Friday, May 19, 2017

Photo Friday at the Calaveras Dam Replacement Project

Did you ever look at a photo of yourself or a family member from a long time ago and compare it to a recent picture? For today’s Photo Friday, we decided to do just that for the Calaveras Dam and its replacement.

Calaveras Dam in 2011. The project groundbreaking was in 2011. 

Calaveras Dam in April 2017. The project is more than 80% complete. We have moved more than 8 million cubic yards of rock and soil to date. We have fully excavated and grouted the left and right abutments. And in the center of the picture, the core of the new Calaveras Dam begins to take shape.  The huge concrete spillway (as wide as a freeway) is visible at the lower right. Wow.

Construction on this project started in 2011 and is expected to be complete in April 2019.

To learn more about this project and see a time lapse video of all of this excavation, visit us here.  

See you around the Valley!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Photo Friday for the Birds

While this author spent time in the Sunol Valley this week, she spied an amazing bird. 

Sitting atop the construction fencing that keeps small (crawling) critters out of the construction site, was a bird with flaming yellow plumage accented with black.

This striking fellow (and yes it is a male, the females are much more subdued in color) is a Bullock's orioleThe Alameda Watershed is home from spring through summer to Bullock’s orioles, like this first-year male. They'll winter in Mexico or Central America before migrating north again next spring.

They dine on insects, fruit, and raid the occasional humming bird feeder for the nectar. 

See you around the Valley!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Honoring Construction Safety Week in the Sunol Valley

With so much heavy construction work underway in the Sunol Valley, it is easy to forget that the men and women in the construction industry perform dangerous work often in difficult conditions to upgrade the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System.

It is a good thing that the construction teams working on the two projects in full swing in the Sunol Valley keep safety in mind every single day.  However, this week was a little different. The teams at the Calaveras Dam Replacement Project and the Fish Passage Facilities within the Alameda Creek Watershed underwent additional trainings and reminders this week.


The first week of May is National Construction Safety Week.  Global construction industry leaders, including our contractors, joined together to form industry safety forums and an initiative called ‘Safety Week.’ The mission of Safety week is to raise awareness within the construction industry ensuring “We are Stronger and Safer Together.”

How strong?

Here in the Sunol Valley, the number of recordable workplace incidents is well below the industry average. At our Fish Passage Project, workers have clocked in over 70,000 work hours since April 2016 with zero recordable incidents.  At the Calaveras Dam Project, the largest project in the Water System Improvement Program has worked over 220,000 work hours since July 2016 with zero recordable incidents. 

Working in heat and rain, on large earth-moving equipment or in tight spaces next to a creek, our crews are showing that every week is safety week.

We are proud of our teams out in Sunol Valley! Stay safe out there.

Crews overseeing operations at the future Fish Passage Facilities

Center of photo shows construction crews at Calaveras Dam placing
Clay Core materials in the replacement dam at elevation 567 ft 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Butterflies, Gates and Sleeves, Oh, My!

What do butterflies, gates, cones, balls, and sleeves have in common?

They are all types of valves used to control the flow of water through pipelines.  Instead of our usual Photo Friday, we thought we’d take the time to honor this under- appreciated, but extremely important, feature in our water system.  For the record, a valve is a mechanical device that blocks a pipe either partially or completely to change the amount of fluid that passes through it. And we at the SFPUC couldn’t operate much in the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System without them.

Here at the Calaveras Dam Replacement Project, we are installing all sorts of  valves to control the flow of water from Calaveras Reservoir for different purposes. Each valve is specially designed to control water in a specific way without damage to the surrounding pipeline. So, let’s geek out about valves!

ButterflyA butterfly valve is a disk that sits in the middle of a pipe and swivels sideways (to admit fluid) or upright (to block the flow completely). It can also open partially to carefully calibrate the amount of water flowing through the pipe.

We are using a 48-inch diameter butterfly valve to control the flow of water to a temporary supply line for the Sunol Water Treatment Plant.

The Sleeve. The Bailey valve sleeve valve reduces water pressure and controls flow by diverting the water through multiple holes located within the sleeve and discharging to the atmosphere or a body of water. The valve controls flow by sliding one pipe called the gate over another pipe called the sleeve.

One of the Bailey sleeve valves installed in the building that will provide a steady stream of water to Calaveras Creek.

The Ball. In a ball valve, a hollowed-out sphere (the ball) sits tightly inside a pipe, completely blocking the fluid flow. When you turn the handle, it makes the ball swivel through ninety degrees, allowing the fluid to flow through the middle of it.  

These serve a similar purpose as the butterfly valve to calibrate the amount of flow.

The Cone. The body of the fixed cone valve is a tube with a cone in the end welded with some grooves.  Another tube acts as the closure member. This slides over the body groves in a linear movement to regulate until making contact against the seat of the cone when the valve is fully closed. 

This valve is not unlike your bathroom faucet, only in our case, a whole lot larger.

The fixed cone valve is used to discharge water at high pressure from reservoirs or full pipes into the atmosphere.  The flow towards the exit of the valve is not converging so that the discharge is in the shape of a hollow jet. 

The fixed cone valve at Calaveras Dam in operation January 2017.

The Gate. Gate valves open and close pipes by lowering metal gates across them. Most valves of this kind are designed to be either fully open or fully closed. Meaning, unlike the butterfly or ball valves, gate valves tend not to provide controlled flows of water, but either turn the flow completely on or completely off.

Two of the gate valves installed in the water supply discharge line from Calaveras Reservoir.

See you around the Valley!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Spring Wildflower Festival Draws Crowds to Sunol Regional Wilderness

This past weekend, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) joined an estimated 1,000 attendees at the 2017 Spring Wildflower Festival, hosted by the East Bay Regional Park District.

The beautiful sunshine, wildflower blooms, nature hikes, and live music drew families from all over the Bay Area to Sunol Regional Wilderness. Over 300 kids stopped at the SFPUC resource booth to create their very own personal paw print necklaces while staff shared information to residents about our Sunol Valley projects underway including the Sunol Yard upgrade, construction of the Fish Passage Facilities Project within Alameda Creek Watershed and the Calaveras Dam Replacement Project.

We hope that you were able to experience this awesome event and enjoy the wildflower season as much as our staff did. See you around Sunol Valley!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Join Us at the 2017 Sunol Wildflower Festival

It is wildflower season in the Sunol Valley! Come enjoy the wonderful blooming flowers at the annual Sunol Wildflower Festival hosted by our friends at the East Bay Regional Park District.

When:  Sunday, April 9, 2017 from 11am to 4pm
Where: Sunol Regional Wilderness, 1895 Geary Road, Sunol, CA
Cost:    Free admission ($5 parking)

The festival is a fun family day out.  Learn about watershed animals, wildflowers, and grasslands. Enjoy the beauties of spring in one of the East Bay Regional Park District’s crown jewels at the Sunol Regional Wilderness.

We at the SFPUC are looking forward to it. Stop by and visit us at our booth. Get the latest and greatest information on all of our ongoing projects. Flaunt your Alameda Creek Watershed knowledge and win a prize! Fun crafts for the kids. 

We hope you see you on April 9th where the wildflowers grow!

For more information about the festival, visit

Friday, March 24, 2017

Spring at San Antonio Reservoir

Happy Photo Friday!

Anybody passing through the Sunol Valley these days can't help but notice that spring has sprung.  The hillsides are vibrant green. Wildflowers are starting to make their colorful appearance. 

And SFPUC Watershed Keeper Pat is out on the watershed, as usual. Today's Photo Friday is courtesy of Pat, who shared this early morning picture from San Antonio Reservoir.

Happy Spring, Everyone!