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By Jim Reece

The Amador Water Agency opened construction bid proposals last week for the Amador Transmission Pipeline and the board of directors approved eminent domain actions on eight related easement negotiations, while continuing two others.

The board, in a day-long meeting Thursday, approved the eminent domain actions but said it will not yet file the court papers and will continue with negotiations. Two of the property negotiation cases were extended to this Thursday when the agency board of directors will hold a special meeting, in part to consider approval of municipal bond sales and financing requirements in the pipeline´s construction, now that the rough construction costs are known.

Engineering Manager Gene Mancebo said Friday that Ranger Pipelines Inc. offered the lowest of six bids for the construction, at $18,140,322. He said the bid packets were analyzed but would be further checked.

“We will be 100 percent done in a day or so,” Mancebo said. “Right now, they are what we call the lowest responsive bidder.”

Ranger outbid Mitchell Engineering´s $18.5 million and Mountain Cascade Inc.´s $18.7 million bids. The highest bid was $21.1 million. Mancebo said the bids were very competitive.

The agency board will hold a special meeting 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the agency office, 12800 Ridge Road, to hear a final fiscal year annual audit report and will consider adopting a resolution executing municipal bond sales. The bonds would finance building the Amador Transmission Pipeline and refinance of other projects in the Amador Water System.

Mancebo said the board likely will consider awarding the construction contract of the pipeline at its Jan. 26 regular meeting. He said the bonds, if approved Thursday, would probably start bringing in cash in 30 to 60 days.

“We´re anticipating nothing happening, as far as major construction, until March,” Mancebo said.

The eminent domain actions were approved by resolutions of necessity, all by unanimous vote, General Manager Jim Abercrombie said, after an eight-hour meeting last week. Two of the properties, owned by Gary Grant Cranfill, and Gary L. and Carol L. Timmons family trust 2005, will be subject of further discussion at the meeting Thursday.

The other parcels include property owned by Alan Coon and Cynthia Custer-Coon, Evelyn Cuneo 1992 revocable living trust, Mark S. Donnelly and Cynthia A. Donnelly, Carolyn Denise Fregulia Trust, Mavis Marie Fregulia 1992 revocable living trust, Roger E. Lewis and Rayleen S. Lewis, Billye F. Love Trust 1997, Zelda Mondani, Mary Lou Oneto and Ernest W. Perano exemption trust.

Abercrombie said two of those were settled last week and easements were purchased, while the others, with the resolutions´ approvals, are ready to file as eminent domain actions in Amador County Superior Court.

“The board directed staff to negotiate easements,” Abercrombie said. He said the board does not want to file eminent domain actions. “The board is acutely aware of the severe capacity constraints with the ditch.”

He said the AWA board believes it is in the best interest of the people to have the pipeline, though the “11 or so property interests may not agree.”

He said the pipeline is the best way to provide customers with a safe, reliable source of water.

Of the 20 properties affected by easements on the pipeline, 12 remain to be settled, he said. “We anticipate six or seven being negotiated to the other party´s satisfaction. Some property owners are asking for too much and we must protect our existing ratepayers.”

Some people in the negotiations say, “Why the rush?” he said, but the agency started the process two years ago, with the first letters going out December 2004 and follow-up letters went out last June. Some owners did not want to negotiate until after the pipeline´s Environmental Impact Report was recertified. That occurred in late August 2005 and the agency returned its court writ in September, then set appointments with customers.

“We will not pursue court actions on ones we can negotiate,” Abercrombie said. “The board wants to not use this or use it only as a last resort.”

Abercrombie said the bonds could be approved Thursday, the bonds could be priced and given interest rates on Jan. 25 and then the board could authorize construction of the pipeline project on Jan. 26.

He said the goal is to have the pipeline operational by June 2007.

Mancebo said the 8-mile, 30-inch steel pipeline would be underground throughout, except in two places where it crosses Jackson Creek. The project includes a 2-inch pipeline for irrigation on the Amador Canal, and the transmission pipeline is eventually aimed at serving the entire county, going to Sutter Creek, Ione, Jackson, Drytown, Amador City and Plymouth.

“It carries a lot of water for all of these communities,” Mancebo said.

The project stays on ranch roads and county roads as much as possible. The pipeline would go from Lake Tabeaud and cross or follow Lake Tabeaud Road and Clinton, Previtali, New York Ranch, Raggio and Running Gold roads, ending at Tanner Reservoir.

Reprinted with permission Amador Ledger Dispatch