Emergency generator for Laguna Beach sewer system boosted by FEMA grant

A file photo of construction on a section of the North Coast Interceptor near South Coast Highway and Nyes Place. (Courtesy of Laguna Beach)

The Laguna Beach City Council unanimously approved a pair of contracts on July 13 worth $282,500 for the engineering and construction of a new emergency power generator for a downtown sewer lift station that moves a million gallons of wastewater per day.

The emergency generator is critical infrastructure for Laguna Beach because it ensures the sewer system will continue running even during a power grid outage. This work is largely funded by a $256,567 grant from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and Federal Emergency Management Agency Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

“The lift station was constructed in the late 1980s and its existing onsite emergency backup is original equipment of the facility,” David Shissler, director of water quality wrote in an email Tuesday. “While it is old, it has clocked relatively few running hours.”

Shissler added the replacement generator comes with greatly improved technology, efficiency, and fume emission controls.

The newly-approved line items include a $258,000 construction contract with California Building and a $24,500 contract with San Diego-based Engineering Partners Inc. for engineering and inspection service during the construction. The City Council also decided to set aside a $50,000 contingency for unforeseen circumstances.

Councilmembers also agreed with city staff’s recommendation to transfer almost $30,000 in savings from the Private Sewer Lateral Program to help pay for the project.

Laguna Beach configured its large lift stations so they’re continuously connected to emergency power sources. In the event of a primary power system failure the emergency backup generator automatically starts, Shissler said. At that point, city staffers would immediately deploy a second generator to provide a backup in case the first generator fails.

Southern California Edison hasn’t used a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) during high winds in Laguna Beach in recent memory—these shutdowns have been used throughout the state as a precaution to prevent wildfires sparked by downed power lines. However, as drought conditions persist across Southern California, many residents and agencies are concerned about having their power shut off for hours, if not days.

“The backup generation is critical because we are in an area affected by PSPS, we are still vulnerable to PSPS,” Emergency Operations Coordinator Brendan Manning said.

Laguna Beach public safety agencies are always in contact with electric utility companies ahead of scheduled outages, Manning said. City staffers routinely pre-deploy emergency generators to service sewer lift station in neighborhoods expected to be hit with high winds that could knock out power.

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