Trail Alerts

For updates on work at the Harry Tracy Water Treatment Plant, please visit

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dive Into Work Underwater: An Interview with Construction Divers

Mike Sotomayor
Every morning Mike Sotomayor drives 45 minutes to work where he dons a wetsuit and hooks up his hat to multiple hoses before diving in to the freshwater San Andreas Reservoir. As a Navy-trained construction diver, Sotomayor and Underwater Quality Assurance Inspector Ken Paradis are among the few people who get to see, and sometimes only feel, the outlet structures, tunnels and pipes of the Crystal Springs/ San Andreas (CSSA) Transmission System first-hand.

Divers, with the help of cranes hoisting tools and equipment, are lining the old tunnels and “adits” with new epoxy-coated steel pipes with flexible joints. “The old structures were built in the 1920s [and] 40s,” explained Sotomayor.

Paradis added: “We used wire saws to cut out portions of the old structures and moved them to the disposal site in the reservoir.”

The Water System Improvement Program (WSIP) is seismically reinforcing and improving the reliability of the CSSA to ensure that San Francisco and the Peninsula’s emergency and supplemental water supply can be quickly transmitted to customers’ taps.

“The underwater construction associated with the CSSA project is a vital component of construction, as the outlet structures in Crystal Springs Reservoir must be available to provide raw water to the Crystal Springs Pump Station. Similarly, raw water is drawn from the outlet structures in San Andreas Reservoir into the Harry Tracy Water Treatment Plant,” said Project Construction Manager Mark Smith.

Crew helps remove hoses at the surface after a dive

Ken Paradis

The most interesting days on the job for Sotomayor have been when the precast concrete pieces arrived. The work is “like big boy Tetris” with eleven blocks up to 12 by 30 feet. “Linking the pieces underwater with rebar, measuring and properly placing the blocks to line up with the pipe, within inches, requires good visibility,” which is often lacking.
Due to sediment in the reservoirs, the divers are unfortunately not able to stand back and admire their handiwork. While Paradis dives to document that the work conforms to plans and specifications, he can only use video equipment if visibility is good. 

Paradis described how they determine the number of divers needed for safety: “There are usually only one or two divers in the water at a time” with a rescue diver or “tender” topside. “Penetration of an adit or culvert requires a second diver to be a tender outside the entrance, and if two divers are working in an adit there will be a third as tender.” He continued: “The deeper the water the less time a diver will have to perform the work.” Construction is taking place at depths up to 110 feet.

Construction divers working in San Andreas Reservoir
Divers wear video cameras, communication lines and lights on their hard hats, and primarily breathe air supplied from the barge. In a situation like this where lives are on the line, pre-dive briefings and constant communication are necessary. “We plan our dive and dive our plan,” Sotomayor recited.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Historic Lower Crystal Springs Dam Project Receives "Project of the Year" Award

Recently the Lower Crystal Springs Dam Improvements Project (LCSD) was awarded the 2013 Project of the Year (for projects between $5 and $25 million) by the American Public Works Association (APWA) Northern California Chapter.

“I want to commend the entire team for their diligent execution of this complex project in a severely constricted construction window and with challenging environmental issues that was completed on time and on budget,” explained WSIP Director Julie Labonte.

As one of the 82 Water System Improvement Program (WSIP) projects, this project included critical improvements to restore the historic water storage capacity of the Upper and Lower Crystal Springs Reservoirs to 22 billion gallons.

These improvements included more than doubling the width of the spillway at the 1880s dam, thickening and raising the height of the wall atop the dam, constructing a new, larger concrete stilling basin at the bottom of the dam to accommodate the increased flow from the wider spillway, and completing erosion control work below the 140-foot-tall dam.

“By completing these critical upgrades, the SFPUC will be able to ensure minimum water service to one million people in San Mateo and San Francisco counties within 36 hours of a major earthquake," said Project Manager Tasso Mavroudis.

The Lower Crystal Springs Reservoir System serves as the primary water storage facility for emergency back-up and supplementary water supply for the entire San Francisco Peninsula.
The LCSD project team (l-r): Ron Perkins (Peninsula Regional Construction
Manager), Tasso Mavroudis (SFPUC Senior Project Manager), Kevin Barteaux
(Project Construction Manager), Rob Wamstad (MCK Associates LLC), Russell
Gutierrez (Cooper Pugeda Management Inc.) and Jin Zhao (Environmental and
Construction Solutions)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tweet Us Your Emergency Preparedness Tips!

April 18 Marks the 107th Anniversary of the Great 1906 Earthquake

The April 18, 1906 earthquake ranks as one of the most significant earthquakes of all time. Beginning at 5:12 a.m., with the epicenter located near San Francisco, the shocks were felt as far north as Oregon and as far south as Los Angeles.

As the earthquake anniversary looms, it presents the opportunity to begin a dialogue with your family and community about emergency preparedness in your home or workplace.

This April, we are providing you an incentive to become better prepared as it relates to water. We want you to share a photo of your water-related emergency preparedness tips. Tweet us @WSIPInTheNews or email us at now until April 30, and let us know what you're doing to be a local water hero by demonstrating (via photo) or sharing your own tips.

Bay Area residents, social media influencers and city agencies who participate will receive a pen and certificate.
We will retweet your tips and publicly tweet you this certificate. All partnering city departments, Twitter fans and residents will receive this certificate and pen by tweeting us your tip or showing how your city, home or office is a local hero.

Monday, April 15, 2013

San Andreas Wetlands Spring Update

Project Update

Spring has brought new life to the San Andreas Wetlands!  California red-legged frogs, a threatened species, as well as Pacific tree frogs have tadpoles hatching in the newly created wetlands. Birds such as Killdeer are laying eggs while garter snakes slither through the grass.
Killdeer eggs in ground nest on project site.
Photo by Ilana Gauss

As crews plant native vegetation, environmental inspectors and monitors routinely oversee the area. They establish species-specific buffer zones around nests, survey egg masses in ponds, and carry out other conservation measures.
The project’s environmental inspector establishes a buffer zone around the nest.
Photo by Ilana Gauss 

Project Details

The project created four wetlands in the northern Peninsula Watershed above San Andreas Reservoir (west of San Bruno). San Andreas Wetlands will benefit the endangered San Francisco garter snake and other native and local species.

Creation of the wetlands required removal of 15,000 cubic yards of soil from the site. Non-native plants were replaced with native vegetation, including red willow, arroyo willow, western goldenrod, and iris-leaved rush.

Some construction and landscaping vehicles are expected on Sneath Lane through 2013, although most of the heavy equipment work at this site is finished.

Target completion date: Fall 2013.

Coast garter snake at San Andreas Wetlands.
Photo by Ilana Gauss
Bioregional Habitat Restoration

In conjunction with our Water System Improvement Program projects, the Hetch Hetchy Regional Water System is implementing the Bioregional Habitat Restoration Program (BHR) to provide high-quality habitat compensation for endangered and threatened species. This mitigation is designed to offset impacts from construction between the Central Valley and San Francisco.

The BHR will 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.   

Habitat restoration in numerous locations within our Peninsula and Alameda watersheds will take place from March 2012 through 2014.

Habitat restoration crew working in morning fog.
Photo by Rachel McIntyre

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sawyer Camp Trail Update

Local birders and biologists have noted that the bald eagles are no longer nesting at Crystal Springs Reservoir, but are still living in the Peninsula Watershed. While the eagles have moved on, we encourage Sawyer Camp Trail users to keep enjoying springtime on the trails!

No trail closures are scheduled at this time.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Be A Local Water Hero This April!

In the event of an earthquake, will you have enough drinking water?

The 107th anniversary of the devastating 1906 earthquake is coming up on Thursday, April 18th. 

This April, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) encourages all Bay Area residents and business leaders to take the time to discuss plans, supplies and ideas with your family and community to ready your home or office for an emergency or catastrophic event.

Be a Local Hero Contest!

This April, we want to know your tips for emergency preparedness and any precautions you and your family or office have taken to be prepared for an earthquake or natural disaster.

Tweet us @WSIPInTheNews between April 8 and 12, and let us know what you're doing to be a local water hero by demonstrating (via photo) or sharing your own tips. Participants will receive a pen and certificate. 

We'll retweet some of your tips during the week of April 15, but are encouraging your participation all month long. All cities and residents are eligible for a certificate by tweeting us your tip or showing how your city, home or office is a local hero. 

View Our Short Informational Videos on Emergency Preparedness As It Relates To Water: 

Keep a 3-day water supply just in case

View this video to learn more.

If your supply runs out, you can treat your tap water

View this video to learn more.

Locate the water shutoff valve to your building or residence before an emergency

View this video to learn more. 

For more information and to view our videos, visit or