The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is a public agency of the City and County of San Francisco that provides water, wastewater, and electric power services to the city and an additional 1.6 million customers within three San Francisco Bay Area counties. Since its creation in February 2005, the SFPUC Power Enterprise Division has supplied power to many city facilities including Muni, San Francisco International Airport as well as the Modesto and Turlock Irrigation districts.The SFPUC is also the water, electricity and wastewater utility for occupants of Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island. The SFPUC manages a complex water supply system consisting of reservoirs, tunnels, pipelines and treatment facilities and is the third largest municipal utility agency in California. The SFPUC protects its watershed properties with security utility trucks and fire apparatus painted white over green. The SFPUC provides fresh water from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir to 2.4 million customers for residential, commercial and industrial uses. Near one-third of its delivered water is sent to customers within San Francisco, while the remaining two-thirds is sent to Alameda, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties. Aside from delivering water, the agency is also responsible for treating wastewater before discharging it into the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Wikipedia.
News Article | April 27, 2017
The University of San Francisco (USF) today announced the lineup of speakers and honorary degree recipients at the university’s eight commencement ceremonies, taking place Thursday, May 18 through Saturday, May 20. Over 2300 graduate and undergraduate students will participate in the ceremonies at St. Ignatius Church on USF’s main campus. Events will also be live-streamed via the university website (http://www.usfca.edu). Hailing from the front lines of real estate, medicine, academia, politics and the Catholic Church, commencement speakers and honorary degree recipients include: Renowned director and playwright Carey Perloff from San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater and Maureen Orth, an award-winning journalist and education leader, will receive honorary degrees and address USF’s College of Arts and Sciences. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra will speak to USF School of Law graduates. All ceremonies are invitation only. Journalists interested in covering the commencement events at USF must register by contacting Jennifer Kriz at (415) 422-2697 or jkriz(at)usfca(dot)edu. Honorary Degree Recipient and Commencement Speaker: The Most Reverend Robert W. McElroy, Catholic Bishop of San Diego Named the sixth bishop of San Diego in 2015, Bishop Robert McElroy has served in parishes throughout California, and was appointed auxiliary bishop of San Francisco (2010-2015) by Pope Benedict XVI. In 2008, he served as the Lo Schiavo Chair in Catholic Social Thought at USF. McElroy is now the vice president of the California Catholic Conference and serves at the national conference of bishops. He is the author of two books: “The Search for an American Public Theology” and “Morality and American Foreign Policy.” A native San Franciscan, McElroy received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard College, and his master’s degree from Stanford University, both in American history. He also holds a licentiate in theology from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, a doctorate in moral theology from the Gregorian University Rome, and a doctorate in political science from Stanford. Friday, May 19, 9 a.m. College of Arts and Sciences, undergraduate students for humanities and sciences Honorary Degree Recipient and Commencement Speaker: Karl W. Eikenberry, Ambassador and Lieutenant General, Retired, U.S. Army Karl W. Eikenberry, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan from April 2009 to July 2011, is currently the Oksenberg-Rohlen Fellow and director of the U.S. Asia Security Initiative at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. He is also a professor and faculty member at Stanford University’s FSI Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL), the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) and The Europe Center. In addition to his work at Stanford, Eikenberry is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, where he co-directs the academy's multi-year project on civil wars, violence and international responses. He serves on multiple boards, including The Asia Foundation, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for International Relations and Politics, and the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, which aims to regenerate Afghanistan's traditional arts and historic areas. He also is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Council of American Ambassadors. Eikenberry is a graduate of the United States Military Academy and received master’s degrees from Harvard and Stanford universities. Friday, May 19, noon College of Arts and Sciences, undergraduate students for arts and social sciences Carey Perloff, an award-winning director and playwright, is celebrating her 25th and final year as artistic director of A.C.T., San Francisco’s largest theater company. Known for her innovative productions of classics and new works, Perloff has directed more than 50 productions at A.C.T. Perloff’s play Kinship premiered at the Théâtre de Paris in October 2014. Prior to A.C.T., Perloff was the artistic director of Classic Stage Company in New York and served on the faculty of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Her memoir, “Beautiful Chaos: A Life in the Theater,” about her time at A.C.T., was published in 2015 and was excerpted by American Theatre Magazine. A recipient of France’s Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and the National Corporate Theatre Fund’s 2007 Artistic Achievement Award, Perloff received a B.A. Phi Beta Kappa in classics and comparative literature from Stanford University and was a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Oxford. Friday, May 19, 3 p.m. College of Arts and Sciences, graduate students Maureen Orth is an award-winning journalist, a special correspondent for Vanity Fair, and the founder of the Marina Orth Foundation, a nonprofit foundation that promotes advanced learning in technology, English and leadership for more than 8,000 students in Colombia. As one of the first female writers at Newsweek in the early 1970s, Orth went on to publish profiles in Vanity Fair on heads of state, business leaders and celebrities, as well as acclaimed investigative reports. She has been a contributing editor at Vogue, a network correspondent for NBC News, a senior editor for New York and New West magazines and a columnist for New York Woman. She is also a contributor to The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. For her commitment to the education and success of the youth of Colombia, Orth received the McCall-Pierpaoli Humanitarian Award from Refugees International in 2015. Orth has also published two books, the best selling “Vulgar Favors” about the murder of Gianni Versace and “The Importance of Being Famous: Behind the Scenes of the Celebrity Industrial Complex.” Orth attended San Francisco College for Women/Lone Mountain for two years and completed her bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of California, Berkeley. She earned a master’s degree in journalism and documentary film at the University of California, Los Angeles. Orth’s late husband, Tim Russert, received an honorary degree from USF in 2001. Friday, May 19, 6 p.m. School of Nursing and Health Professions Honorary Degree Recipient and Commencement Speaker: Rev. Jon D. Fuller, M.D., S.J., Physician, Center for Infectious Diseases and Associate Professor, Boston University School of Medicine Founding president of the National Catholic AIDS Network, Rev. Dr. Jon Fuller is the attending physician for the Center for Infectious Diseases in Boston and manages Boston Medical Center’s program for HIV/AIDS care. He also coordinates the Research Thursday AIDS Conference series. As a Jesuit priest, Fuller has focused on how HIV prevention approaches can be analyzed and supported from the context of Catholic moral theology and serves as a consultant to international Catholic development and relief agencies on HIV-related policies. He teaches at Boston University School of Medicine, Weston Jesuit School of Theology and Harvard Divinity School. Fuller attended medical school at the University of California, San Diego, and completed his residency training in family medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. He served on the University of San Francisco Board of Trustees from 2001 to 2010. Saturday, May 20, 9 a.m. School of Law Prior to being elected as California’s attorney general this year, Xavier Becerra was a member of the United States House of Representatives for California's 34th congressional district, representing downtown Los Angeles in Congress from 1993 to 2017. Becerra also served as a deputy attorney general in the California Department of Justice from 1987 to 1990, and the California State Assembly from 1990 to 1992. Born in Sacramento, Becerra is the son of working-class immigrants from Jalisco, Mexico. He attended the University of Salamanca in Salamanca, Spain from 1978 to 1979, and earned his B.A. in economics from Stanford University. He was the first in his family to graduate from college. Becerra received his J.D. from Stanford Law School in 1980. Saturday, May 20, noon School of Management, undergraduate students in business administration Honorary Degree Recipient and Commencement Speaker: Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA, Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin served as the 18th United States surgeon general, appointed by President Barack Obama in July 2009. As surgeon general, Benjamin oversaw the operational command of 6,700 uniformed public health officers who promote and protect the health of Americans in locations around the world. She is the first chair of the National Prevention Council and a former associate dean for rural health at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine. She is also the past chair of the U.S. Federation of State Medical Boards. In 1995, Benjamin was the first physician under age 40 and the first African-American woman to be elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees. Prior to becoming surgeon general, Benjamin served patients at the rural health clinic she founded in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, keeping the clinic in operation despite damage inflicted by hurricanes George (1998) and Katrina (2005) and a devastating fire (2006). Benjamin earned a B.S. in chemistry from Xavier University of Louisiana, an M.D. degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and an M.B.A. from Tulane University. She attended Morehouse School of Medicine and completed her family medicine residency in Macon, Georgia. Saturday, May 20, 3 p.m. School of Management, graduate and professional students, Masagung Graduate School of Management Honorary Degree Recipient and Commencement Speaker: Mark Buell, President, San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission, Class of 1964 Mark Buell is a graduate of USF, a native San Franciscan and a decorated Vietnam veteran. Intrepid in the world of politics and philanthropy, Buell has spent 35 years in public and private real estate development. Buell was San Francisco’s first director of economic development under Joseph Alioto and later served as the first director of the Emeryville Redevelopment Agency from 1977 to 1985. He was a founding member and first president of the California Association for Local Economic Development and has served on the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission under Dianne Feinstein. Buell is active on the boards of many nonprofit organizations including the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the San Francisco Conservation Corps, the Bolinas Museum and the Chez Panisse Foundation. About the University of San Francisco The University of San Francisco is located in the heart of one of the world’s most innovative and diverse cities and is home to a vibrant academic community of students and faculty who achieve excellence in their fields. Its diverse student body enjoys direct access to faculty, small classes, and outstanding opportunities in the city itself. USF is San Francisco’s first university, and its Jesuit Catholic mission helps ignite a student’s passion for social justice and a desire to “Change the World From Here.” For more information, visit usfca.edu
News Article | May 5, 2017
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Crews found a 3-foot-deep void where a San Francisco street caved under a heavy big-rig truck on Friday, but they are stumped as to what caused the hole. Water is usually to blame, but crews could not find any water leaks, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission spokeswoman Betsy Rhodes said. "The culprit to create a void like that is water, but the trench is dry," she said. The massive sinkhole in the city's South of Market neighborhood developed early Friday after a heavy big-rig parked on what Rhodes said was essentially asphalt over air. The driver escaped unharmed through the driver side when his big-rig started sinking on the passenger side. Driver Alejandro Curiel told KRON (http://bit.ly/2pO6MNJ ) he couldn't believe what happened. Rhodes said the sinkhole measured 3 feet deep (0.91 meter) and 10 feet (3 meters) by 20 feet (6 meters). Crews are covering the hole with sand and gravel. Someone started a Twitter account in the name of the sinkhole and said it was just chilling. It also wished everyone a happy #Sinkholedemayo in honor of Cinco de Mayo.
News Article | May 12, 2017
The Tuolumne Collaborative was formed in August 2016 in order to help address barriers to employment, identify strategies to mitigate these barriers, and support local residents' access to career pathways and competitive paying jobs. Over the course of several meetings, a pre-apprenticeship training program was designed to prepare individuals to enter the trades for work in the public and private construction industry, including SFPUC Infrastructure projects. On May 9, 2017, the pre-apprenticeship graduates were recognized in the San Francisco Public Utilities meeting. According to San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Commissioner Vince Courtney, Jr., "We spend lots of time looking for ways to create meaningful linkages to career pathways in our industry to further policy objectives. One of the things that does not go unnoticed is that women in our Industry are some of the best examples we can find of capacity, commitment and strength." Courtney continues, "I'm proud of the fact that women, just like our current cohort, are the future leaders of our important movement." Future pre-apprenticeship programs are planned. For more information on dates and times, please contact Tony Castillo at (925) 828-2513. With over 35,000 Laborers members and 1,700 signatory employers strong, the Northern California District Council of Laborers is on the forefront of the construction industry - a powerhouse of workers and employers that are proud to build Northern California. To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/laborers-women-construction-pre-apprenticeship-training-program-300456997.html
News Article | May 25, 2017
David Hochschild knows a thing or two about renewable energy. Hochschild currently serves on the California Energy Commission (CEC), the state’s primary energy policy and planning agency. Prior to being appointed to the commission, Hochschild served as a special assistant to San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown in 2001, where he launched a citywide $100 million initiative to put solar panels on public buildings. He went on to co-found Vote Solar and served as executive director of a national consortium of leading solar manufacturers. He worked for five years at Solaria, a solar company in Silicon Valley. And he served as a commissioner at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Fresh off of his recent TEDx talk, Hochschild also sat down for a discussion this month with the solar software company Aurora Solar. Chief of Staff Sunny Wang and Content Marketing Analyst Gwen Brown spoke with the commissioner about the current state of solar and clean energy policy in California and beyond. Aurora: Do you think that California is feeling an added pressure to double-down on its climate and clean energy efforts? Hochschild: Oh, absolutely. I think the will has never been stronger than it is right now. California has the sixth-largest economy in the world and is home to 40 million people -- we're larger in many metrics than most countries in the world. I think particularly given recent events, leadership on renewables has shifted to the states. Fortunately, most of the policies that really matter -- in terms of accelerating renewable energy -- are actually still made at the state level. By that I'm referring to renewable portfolio standards, net metering, interconnection standards, rate design, state tax credits, etc., that really dictate the markets for clean energy around the country. I think the will is very strong to continue what we've started, and I have actually seen an increase in activity and interest here in California. Aurora: Speaking of renewable portfolio standards, California’s RPS sets the ambitious goal of obtaining 50 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Can you provide a quick update on where we are? Are there major hurdles for California to overcome in order to achieve this target sustainably? Hochschild: Today, 27 percent of the state’s electricity is from renewable sources; that's up from 12 percent renewables in 2008. And we're on a path not just to hit 50 percent, but to exceed it. There are hurdles to overcome, however. One of these issues is renewable energy integration. That involves a number of different levers, including energy storage, regionalization and load control options. Regionalization -- having a broader balancing area to be able to draw on and send renewable energy to -- gives you more flexibility. Load control enables us to better align electricity demand with times of high renewable energy production. This includes demand response measures, as well as electric vehicles that are designed to charge intelligently and at times of the day that support the needs of the grid. You could think of the process of achieving high levels of renewables as having two phases. The first chapter of this work was really bringing down the cost of renewable technologies. That work has largely been successful, particularly with solar and wind. The prices of solar and wind have both fallen about 80 percent in the last decade, so we’ve seen really substantial cost reductions, which are very good for the future of the market. The second chapter is integrating renewables successfully onto the grid. Another related challenge that goes hand-in-hand with renewable integration is electrification. We want to see a migration of services that are now fueled by natural gas, diesel, and gasoline to being powered by this new, clean electric grid. That's everything from vehicles -- we have 275,000 electric vehicles on the road today (a trend I am happily now participating in as of about a month ago) -- to all-electric homes, electrified rail, etc. Aurora: Continuing on the topic of California renewable energy policy, part of the California Solar Initiative that the Energy Commission is advancing is the New Solar Homes Partnership program. Can you share some updates on the program and its successes? Hochschild: The way to understand this program is that it’s really the glide path for California to reach zero net energy in [building] code. The goal originally was 2020 as our date to mandate zero net energy in code, and you don't want that to be an abrupt change. You want homebuilders already building a significant number of homes with solar before that becomes a mandate. This incentive program was created to help get that going. One of the main challenges with new construction is that the homebuilder is not the occupant of the home. The builders’ main goal is typically to contain costs so adding extra features is often not what they are seeking to do. This program helped kick-start that market, and in Southern California, about a quarter of the new homes being built today are being built with solar. Aurora: Our energy markets to date have been built around fossil fuels -- which differ significantly from renewables. From a market perspective, what will need to change about how we buy and sell electricity in order for our energy markets to function with higher levels of renewables on the grid? Hochschild: Well, I think the first realization is that along with renewables comes distributed generation and a distributed model. Where California used to have just a couple hundred power plants providing all the electricity, today we have roughly 600,000 when you count all the rooftop solar. As a result, intelligent infrastructure that's designed to allow for a friction-free market for distributed generation is essential. That includes having the ability to meter distributed generation. It also includes having smart inverters that have telemetry and voltage regulation capabilities. So, for example, we can send signals to rooftop solar systems to tell them to adjust voltage to help support the grid. I think that's one of the main changes that is needed. I also think you're going to increasingly see a movement among utilities toward more of a "pipes-and-wires" model, where their focus shifts from generation to managing the interactivity of all these other generators and consumers. We need the utilities to succeed -- I want to be clear about that. I think it's really in everybody's interest to have the utilities succeed, but what they are doing is going to change. I also think that, increasingly, the role of utilities is going to shift toward transportation. I believe the electrification of the vehicle fleet is one of the single most exciting potential developments in the next few years. It offers great promise -- not just to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our transportation sector, which is California’s greatest source of emissions right now -- but also to help facilitate higher penetration of renewables. Aurora: Do you believe it’s possible to supply 100 percent of our electricity from renewable sources? Hochschild: I absolutely believe it is possible. I think it's actually inevitable. The real question is whether we get there fast enough to make a meaningful difference on climate change. Here's the big picture. Over the long haul, basic laws of economics hold that as reserves of finite resources like fossil fuels -- whether they are reserves of coal, or petroleum, or natural gas -- become constrained, the prices go up. Technology, on the other hand, as it scales, prices go down -- whether we're talking about cell phones, flat-screen TVs, electric vehicles or solar panels. The foundational technologies of the clean energy future are all going down very steeply in price: solar PV, wind, energy storage, LED lights...that is reason for great optimism about our ability to achieve this future. There will be a lot of adjustments to be made. We're going to have to be much more nimble about things like load control, for instance. The traditional model has been that electric load (electric demand) drives electric generation -- your factory turns on, and you have to turn on a fossil-fuel burning power plant. Now, for some subset of that load, it's actually going to switch; renewable generation is going to drive electric demand. For instance, if you have a fleet of electric vehicles and you have some flexibility in the time of the day you charge them, or you have a building that needs to be cooled but you can do some precooling, you have windows of time for electric demand that can be aligned with renewable generation. That will become a much more refined science. There are plenty of other technology hurdles to cross as well -- but there is nothing about the transition to 100 percent renewable energy itself that is outside the realm of a solvable problem. It's all solvable; it's just new types of problems, and our ability to solve these problems has gotten infinitely better. I look at our capabilities and where we are in our technology development at the moment, and even if innovation were to basically halt and we were just working with current pricing and current technology, we could get to 100 percent. The good news is it's actually getting better. Every year, we're getting larger and more efficient wind turbines, more efficient solar panels, and cheaper batteries with longer duration. The technologies are all getting incrementally better every year, so I have no doubt we will get there. And now there are cities, like San Diego, and whole states, like Hawaii, that have mandated 100 percent renewable energy. San Diego is the first major city in the United States to mandate 100 percent renewables by 2035, and Hawaii has mandated it by 2045. That's already underway. Aurora: The solar industry requires cooperation between different actors, such as businesses, utilities and policymakers. In your career, you've worked in the solar energy space from many different perspectives -- including public, private and nonprofit. What are your thoughts on the state of cooperation among key solar players? Hochschild: Well, I think there is room for greater coordination in the industry. Early on, the solar industry was fractured in terms of industry associations; there were multiple overlapping associations. That has gotten somewhat better, but it is not entirely resolved. The parallel is made, for example, to the NRA. There's not a National Pistol Association and a National Shotgun Association, right? And the NRA is pretty effective. I think there is more maturing necessary, and I would like to see more "pan-renewables" advocacy and collaboration where everyone unifies around the vision of 100 percent renewable energy and the electrification of almost everything. I think there's a role for all technologies that serve that purpose, whether it be geothermal, solar, wind, or biomass energy, energy storage or electric vehicles. Aurora: Where do you think we can expect to see new or significantly refined policies encouraging solar adoption in the next few years -- either within or outside the United States? Hochschild: One area is Mexico, which the California Energy Commission has been working with quite a bit on promoting clean energy policy and sharing best practices. The CEC has signed memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with the Mexican states of Aguascalientes and Jalisco to cooperate around clean energy, and it collaborates with Mexico’s Ministry of Energy under a 2014 MOU signed by California Governor Brown and Mexican Secretary of Energy Pedro Joaquin Coldwell. We've seen some very exciting developments in renewable energy pricing, and as a result, we're now seeing Mexico think seriously about renewables. For example, they're now looking closely at energy storage -- what its role should be in the future of Mexico and what policies they should adopt. These are things that weren’t under serious consideration about two or three years ago because renewables were seen as too expensive. Aurora: What developments under these MOUs are you particularly excited about? Hochschild: One of the most exciting things is how greater participation in clean energy markets is leading to financial innovation. Banks and other financial institutions have to think about how to finance renewables and that has a cascading effect, even to educational institutions. Until recently in Mexico, you could not get a master’s degree in renewable energy. Now a university in Guadalajara, Jalisco just launched the country’s first renewable energy master’s degree program. All of these changes are happening right now before our eyes. It's changing so quickly it’s hard to track. For example, the states of Jalisco and Aguascalientes, which the California Energy Commission has signed MOUs with, have both recently adopted fleets of electric vehicles. Those are the some of the first states in Mexico, if not the first, to formally adopt fleets of electric vehicles, and that is thanks to some of the collaborative efforts between the Commission and Mexico. Aurora: What is the most innovative solar design you have ever come across? Hochschild: That’s a good question. […] There have been many of them. I've been involved in solar for my whole career, and some of the most innovative things I’ve seen were things that didn't ultimately work in the market. But, the truth is, the things that I'm most excited about are not what I'd call revolutionary innovation, but rather what I'd call evolutionary innovation. It's things that are not particularly sexy or noteworthy, but which are the incremental improvements driving the whole market. Every year, the efficiency of solar panels and inverters has been going up. The early solar panels had 5 percent efficiency, right? Now they're roughly 20 percent. The early inverters had about 60 percent efficiency --so you would lose over a third of the power just converting it from DC to AC. Now, utility-scale inverters are at 99 percent efficiency. It wasn’t an overnight change; literally every year they became 1 or 2 percent more efficient, with little tweaks and improvements. That evolutionary progress is what I find most exciting. That’s what's been working and I'm optimistic that will continue. This article was originally published on the Aurora Solar blog.
News Article | May 24, 2017
Dam engineers and safety experts say the drama that unfolded in February at California’s Oroville dam, when trouble with the main and emergency spillways led to the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents, could be a good thing for dam safety in the U.S. “The Oroville event represents an opportunity,” says Martin McCann Jr., director of the National Performance of Dams Project and a civil engineering professor at Stanford University. “The dam didn’t fail. The spillway didn’t fail. No one got killed. So, let’s count our blessings and seize the opportunity.” An expert panel of engineers this fall will present a forensics analysis to pinpoint the likely causes of the spillway failures. The more pressing concern is the lack of money to upgrade the 81,051 smaller, state-regulated dams, say dam engineers and officials. In 2015, following a record rainfall, 51 of these smaller dams failed in South Carolina. Of the 90,000 dams in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ National Inventory of Dams, 58,000 are privately owned, and some, as in the state of Alabama, are not regulated at all. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) estimates the cost exceeds $64 billion to rehabilitate the nation’s non-federal and federal dams. The combination of these factors—not just the threat of big dams such as Oroville—led the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) to give dams a D grade in its latest report card. “We watch our federal dams really well,” says Dusty Myers, president of the ASDSO and chief of Mississippi’s dam program. “Our states are really stressed.” Dam engineering and regulation has come far since the 1970s, when a series of failures killed dozens of people and caused billions of dollars in damage. Subsequent reviews showed that dam safety laws and regulations were inadequate. In response to those reviews, ASDSO was created in 1984. Oversight is “definitely stronger,” says Mark Ogden, a technical specialist at ASDSO who helped to write ASCE’s dam report card. “Some states didn’t have a program back then.” Since about 2010, ASDSO has put a new focus on learning lessons from previous dam failures. Along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the group has created damfailures.org to share information about past failures. They expect that the Oroville case will yield a wealth of new information. “You want to know the physical cause of the problem” but also what human factors may have contributed, says Mark Baker, chairman of ASDSO’s dam-failure committee. Even as improvements have been made, dams are posing an increasing risk because they are getting older—in the U.S., the average age is 56, and about 4,400 are more than 100 years old. Further, the dams were not built to today’s seismic standards, and real-life storms and new storm models show many dams are inadequate to handle heavy rainfall. Dam owners’ responsibility for public safety has expanded with the growing number of people building and living in the dam-failure flood path. In the national inventory, the number of dams considered “high hazard,” or exhibiting the potential for fatalities after a failure, has grown to 15,500 in 2017 from 10,213 in 2005. “It’s not because we are doing anything wrong,” says Bob Beduhn, director of dams and levees for HDR. “It’s that we are allowing people to live within the flood plain of the dam.” Beduhn adds that there’s a disconnect in the national flood insurance program, which doesn’t necessarily require flood insurance in dam flood plains. To tackle the ever-increasing number of dams that need work, federal agencies, utilities and a growing number of states are turning to a risk-based approach to analyze and address problems at the nation’s dams. “It would be impossible to rehabilitate all the dams at once,” says Roger Adams, chief of dam safety for Pennsylvania. By employing a risk-based approach to its 700 dams, the Corps of Engineers has avoided $7 billion of work, says Eric Halpin, deputy for dam and levee safety for the Corps. “We couldn’t afford not to do it,” he says. Major work is ongoing at several dams, including the Corps’ Isabella Dam in California, which was created in the 1950s in a remote area of the state, but now puts more than 300,000 people downstream in Bakersfield at risk. A risk analysis determined the dam needed seismic updates, had seepage issues and could be overtopped. Other federal agencies, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates the Oroville Dam, are currently incorporating risk-based practices. States and individual owners have been slower to adopt a risk-based approach because of costs and resistance from owners. The cost issue may be a red herring. Dan Wade, director of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s water improvement program, says the risk-based analysis doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. Where a large dam might have a 100-page risk-management plan, a small dam may need a three- to five-page plan. “It needs to fit the project,” Wade says. “We need to get past the concerns about cost.” However, after the problems have been identified, the biggest problem of all—funding—comes next. “We can issue orders, but what happens if they can’t come up with the funding, especially on private dams? Those are the biggest struggles,” says Jon Garton, who manages the dam safety program in Iowa. Only about half the states have some type of low-interest loan program to help pay for rehabilitation. The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation bill, signed into law last year, established a $445-million fund to remediate high-hazard dams, but Congress has yet to appropriate any money for the fund. “The only way that work is going to uptick is if funding is provided some way,” says Craig Harris, western water division director for MWH, a unit of Stantec. That’s not to say that work isn’t occurring. Communities that use their dams for water and recreation, utilities and states are spending billions to upgrade and maintain their dams. “Many communities consider their dams forever after and spend a lot of money to make sure they are operated safely,” said Mike Manwaring, business development director for Stantec’s water and dam division For the past decade or more, new seismic modeling has driven much of the dam work. Even before Oroville, there was a great emphasis on spillway work. Most dams and spillways were built based on old weather data. Now, more recent information shows that dams don’t have adequate capacity for downpours or their spillways are undersized. While it may be impossible to build all dams to withstand the 1,000-year event that occurred in South Carolina in 2015, dams can be built to be more resilient, says Hermann Fritz, a Georgia Tech civil engineering professor who led the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance team that analyzed the South Carolina dam failures. For the most part, South Carolina provided a model for what is not being done in dam management, design and operations. For example, Fritz says, there were old, unknown materials that created seams and points of failure in dams. Turbines couldn’t be operated because power failed; gates had to be opened manually in the deluge; spillways weren’t designed properly; stop logs, meant to be removed in the event of a storm, had been cemented in. “It showed all of the challenges of operation of these smaller dams,” he said. In the end, the international team that has come together to analyze and learn the lessons from Oroville represents the path forward for national dam safety and the mind-set that supports it. Says James Demby, senior technical policy adviser for FEMA’s National Dam Safety Program, “Dam safety is really a shared responsibility.”
News Article | May 24, 2017
California, Oregon and Washington are among the states moving forward with regulations and road maps for the construction and operation of building- and district-scale graywater capture and treatment systems for non-potable-water use, such as toilet flushing and irrigation. But similar rules for construction and operation of on-site potable-water systems are not yet on the regulatory officials’ radar screens. Without codes, the permitting of an on-site potable-water system becomes an approvals nightmare, say sustainability experts. Regulatory and health-concern issues related to water quality mean it could take at least 25 years for on-site potable-water systems to become the norm, said Paula Kehoe, director of water resources for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), at the International Living Future Institute’s “Living Future” 2017 conference. The ILFI gathering, held on May 17-19 in Seattle, attracted more than 1,200 registrants. “We are starting with non-potable [regulations], but, as a utility, we [also] would want to pilot innovative technologies for on-site treatment to potable-water standards,” said Kehoe. The first commercial building in the U.S. permitted to capture and treat rainwater for use as drinking water is the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s 10,500-sq-ft Brock Environmental Center, which opened in late 2014 in Virginia Beach, Va. Seattle’s 52,000-sq-ft Bullitt Center, which opened in 2013, has yet to receive a permit to operate its potable-water system, though testing is underway. Few know more about the regulatory quagmire for approval of on-site potable-water systems, especially for buildings with more than 25 occupants, than the leaders of Architectural Nexus Inc. The design firm moved into its 8,000-sq-ft renovation in February, but it has not received approval to operate its on-site potable-water system. The project, which got its permits under the alternative means and methods section of the California building code, is registered for certification under ILFI’s rigorous Living Building Challenge 3.0. Architectural Nexus got a construction permit for its potable system but lacks a permit to operate the system. The firm has installed two cisterns to collect rainwater for non-potable uses. If it gets its permit for a potable-water system, it will install a third cistern. “We can’t get a no or a yes from the state water board,” said Jeff Davis, an Architectural Nexus principal, adding that the firm is still in talks with state officials. Further, Architectural Nexus is up against a 2016 law that prevents the creation of any new small water districts, said Davis. To get a permit to operate its system, there would have to be a change in the state charter, he added. Though progress toward getting approvals for on-site potable-water systems is slow, there is some forward movement regarding on-site water capture and treatment for non-potable uses. San Francisco has a non-potable-water program that provides grants for systems that would save the city potable water, said Kehoe. And the city has an ordinance that currently requires any building greater than 250,000 sq ft to collect and treat water on site for toilet flushing and irrigation. Those projects do not qualify for grants. To date, all buildings must be connected to the city’s water and sewer system. San Francisco’s vision is to work collaboratively with water, power and sewer authorities to reap multiple benefits. “We are leading up to more complex, district-scale projects that will transform how we are living and working,” Kehoe said. Local, state and national standards are needed to move forward with water conservation and reuse, she added. All affected agencies are looking for “guidance on appropriate water-quality standards to govern on-site water reuse,” said Kehoe. Historically, public health departments have not been part of the water-use conversation. “The building code may allow water capture and reuse, but what about the health department?” Kehoe asked. “Public health agencies have felt left out of the code development process.” Toward this end, the SFPUC and the U.S. Water Alliance partnered to convene the National Blue Ribbon Commission for Onsite Non-Potable Water Systems to “advance best management practices to support the use of onsite non-potable water systems for individual buildings or at the local scale,” according to SFPUC. The commission recognizes that widespread adoption of these systems has been stymied due to institutional and regulatory barriers. The goal is to establish model state and federal guidance and policy frameworks that support local implementation of sustainable water strategies. Additionally, the commission will identify emerging business opportunities for water utilities, as more commercial and industrial customers deploy on-site water-reuse systems. At the first meeting last Dec. 14 in San Francisco, the commission brought together representatives from municipalities, public health agencies, water utilities and national organizations to begin work. Information can be found at http://uswateralliance.org/initiatives/commission/. “Change is very, very difficult, but we are excited about all the opportunities,” Kehoe said.
News Article | May 9, 2017
Collaborative partnership will see the SFPUC undertake a pilot project for responsible management of its biosolids at the state-of-the-art, Lystek OMRC-FSSD The Fairfield Suisun Sewer District (FSSD) and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) have executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to undertake a two-year, pilot project for treatment of the City's biosolids. Under the terms of the MoU, up to 5,000 tons of biosolids (per annum) generated by the SFPUC will be sent to the new, state-of-the-art, Lystek Organic Material Recovery Center (Lystek OMRC-FSSD), located at the FSSD in California, for processing. In October 2016, the new 150,000 (U.S) ton, state-of-the-art Lystek OMRC-FSSD held its Grand Opening and announced its readiness to manage biosolids production from the FSSD for at least the next twenty years as well as for other San Francisco Bay Area agencies. Many have already signed on to utilize the services of the facility. The plant is ideally situated to provide reliable and sustainable, year-round management of biosolids and organics to the entire San Francisco Bay Area. The OMRC-FSSD leverages Lystek's patented and proven, low temperature Thermal Hydrolysis Process (LystekTHP™) to divert biosolids and other organics from landfills and produce LysteGro™, a Class A quality product high in organic matter and nutrients. The California Department of Food and Agriculture has already recognized the product as a licensed fertilizer. Over time, the FSSD will further leverage the technology to optimize its digester operations and increase biogas production for green energy. "Recycling organic materials like SFPUC biosolids back into the soil is important for soil health and carbon sequestration. We are very excited to work with Lystek on this liquid fertilizer pilot," says Tommy T. Moala, Assistant General Manager of SFPUC Wastewater Enterprise. California regulations around the use and management of biosolids and organics have evolved. Once considered a "waste", leading companies like Lystek are leveraging years of sound science and research to safely divert these materials from landfills and prove their value as a renewable resource. "We look forward to demonstrating to the SFPUC that they have made the right decision to partner with Lystek and the OMRC-FSSD. This pilot project will see biosolids safely processed, recycled and marketed, as part of the movement toward a more sustainable, circular economy," says Kurt Meyer, President of Lystek. Lystek International Inc. is a leading provider of Thermal Hydrolysis solutions for the sustainable management of biosolids and organics. The multi-use, award-winning Lystek system reduces costs, volumes and GHG's by converting municipal and industrial wastewater treatment facilities into resource recovery centers. This is achieved by transforming organic waste streams into value-added products and services, such as the patented LysteMize® process for optimizing digester performance, reducing volumes and increasing biogas production; LysteGro®, a high-value, nutrient-rich biofertilizer and LysteCarb®, an alternative source of carbon for BNR systems.
News Article | October 5, 2016
ATLANTA, Oct. 05, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- When Water & Wastes Digest recognized its top projects for 2016, Mueller Co. was well represented among the winners. The Company’s Mueller® and Pratt® flow control products were used in at least two of the 10 projects recognized: San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s Peninsula Pipelines Seismic Upgrade Project and North Dakota State Water Commission’s Dickinson Finished Water Pump Station. The program honors water or wastewater projects that were in the design or construction phase over the past 18 months. The 10 winning projects were chosen by the W&WD editorial team and presented to the projects’ owners, designers and contractors during the annual WEFTEC conference in New Orleans, LA on September 26, 2016. Mueller Co. supplied a number of resilient wedge gate valves for the Peninsula Pipelines Seismic Upgrade Project, which reinforced three transmission lines to help them withstand a seismic event along the San Andreas Fault. Included in this project was the first-ever 54-inch flanged resilient wedge gate valve shipped in the Company’s history. North Dakota State Water Commission employed outside lever and weight swing check valves from Henry Pratt Company, a subsidiary of Mueller Co., for a new finished water pump station in Dickinson, North Dakota. The new pump station is needed to accommodate the growing water needs from an increased population in Dickinson and the Southwest Pipeline Project area. “We congratulate both the San Francisco Public Utility Commission and the North Dakota State Water Commission on being recognized for improving their water infrastructure,” said Gregory S. Rogowski, president of Mueller Co. “They are proactively investing in their systems to ensure that their customers continue to have access to safe, clean drinking water. We are proud to have partnered with them on these projects.” Mueller Co. is a subsidiary of Mueller Water Products, Inc. (NYSE:MWA). Since 1857, the Mueller name has been known for innovative water distribution products of superior quality. Our products, which are used throughout the water distribution system from source to customer, are specified in the 100 largest municipalities in the United States. For more information about Mueller Co., visit www.muellercompany.com. Mueller Water Products, Inc. (NYSE:MWA) is a leading manufacturer and marketer of products and services used in the transmission, distribution and measurement of water in North America. Our broad product and service portfolio includes engineered valves, fire hydrants, metering products and systems, leak detection and pipe condition assessment. We help municipalities increase operational efficiencies, improve customer service and prioritize capital spending, demonstrating why Mueller Water Products is Where Intelligence Meets Infrastructure®. The piping component systems produced by Anvil help build connections that last in commercial, industrial, mechanical, fire protection and oil & gas applications. Visit us at www.muellerwaterproducts.com.
News Article | January 14, 2016
After 12 years of diligent advocacy, local environmental and community groups today cheered the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission's launch of the CleanPowerSF community choice energy program. Shortly after 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, following the Commission's unanimous approval, SFPUC General Manager Harlan Kelly signed the first power purchase contract to officially launch the program.
News Article | April 25, 2016
A massive sinkhole appeared in the middle of a San Francisco street after a sewer line beneath it suddenly broke, according to city officials. San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (PUC) spokesman Charles Sheehan said that city crew responded to reports that a portion of Sacramento Street in the Pacific Heights neighborhood had collapsed Thursday afternoon, leaving a 22 feet long and 17 feet wide hole in its wake. He said that after investigating the situation, they discovered that an 18-inch sewer main located beneath the street ruptured and caused large amounts of water to burst out. This gradually eroded the soil that was supporting the road above and made it more vulnerable to collapse. While it is still unsure what exactly caused the break of the sewer line, the city government has already begun to replace hundreds of miles of old pipelines around San Francisco. The project is expected to continue in the next few years and cost about $1.2 billion to finish. Funding for the sewer line replacement will come from water ratepayers. The PUC will be able to accomplish its goal by increasing the length of the pipelines it fixes every year. This means its workers will need to bring the average replaced pipeline length from 6 miles per year to 15 miles. Despite the formation of the giant sinkhole, Sheehan said that there were no damages to any of the private properties along Sacramento Street. There was also no interruption to water or sewer services in the area. City crews had also repaired the damage to the sewer line and poured concrete on the massive depression in the ground. Sacramento Street was reopened to traffic by Saturday afternoon. On Saturday, the state-run news network China Central Television (CCTV) broadcasted footage of an actual sinkhole opening up in a busy road. The video shows an officer trying to divert traffic away from a crack on the street mere minutes before the ground finally collapses. © 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.