The city of San Diego and East County leaders have resolved a months-long dispute over a planned water recycling project, heading off a potentially expensive court fight over what to do with the plant’s waste.
The two sides are set to sign a series of agreements early next year concerning the Advanced Water Purification Project, which is projected to help make the region less dependent on outside water sources.
“I think they landed in a fair and equitable place,” said Kyle Swanson, CEO and general manager of the Padre Dam Municipal Water District, one of the plant’s main partners.
“This has been a hard negotiation, but I know everyone got out of it getting a good compromise,” San Diego Councilmember Marni von Wilpert said during an earlier committee meeting.
San Diego had previously hesitated to fulfill a promise to hand over the East Mission Gorge Pump Station in Santee because of concerns that a proposed pipeline wouldn’t be ready in time to divert from the city waste generated in East County.
Leaders of the $950 million water project said the dispute threatened to delay construction and drive up costs, and they filed a motion in California Superior Court to seize the station from San Diego.
Now, water officials have pledged to chip in about $7.8 million on top of San Diego’s promised $33 million to ensure construction of the East County Residuals Line, often called a “brine line,” records show.
The price was higher than earlier estimates because of inflation and supply chain problems, Swanson said.
It will take about 18 months to design the pipeline. Construction should be complete by 2026, according to Swanson and public records.
The entire water project should be online by the second quarter of that year, a little later than once predicted, Swanson said.
If the brine line is still not ready, or if it’s ever taken down for repairs, one agreement lays out backup options, including diverting waste to other sources.
Regular maintenance could stop the pipeline for one to three days at a time, Swanson said.
San Diego also has its own water recycling project in the works, known as Pure Water.
That project recently became more expensive after the city lost a court fight with San Diego Gas & Electric over who should pay to relocate utility pipes and other equipment.