline alongside the existing one on the beach could prove a problem in case of a disaster such as a tsunami, and possibly destroy both pipelines, Zahedi said.
The engineering report is available online at