A permanent fix for a 2-mile water line to residents in Crystal, New Hope and Golden Valley is on its way, a fix that will also give Robbinsdale residents some relief after the line burst twice there in just over a year.
City leaders are moving forward with plans to repair and replace the 52-year-old line's piping this summer in an estimated $5 million project, with construction bids on the first of two sections due March 24.
"It's a project that just needs to be done," said Tom Burt, city manager of Golden Valley and chairman of the Joint Water Commission, which includes leaders from Crystal, New Hope and Golden Valley.
But what remains up in the air is whether the state will help pay for the project. Legislation was introduced in February asking for a hearing to include $5 million in this year's state bonding bill for the water line repairs and $2 million to Robbinsdale to replace sewer and water supply lines that go below it.
If the cities don't get state aid, they say they will have to turn to residents to help pay for the necessary projects. But Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, the chief author of the bill, said she remains confident it will be included because the project affects about 100,000 residents in the communities.
The 36-inch water line carries water from Minneapolis to a Crystal reservoir, providing water to homes and businesses in the three northwest suburbs. Although Robbinsdale residents don't get water from the line, it passes through their city and burst there twice within 15 months, flooding Robbinsdale streets and affecting homes and businesses.
In June 2013, the burst pipe spilled 600,000 gallons of water and created a massive, 20-foot-deep sinkhole. It cost about $375,000 to fix.
"That was a mess," Crystal City Manager Anne Norris said.
Then last September, a second break about two blocks away flooded County Road 9 with knee-deep water and damaged eight homes and businesses.
The second break surprised officials even more because a study had found that there were no leaks in the line. Repairs cost nearly $200,000, according to the cities, not including any reimbursement from the insurance company to homeowners.
"The two breaks definitely brought it to our attention," Burt said of the need to repair the line, which was built in 1963 and was expected to last 80 years. The soils around the concrete, steel-bound pipes were causing it to deteriorate from the outside in, he said.
Last October, a consultant hired for $85,000 used electromagnetic equipment to examine a 2,700-foot portion of the line and found that about 9 percent of the portion of the line had weak, vulnerable spots that had deteriorated and could potentially break again.
Now, starting this spring and summer, crews will make the permanent fixes either by replacing the pipes or lining the old ones with new pipes to prevent having to dig up all of the roadway. The second of the two parts are expected to be bid out in April. The entire 2-mile-line project is expected to be done by August.