Water line solution possible by end of year

By Sarah Meyer, PNT Staff Writer

The city of Portales hopes to have a solution for isolating the water line that has broken three times in the last two years fixed by the end of this year.

Portales City Manager Debi Lee said the city has issued a request for proposals to engineers to design a “loop line” with valves that can isolate breaks while allowing water to flow to the affected areas of the city.

Bids for the planning will be opened May 6; an evaluation committee will meet “minutes after opening the bids”; and awarding the bid will be on the City Commission agenda that evening, Lee said.

The “loop line” likely will be a looped system, with tie-ins to existing lines that can be isolated by valves in case there is a break. The water line in question runs roughly along U.S. 70.

The most recent break in the 24-inch line occured April 7, spilling 750,000 gallons of water on U.S. 70 and throughout residential streets on the west and south sides of town, and shutting off the water supply for 12 hours in the west part of the city.

Public works director Tom Howell told councilors during an emergency meeting April 10 that city officials believe there are three possible reasons for the breaks. He said the line, which was installed in the late 1980s or early 1990s, was not bedded in sand and in many areas is in direct contact with caliche rock. He said the fact that the portion of the line that has experienced the problems is near the railroad bed could also be a contributing factor.

The other possible cause is that water demand created by pumps at plants in the industrial park may be causing the line to be jolted when that demand suddenly increases or decreases.

Lee said officials estimate that engineering to fix the problem will cost $149,000; valves around $680,000; and the looped system $1,322,500.
The city anticipates awarding the bid for construction in mid-August and having the work finished by Dec. 31, Lee said.

Last week, she hand-carried an application to Santa Fe for funding in the amount of $2,151,500 for the project. She anticipates the funding will be approved in grants and/or loans.

Mayor Orlando Ortega also submited a request, hand-delivered to Sen. Jeff Bingaman, R-N.M., for $780,750 for the project.
Lee said the city will try to complete the project without a rate increase for customers.