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June completion on improvements to 3-mile tunnel under Auburn

Placer County Water Agency adds better monitoring of flows into Auburn Ravine
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Work is nearing completion on a $1.9 million project to give the Placer County Water Agency more accurate information on flows and temperatures of water coming out of the 3-mile Auburn tunnel at Ophir. The work by contractor Mountain Cascade Inc. of Livermore started this past November. Brent Smith, the agency’s deputy director of technical services, said Wednesday that work is on schedule to be completed by June. The Auburn tunnel is a key link in the Water Agency’s ability to pump water it has rights to in the American River to western Placer County for use in both agriculture and for treated water customers – particularly during outages that shut down its regular water supply from the Bear River system operated by Pacific Gas & Electric. As part of its project to build a new pump station to the tunnel from the American River, the agency developed plans to construct updated facilities at the Ophir tunnel opening off Sunset Lane. That work includes construction of two concrete vaults to be used for tunnel access, valves and a flow meter. The project is intended to allow the agency to more accurately control and record water flows into Auburn Ravine, Smith said. While doing the work, Mountain Cascade has also been removing sediment that has accumulated inside the tunnel near the outlet, improving an access road and fencing the site. Kathy Van Dam, who lives near the tunnel outlet in rural Ophir, said that she has been concerned about the noise pumps at the site running continuously, particularly as warmer weather approaches and windows start to be opened more. But she was happy to hear that the work is scheduled to be over by June. “June would be good,” Van Dam said. “Or if it ever gets nice enough to open up the windows.” Heather Trejo, an environmental specialist with the agency, said that she’s been very proud of outreach efforts that have included meeting with the Ophir Property Owners Association and the Ophir Municipal Advisory Council. Smith said much of the pumping was taking place because of efforts to comply with state water quality regulations so close to the Auburn Ravine Creek. Removal of groundwater from excavations outside a barrier near the outlet will continue, with tankers using Lozanos Road to dispose of water at agency property on Ophir Road near Werner Road.