Thursday, June 21, 2012

What's Next?

What do the San Francisco Giants and the New Irvington Tunnel have in common?  Last week they both achieved significant milestones!

For the Giants, Matt Cain pitched the first perfect game in team history.  Afterwards his teammates rushed onto the field and celebrated his incredible accomplishment.  For the new tunnel, two teams of miners completed a major tunnel section deep underground.  After the hole-through, miners shook hands somewhere under the mountainside to celebrate 13 months of grueling and hazardous work.

So what’s next? For Matt Cain it was an appearance on David Letterman and win against the Los Angeles Angels.  For the miners it’s more challenging work underground.

At the Irvington Portal miners will install a 102-inch diameter steel pipe that will eventually carry drinking water from the Hetch Hetchy system to 2.6 million Bay Area customers.  The pipe, manufactured in California, is installed in 50-foot sections and welded together inside of the tunnel.   Pipeline installation is expected to take three months. 

Towards the end of this year, the final shutdown (24/7 period) period will take place to install the last connection from the Bay Division Pipelines to the new tunnel.  After the winter shutdown, the remaining major construction items are the installation of above ground portal facilities and security measures and site restoration. 

The much longer 14,400-foot Alameda West-Vargas tunnel segment is currently being excavated and is expected to hole through in fall 2013.  After that 102-inch diameter steel pipe will also be installed and welded together inside of the tunnel.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Habitat Restoration Begins in the Sunol Valley

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is currently implementing projects as part of the Bioregional Habitat Restoration (BHR), formally known as the Habitat Reserve Program. This will provide high-quality habitat compensation for endangered species and will mitigate for construction impacts related to the Water System Improvement Program (WSIP). This is a unique approach to mitigation for WSIP construction project impacts and is combined into one suite of projects. This pooling of resources maximizes our ability to make significant habitat improvements for rare and endangered species.

Construction is now underway on two projects in the Alameda Watershed for the BHR. Starting today, there will be an increased level of construction activity as well as additional construction traffic within these project areas, so please plan accordingly.

Work hours for both projects are Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Goldfish Pond Restoration
This project will work to enhance the existing Goldfish Pond, rebuild the embankments, plant over 10 acres for the various wetlands and create five acres of riparian habitat. This project is located east of I-680 in the areas encompassed by Calaveras, Felter and Marsh Roads.

The existing Goldfish Pond being restored.

San Antonio Creek Restoration:
This project will restore and reconfigure a 1.8-mile reach of San Antonio Creek and a ½-mile of the nearby Indian Creek. The restoration will also include installation of a new bridge to establish a creek crossing, installation of multiple grade control structures to create habitat, improvement of the stream bank stabilization with planting, and establish over 80 acres of oak savannah and riparian habitat. This project is located east of I-680, off Highway 84 to the Livermore exit at Vallecitos Road.

Overhead view of a portion of the San Antonio Creek restoration area.

The BHR includes the development of compensation sites to preserve, enhance, restore or create approximately 1,800 acres of tidal marsh, vernal pools, sycamore and oak riparian woodland, oak woodland and savannah, and serpentine and annual grasslands. It also includes the design, environmental permitting, construction, construction management, maintenance and performance monitoring during a three-year plant establishment period and up to 10 years of performance monitoring.

For more information, please visit the project webpage.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Road Header Rendezvous

9:46 AM June 12, 2012

Inside of a 13-foot diameter hole carved into the Alameda foothills, crews waited yesterday morning staring at an imposing rock wall.  A moment later, as if it came from within the mountain, a spinning titanium studded knuckle broke through. It moved back and forth and up and down until the wall disappeared.  What happened next was a long time coming: two crews, dressed in identical hard hats, headlamps and goggles stepped through the new hole, shook hands and then shared a laugh.

Video Captured with Permissible Camera

After 13 months of digging the New Irvington Tunnel from four separate tunnel headings, miners from two of the headings met up with each other underground today. Called a ‘hole-through’ in tunneling terminology, the road header teams from the Irvington Portal in Fremont and the Vargas Shaft 4,500 feet away shook hands somewhere under the mountainside and formally completed this section of tunnel excavation.

The road header holes-through the rock face

Miners at the Irvington Portal watch the road header hole-through from the Vargas Heading 

Miners celebrate their achievement
Photographs by R. Scheswohl ©2012 SFPUC, All Rights Reserved

The tunnel is excavated using conventional mining methods including a road header (a tracked tunneling machine) and, in sections of hard rock, controlled detonations.  In May 2011, a 55-ton road header was lowered down the 115-foot Vargas Shaft and began to grind its way west.  A month later, miners at the Irvington Portal in Fremont began tunneling east and set the two crews on a collision course.  

Following today’s hole-through, miners will prepare the tunnel for the installation of 102-inch diameter steel pipe.  The pipe, manufactured in California, is installed in 50-foot sections and welded together inside of the tunnel.   The much longer 14,400-foot Alameda West-Vargas tunnel segment is currently being excavated and is expected to hole through in fall 2013.  Construction of the entire project is scheduled for completion in fall 2014.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Final Road Header Rendezvous Challenge Entries

All entries are in for the Road Header Rendezvous Challenge.  Thank you to all that participated! As of today, miners are within 120 feet of holing through!

Project neighbors, tunnel enthusiasts and the general public all tried figure out when the Irvington-Vargas hole-through would take place.   Entries ranged from June 1 through July 20.  Here’s a look at the final entries:

The winner will be the person that correctly guessed the day and timeframe when tunnel crews meet underground.  If no one selects the square with the date and time of the hole-through then the “Price is Right” rule goes into effect.  The person with the closest selection without going over is the winner. 

For example:

Jane from Fremont selects June 22 6:01PM – 12:00 AM
John from Sunol selects June 23 12:01 PM – 6:00 PM

The actual hole-through takes place on June 23 between 6:01 AM – 12:00 PM.  Jane is the winner because she guessed closest to the actual hole-through without overshooting her estimate.

The winner of the challenge will be contacted by the SFPUC and receive a prize pack featuring local gift certificates and SFPUC gear.

If you didn’t get a chance to participate in this hole-through challenge you’ll have another chance.  The main hole-through of the 3.5 mile tunnel will take place sometime in 2013.  Only 9,533 feet to go!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Calaveras Dam Replacement Project Air Monitoring Results

The replacement of Calaveras Dam will require the movement of more than 7 million cubic yards of rock and earth, a portion of which may contain Naturally Occurring Asbestos (NOA). Construction activities could cause asbestos fibers to become airborne, which could present a health concern. We have put into place an extensive dust control and air monitoring program to ensure that we are not exposing any members of the public to increased levels of Naturally Occurring Asbestos. We have monitored background air quality levels in the area prior to construction for more than two years. We will continue to monitor air quality at perimeter and ambient air quality monitoring stations and will make the data available on this website. Protecting the health of our workers and the public is our utmost priority.

To view the latest air quality monitoring results, click on our website here. Results are updated weekly and data is archived on a quarterly basis for the duration of the project. See map for monitoring locations and Q&A about how to read the graphs and data.

Naturally Occurring Asbestos found in Natural Rock Formation

For more project info, contact us at our 24 hour answer line at (866) 973-1476 or email

Friday, June 1, 2012

Look How Far the Water System Improvement Program Has Come

The Water System Improvement Program (WSIP) is $4.6-billion of infrastructure upgrades, including more than 80 projects located in six Bay Area counties to ensure the highest quality drinking water and a reliable water supply to customers following an earthquake. These seismic improvements include dams, tunnels, pipelines, treatment plants and many more facilities that serve 2.6 million Bay Area customers. 2011 marked the start of the WSIP’s most active construction year to date. As of March 31, 2012, 55 out of 81 local and regional projects have been completed. All WSIP projects are forecasted to be complete in 2016. To view our progress and learn more about our water system, check out our video of water system improvements in your area here: