published on March 2, 2016 - 9:14 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff
Officials gathered Wednesday afternoon for a groundbreaking ceremony for Fresno’s new $186.4 million Southeast Surface Water Treatment Facility, the largest public works construction project in the city’s history.

The new facility is the flagship project of Recharge Fresno, the City of Fresno’s historic $340.2 million water infrastructure program designed to improve and upgrade the city’s network of pipelines and water system facilities.

In February 2015, the Fresno City Council OK’d a five-year water rate increase to fund the Recharge Fresno project. Earlier this year, the City of Fresno secured a $195 million U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-funded State Revolving Fund low-interest loan to pay for construction of the new water treatment facility.

On Wednesday afternoon, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, City Manager Bruce Rudd, City Council President Paul Caprioglio and Thomas Esqueda, Fresno’s director of public utilities, all delivered brief remarks at the ceremony before gathering to sign a section of 60-inch diameter pipeline that will be part of the water delivery network.

“This is truly an exciting and historic day that secures our city’s water future,” said Mayor Swearengin, who praised the members of the Fresno City Council for “being willing to stand up and do the right thing, regardless of the [political] consequences.”

City Manager Bruce Rudd also credited city council members and Public Utilities Director Esqueda for “their tireless efforts” in making the project happen.

“This is the day we acknowledge, accept and embrace the impacts of the drought,” Rudd said. “This investment insures that future generations won’t have to worry about that.”

With work already well under way at the construction site, when it was his turn to speak, City Council President Caprioglio asked the more than 150 people gathered for the event to listen to the heavy equipment operating in the distance.

“Do you hear that?” Caprioglio said. “That’s music to my ears.”

“So many people have worked very, very hard to make this day happen,” Caprioglio added.

Expected to be operational by the second half of 2018, the new facility will be capable of providing 80 million gallons of water per day and will replace as many as 50 wells.

The project will also allow the city to charge its underground aquifer and provide residents with an additional annual 72,000 acre-feet of clean, safe drinking water.

The Southeast Surface Water Treatment Facility — or SESWTF —will be constructed on a 58-acre parcel southeast of Fresno in unincorporated Fresno County.

Located between Fowler, Floradora, Armstrong and Olive, the SESWTF will be fed with surface water from the Kings River through a newly constructed 13-mile-long pipeline.

Fresno-based W.M. Lyles Co. is the general contractor for the project.

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