Rim Fire Damages SF Water And Power Systems To Tune Of $30 Million

Damage to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission water and power system near Yosemite National Park where the massive Rim Fire has been burning since mid-August is estimated to be between $20 million and $30 million, a PUC spokesman said.

Facilities at the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and hydroelectric powerhouses in the area were damaged in the expansive fire costing a preliminary estimate of up to $30 million, spokesman Tyrone Jue said.

The reservoir provides service to about 2.6 million San Francisco area residents, according to the PUC.
He said a full damage assessment has not yet been completed, but two of the three powerhouses are online, while the third Holm turbine remains offline.

Crews are working repairing the roof and re-establishing transmission lines, he said, now that the fire has reached a point where workers can safely access facilities and grounds.

The Kirkwood Powerhouse sustained minimal damage and was back online earlier this week. Moccasin Powerhouse was generating power throughout the blaze, he said.

He said crews are also working on clearing roadways of hazardous debris and ensuring all parts of the watershed are secure.

A multi-jurisdictional group, which includes the U.S. National Park and U.S. Forest services and SFPUC, has been meeting to coordinate restoration efforts in the area.

Jue said insurance is kicking in to fund initial repairs, while state and federal funding will be sought for more long-term restoration.

The city spent about $900,000 on purchasing other power sources during the shutdowns, Jue said.

Water service was unaffected by the blaze and normal delivery methods have been in use and the water quality remains safe, he said.

Since firefighters have gained the upper hand on the blaze this week, the PUC was able to send workers to the reservoir where the first batch of results indicated normal water quality.

Previously, monitors at the reservoir were providing data to PUC officials about water quality, including turbidity or cloudiness.

The Rim Fire, which is the third-largest wildlife in California history, was sparked by a hunter’s illegal fire near the Jawbone Ridge area in Stanislaus National Forest on Aug. 17, according to Cal Fire and U.S. Forest Service officials.

It spread into Yosemite, and destroyed Berkeley’s Tuolumne Family Camp near the park entrance. As of this morning it had burned 246,350 acres and was 80 percent contained.

Full containment is not expected until Sept. 20, according to the forest service.

There remain 1,900 homes threatened by the blaze, however many evacuations for communities in the area have been lifted in the past week. This afternoon state Highway 120, the main road into the national park, reopened, according to the forest service.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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