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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