Lincoln unveils lower-cost regional wastewater plan to Placer supes

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The city of Lincoln has come up with fresh figures that lop off more than half the original cost for a regional wastewater treatment solution. The system, which would pipe untreated sewage from North Auburn and Auburn to Lincoln’s plant, could now cost an estimated $92 million, Lincoln representatives told the Placer County Board of Supervisors Tuesday. That figure – which includes smaller pipes buried higher in the ground – comes after estimates of $200 million in 2008 and $140 million last year for the Lincoln-Auburn-North Auburn connection. Lincoln City Councilman Spencer Short told supervisors that the city had “taken the bull by the horns” in recent months to quarterback a plan that could quickly move forward. Bruce Burnworth, city of Lincoln engineer, said the cost reductions also reflect new studies that show less bedrock to dig through for pipelines. But he added that contractors will not know for certain until work on digging trenches starts what is actually below the ground. Both Auburn and Placer County have been hamstrung in recent years by increasingly stringent clean-water standards for effluent at their wastewater treatment plants in Ophir and North Auburn. Supervisors were told Tuesday by Facility Services Director Jim Durfee that North Auburn’s Sewer Maintenance District No. 1 – which has 5,300 residential and 2,580 commercial and industrial customers – is paying $15,000 a month in fines because a compliance deadline wasn’t met last June. Supervisors listened to the Lincoln report – as well as one from Durfee that estimated it would cost $64.3 million to upgrade the 50-year-old Joeger Road plant – but took no action on what was designated an informational item. Short and the Lincoln contingent requested that the regional proposal be put on the agenda of the next board meeting Feb. 22 but were told the county staff and supervisors wanted more time to digest the information. County Executive Officer Tom Miller said that more than two weeks would be needed to look at technical and legal ramifications. He suggested the second week in March would be a more realistic target for further discussion. With two potential, big-ticket items to consider, Chairman Robert Weygandt said he wanted to better understand the differences between the regional plan and North Auburn upgrade. Short said he’s hopeful that the board will move forward on the “fixed price” Lincoln has established. He noted that discussions have now been taking place for 16 years on a regional wastewater plan that would feed into the Lincoln plant. Bob Snyder, a former Auburn City Councilman, said he believed the regional plan being pushed by Lincoln would provide lower costs and build a more cordial relationship with the Regional Water Quality Control Board.