Recharge project

LOOK AT THE FUTURE — This is an artist’s rendering of the future nature park that will be developed as part of the Upper Amargosa Creek Recharge Project. It will pipe State Water Project water from the California Aqueduct to recharge basins along Elizabeth Lake Road and 25th Street West.

PALMDALE — The la­test water infrastructure proj­ect in the Antelope Val­­ley will provide not only un­der­ground water sto­rage, recharging the un­de­rlying ground­water aqui­fer, but will also create a natural rec­­re­ation area where there is nothing but va­cant land today.

The Upper Amargosa Creek Recharge Project will pipe State Water Project water from the California Aqueduct to a series of re­charge ponds near Eliz­a­beth Lake Road and 25th Street West, where the water will be allowed to per­colate through the ground into the aquifer be­neath. Surrounding the re­charge ponds will be a na­ture park with pathways and informational signs re­­gard­ing the desert en­vironment.

The project is a joint ef­fort with the Palmdale Water District, the city of Palm­dale, Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency, the Los Angeles County Water Districts and the state Department of Water Re­sources.

Officials gathered Thurs­day near the aqueduct to mark the start of con­struc­tion on the project, wit­nes­sing workers install a dam into the aqueduct to block the water flow around the portion of the channel where a new connection point will be built.

“This one’s been a long time coming,” Palmdale City Manager James Pur­tee said of the project which began 10 years ago. “We’ve got the right location and we’re going to do the right thing for the Antelope Valley with groundwater recharge.”

“The Amargosa Creek Re­charge Project will become a model for multi-use parks in a desert environment. The project will improve the regional water re­source supply, promote fur­ther preservation of the Am­ar­gosa Creek corridor, provide the community at large with an accessible place to recreate and encourage citizens to conserve their precious water resource,” Purtee said.

The $17 million project is unique in the extent of the collaboration between var­ious agencies, officials said.

“It’s not often that a project of this magnitude kicks off, especially with mul­tiple agencies,” Gabino Velazquez, chief of the South­ern Field Division of the Department of Water Resources, said.

Funding for the col­lab­orative project includes $6.5 million from the state Department of Water Resources from Prop. 1E water bond funds, $2.5 million from AVEK, $1.25 million each from the Palmdale Water District and Los Angeles County and the remainder from the city of Palmdale, which is leading the construction.

“How often do you get all those different levels of agencies to be able to get in the same room and talk, let alone get something done like this?” Palmdale Mayor-elect Steve Hofbauer said.

At the start of Thursday’s event, the massive metal U-shaped dam was slowly lowered into place, the open end of it built with a slope to exactly match the slope of the side of the aqueduct chan­nel, said Palmdale Sen­ior Civil Engineer Mike Shah­bakhti. The weight of the dam itself, along with guide wires attached to the ground outside, will hold it in place.

The water level in the channel was already low­ered about five feet for the dam installation, he said, and divers were used to en­sure the work area was cleared of debris that could im­pede the installation. A diver also assisted in in­stal­ling the dam on Thursday.

The turnout at this point in the aqueduct will provide the connection to the 48-inch pipe that will then run to the north and east toward the recharge area in the Amargosa Creek drain­age area, to the east of 25th Street West. Valves at the turnout will control when water is re­leased from the aqueduct to be sent to the recharge ponds.

Eventually, recycled water from the wastewater treat­ment plant will also be piped to the recharge ponds to add to the underground aquifer.

“Nothing makes me happier and more excited than bringing home water for our residents here in the Antelope Valley,” Palmdale Councilman Austin Bishop said. “It’s one of the most precious natural resources we have and its going to continue to be that way, so projects like this are really important to us.”

The entire 87-acre project will also have a 38-acre nature park; 22 acres of native habitat and seven acres of open-stream channel.

“The nature park will be a critical element, not just for the neighborhood, but for the whole region,” Hofbauer said.

The park area will include a three-acre “Her­it­age Habitat,” which will pre­serve centuries-old Josh­ua and juniper trees that exist on the site, he said.

Future plans call for adding shade structures and picnic areas to complete the park.

The dual-use nature of the project is a “win-win” for residents, Palmdale Water District Director Kathy Mac Laren said.

The joint project also is expected to strengthen partnerships with the water agencies and the city, she said.

The project’s location, at the southwestern end of the Valley, means the ground­water beneath it travels to the northeast. This means that AVEK and the Palmdale Water District may use their existing groundwater wells to retrieve the water through their regular pumping.

The agencies will al­lo­cate State Water Project water to be diverted from the aqueduct to the recharge area. The ad­di­tion of this imported water to the aquifer is es­sen­tially a deposit in each agency’s groundwater ac­count, governed by a court settlement which dic­tates groundwater rights allo­ca­tions across the Valley, Palmdale Water District Gen­eral Manager Dennis LaMoreaux said.

Construction of the project is led by Palmdale, with contractors Nicholas Construction and Bowe Contractors. This phase has a very tight window for completion, as the state Department of Water Resources will only allow the restricted water flow in the aqueduct with the partial dam in place between Nov. 15 and Jan. 31, Shahbakhti said.

Work on installing the pipeline from the turnout to the recharge area may continue after that window. The project is expected to be completed in about a year.

The Amargosa Creek project is one of more than a half-dozen underground water storage projects eith­er in operation or in development in the An­tel­ope Valley, in addition to work being done to restore capacity to the Littlerock Dam reservoir.

The department is out looking for projects of this mag­ni­tude and specialty to provide grant funding, Velaz­quez said.

“People are looking to recharge the aquifer due to excessive overdraft in the past,” he said.

While similar recharge projects may be found in the Central Valley, they have not involved the cooperation of so many agencies, he said.

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