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SAWS CEO Richard R. Puente launches the Vista Ridge Pipeline project in December 2014.
The troubled and controversial San Antonio Water System Vista Ridge pipeline project is back in the news today as the utility's board of trustees approved locking in interest rates for the project.
“The actions that the SAWS board took today will secure our water future, improve our quality of life and reduce our project costs by more than $450 million,” Mayor Ivy R. Taylor says. "SAWS board and staff have been truly conservative in their estimates, requests and actions. That measured, careful approach will result in less money from ratepayers’ pocketbooks.”
Concerns about Vista Ridge have continued to mount in the turmoil caused by the Spanish company Abengoa, which was initially in control of the project, but because of bankruptcy proceedings, SAWS had to scramble.
Now, Garney Construction — subject to SAWS board approval — will purchase 80 percent of the project equity and take 100 percent of the decision-making authority. The company was originally a construction partner. The SAWS board did not make a decision on the deal during its meeting today, a SAWS spokesperson confirmed.
SAWS claims the lower rates — as low as 4.23 percent — will translate into lower prices for "capital and raw groundwater unit price of Vista Ridge water, which was projected at $1,959 per acre foot, could now be estimated lowered by more than $300 per acre foot based upon current interest rates."
In October 2014, the City Council approved the $3.4 billion, 142-mile pipeline that will pump in water from Lee and Burleson counties. SAWS has said the controversial pipeline provides a supply of water San Antonio needs to meet estimated population growth over the next few decades while opponents call it a water grab that harms low-income consumers in the Alamo City. Additionally, some hydrologists have warned that the pipeline will result in harmful drawdown in the aquifers it's pumping from.
The coming weeks are expected to bring additional changes to the project, including whether the SAWS board will approve the deal with Garney Construction.