GLRID finds no 10-inch line needed: just open the valves
For the past dozen years, it was believed that the Delleker industrial park outside Portola had insufficient fire flows to support any increased development in the area. There was no help for it. The area needed a 10-inch water main — so people thought.
As it turns out, during recent investigations of the fire hydrants in question, the staff at Grizzly Lake Resort Improvement District (GLRID) found that the valves were nearly closed. Once the valves were opened to full capacity, the fire flows well exceeded the minimums required by the county for lifting the building moratorium.
It was a stunning revelation.
Juli Thompson, general manager for GLRID, described the chain of events that led to this amazing reversal.
After testing the hydrant flows in December, as is done every year, Thompson, chief operator Randy Mark and operator Jared Recasens looked at the waterline in the South Delleker area to see if they could increase flows without resorting to the 10-inch line replacement, which has proved too expensive for the small customer base it would serve.
Where the line crosses under Highway 70, it is an 8-inch main, which immediately makes a 90-degree turn to skirt a private property parcel, runs for about 60 feet and makes another 90-degree turn. These turns restrict the flow, said Mark, maybe by as much as 40 percent. He surmised that by getting an easement through the private property he could reduce the turns to 22 degrees and, perhaps, increase the flow by 33 percent.
This alone could have solved the problem. The property owner, whose parcel along Highway 70 has been virtually useless for a decade, was delighted with the idea and told them to get started on the legal work required for granting easement.
But wait — there was more. Meanwhile, Maurice Willis, chairman of the GLRID board, was looking at the test flow figures gathered in the yearly check. They puzzled him and he brought them to Thompson.
They were both perplexed. The flows from each hydrant varied dramatically; in particular, it did not make sense that one hydrant would measure 750 gallons per minute (gpm) and the next one downline would test at 1,000 gpm.
Thompson was particularly bothered by the last hydrant, near White Cap Ready Mix, that never tested higher than 750 gpm. She asked Recasens to check it out thoroughly, thinking that the connection might have been inexplicably reduced to a smaller size line. Recasens dug down to the valve and discovered that it was only open three turns. It requires 17 – 22 turns to be fully open.
GLRID staff checked the other four identical hydrants and found the same thing. Once all the valves had been fully opened, they re-ran the test — with stunning results. Now, all the hydrants were producing at higher numbers than the county’s required fire flow of 1,000 gpm sustained for two hours.
At the top of the water line, hydrant 15 tested at 1,190 gpm, the three in the middle were consistent at 1,060 gpm and the bottom one at 1,020. The 325,000-gallon water tank can sustain the flow for three hours.
This was almost too good to believe. GLRID’s test meter was an old one and was leaking glycerin. The manufacturer did not believe that it would affect the testing, but he sent the district a brand new one all the same. The readings from the new meter were exactly the same as from the old meter. The workers checked their testing procedures and found them exactly as the certified procedures directed.
Thompson and her staff brought their findings to the county and to the board. The Plumas County Planning Department said that once Eastern Plumas Rural Fire Protection District signs off on the findings, the building moratorium would be lifted. There might be other issues, like flood plain issues, for individual properties, Jim Graham told them, but water flow for fire suppression had been the main obstacle to development. The GLRID board directed representatives to attend the next Eastern Plumas fire meeting.
The board of Eastern Plumas fire was pleased by the test results and accepted them formally. Fire Chief Keith Clark, reportedly working out of town, was not available. But once his signature is in place, the report can be submitted to the county and the building moratorium lifted.
For her part, Thompson doesn’t know how the problem had gone on so long undetected. “They (hydrants) were tested every year and no one ever questioned the tests. No one questioned the discrepancies. They just didn’t look at it, I guess.”
Chairman Willis interjected, “We’ve got a general manager who cares and operators who care. That made the difference.”
GLRID still plans to reconfigure the elbow bends in the existing line, if the property owner is still willing. But Thompson said that there was no rush now because “we have the flow.”
“It’s just added insurance. If you’ve got a restriction like that, you don’t have a really good resource. You need to improve it to its maximum,” she explained, adding that the new flow tests had everyone very excited already.
The new test results are exciting to more than GLRID staff and board: Ricky Ross will not have to figure out a way to include a 10-inch water line into his materials recycling facility. Other business owners who have been considering expansion may soon carry out their plans. Holiday Market has been waiting for the moratorium to lift in order to build.
It’s also a relief to other agencies in the county who have tried, time after time, to find a means to finance a 10-inch water line. First in line is Plumas Corporation.
Plumas Corporation’s John Sheehan said he first became involved with GLRID’s need for a 10-inch water line in 1999. He expressed delight with the new test readings: “It’s always so much better to resolve things locally and I am delighted. Now a bunch of projects can go forward. It’s great.”
Plumas County Community Development Commission has also been part of the process to find a way to solve the building dilemma. David Keller was amazed. “It’s beyond belief that no one checked the valves: it should have been done years ago. Now properties in that area can be put to their highest and best use and not have that hurdle to overcome.”
Brian Morris, general manager for Plumas County Flood Control District, had also been part of the brainstorming team trying to solve this issue. Morris was in attendance at the Feb. 2 GLRID meeting when the new test results were announced.
He listed all the development projects that have been delayed or obstructed by the insufficient fire flows available to south Delleker and shook his head. “And the valves were closed…”
Thompson capped her recital of events to this reporter with: “There are other things that just have always been this way but nobody knows why. We’re looking into them. We want to know why.”
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