Colorado River Aqueduct - The San Jacinto Tunnel - Seepage Continues

Seepage Continues

In November 1938, the two segments of the tunnel met under the mountain, no more than a few inches off. With the excavation completed, the tunnel was then grouted with concrete. This operation filled in cracks and crevices and reduced the tunnel to its finished size of 16 feet (4.9 m) tall and 16 feet (4.9 m) wide. About 24,100 tons of cement were used in the attempts to seal off the seepage, averaging about 20 sacks per foot of tunnel. But as leaks were sealed off, pressure would build and create a new leak elsewhere. Eventually the seepage was cut down to 540 US gallons per minute (0.034 m3/s), and on October 14, 1939, the San Jacinto Tunnel was completed, well ahead of schedule.

Slowly, as pressure built up over time, the tunnel grouting gave way and the seepage more than quadrupled. In February 1942, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors renewed its protest against exporting local water. The MWD responded by stating that local claims had been settled and that a substantial amount of the water was being used for local agriculture, indirectly citing the Poorman contract.

On June 21, 1944, the Water and Natural Resources Committee of the Hemet Valley Chamber of Commerce called a meeting of concerned ranchers from Hemet, San Jacinto, Perris, Lakeview and Nuevo. They organized themselves as the San Jacinto River Protective Committee, with Irwin Farrar elected as chairman. The committee focused on development of the local area, and claimed that water that was being carried out of the area by the MWD could irrigate up to 4,000 acres (16 km2) each year. The committee made two demands of the MWD; Stop seepage in the San Jacinto tunnel, and return the estimated 150,000 acre feet (190,000,000 m3) of water than had been carried away since 1934. Over $9000 was raised in local donations to help fight the battle with the MWD. On December 15, 1944, the committee met with the MWD Water Problems Committee and requested that water be pumped from the west portal further up the San Jacinto River and be released above the Soboba Indian Reservation where the water could spread out and sink back into the local water table. The MWD agreed to study the matter, however, by March 1945, the MWD had yet to respond.

The San Jacinto River Protective Committee arranged filings of four lawsuits against the MWD by various water users along the San Jacinto River. The four plaintiffs were the Nuevo Water Company, the Hemet Packing Company (owners of a 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) ranch in Lakview), the Centinela Ranch near San Jacinto, and Leland Houk, who had a ranch southwest of Hemet. The MWD responded, maintaining that it had acted in good faith and claimed that 16,400 acre feet (20,200,000 m3) of water has been returned at the Cosa Loma outlet and Lakeview siphon, as agreed in the Poorman contract.

After further negotiations and meetings, the MWD agreed to attempt to seal the tunnel again. In December 1946, the tunnel was shut down and work was begun to remediate the leak. The tunnel was lined with concrete varying from 19 inches to 6 feet (1.8 m) in thickness. The seepage was temporarily reduced, but pressure again built up and the seepage then increased. By the end of 1947, the MWD and the San Jacinto River Conservation District (formerly the San Jacinto River Protective Committee) agreed that it was impossible to completely stop the seepage. By the fall of 1952, all the Poorman rights were acquired by the newly formed Eastern Municipal Water District of Southern California. Benefit of the seepage water was conveyed to EMWD customers in the form of district-wide credits against water rates.

Read more about this topic:  Colorado River Aqueduct, The San Jacinto Tunnel

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