Community Member Industry Vendor

Frequently Asked Questions

Q – When will the project be completed?
A – The new WRF Phase I construction (including the new influent pumping facilities, wastewater pipelines, new WRF itself, and wet weather/brine disposal pipeline) is scheduled to be completed in 2021. Phase II (development of the advanced treatment, transmission, and groundwater injection for water recycling) can be completed at the same time.

Q – Santa Paula and Fillmore completed their water reclamation facilities in less than 5 years. Why is this one requiring 5 years?
A – The City’s 5-year goal includes all the planning, permitting, financing, design, construction, and commissioning for the project after site selection. Construction for the Santa Paula and Fillmore Water Reclamation Facility projects was completed approximately 2 to 2½ years after the construction contracts were approved. However, the master planning, permitting, CEQA compliance, and other efforts took several years prior to the approval of the construction contracts.  Morro Bay’s 5-year goal includes all these activities beginning June 14, 2016, when Council selected the South Bay Boulevard site as the preferred location for planning and permitting.

The City of Santa Paula completed a project report that identified treatment technologies for their WRF in 2003.  Preliminary cost opinions were developed in Spring 2005.  The Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) was certified in April 2005, and construction of the WRF was completed in May 2010.

The City of Fillmore developed a Project Report with an initial program budget in 2004, then began work on the Environmental Impact Report.  The design-build-operate-finance team began design and construction in November 2006, and the WRF was completed and operational in August 2009.

Q – How much will the project cost?
A – The Facility Master Plan and Master Water Reclamation Plan have been completed.  The recommended project (including indirect potable reuse, all “soft” costs such as design and permitting, construction, and contingencies) is estimated at $167M.  Alternative 3 or 4 (which include treatment, conveyance, and other facilities required for injection of highly treated water) is the recommended project.  The selection of either Alternative 3 or 4 will depend on which site is least costly for maximizing the City’s ability to injection and extract water.  A range of cost opinions were presented in Table 7-19 of the Master Water Reclamation Plan for several project alternatives, as summarized in the link below:

Q – What is the “Basis of Costs” for the cost opinions?  Why don’t we have detailed estimates of the hours and hourly rates for every future consultant and contractor that would be involved with the City’s WRF?
A – Black and Veatch developed construction cost, design cost opinions, and contingencies for the influent lift station, raw wastewater pipeline, brine/wet weather discharge pipeline, decommissioning of the existing wastewater treatment plant, and WRF itself including fully advanced treatment for groundwater injection (see Facility Master Plan).  The cost basis for these estimates is based on their experience and expertise designing similar projects throughout the country, including the most up-to-date unit costs for key project components.

MKN developed construction cost, design cost opinions and contingencies for recycled water project alternatives including recycled water pump station, pipelines, and injection wells (see Master Water Reclamation Plan). MKN also developed cost opinions for design, project administration, construction management, procurement, preliminary studies, and contingencies for the following:

  • Project administration (program management, City staff involvement, and outreach);
  • Procurement and preliminary studies (Facility Master Plan, Master Water Reclamation Plan, hydrogeology studies, surveying, groundwater modeling, effluent discharge alternatives, and early 2013-2015 siting studies);
  • Permitting, monitoring, and mitigation (Environmental Impact Report, cultural studies, biological studies, completion of County/City/state permit applications, permit fees, and monitoring of any sensitive habitat or cultural resources)
  • Property acquisition
  • Recycled water pipeline, storage, and injection wells

For many of these items, typical percentages of construction cost were applied to develop estimates (see tables in previous question).  This is an appropriate and common approach to developing project budgets during the master planning phase of a project.  These estimates were reviewed by engineers and design professionals with appropriate expertise, including Black a& Veatch engineering staff and City Public Works staff.  The project components that formed the basis of this estimate were also considered by the WRFCAC and its engineering subcommittee.

After the master plans and overall project are approved for planning and design by Council, staff will develop a detailed budget for all the different studies and contracts required.  Each of these efforts will require a detailed proposal or bid from the contractors or consultants.  Hourly rates and estimated hours will be submitted by the proposers for consideration by the City.  Rates and hours can vary depending on how the proposer approaches the work and the type of staff they use to perform the work.  City staff will negotiate contracts, including scopes, budgets, and schedules, to sufficient detail to allow us to track progress of the work and to ensure the City is being charged fairly for the work.  All existing City consultants and contractors under the WRF program have detailed scopes, budgets, and schedules incorporated in their executed agreements.  These are all tracked using the City’s Procore project management software.

Q – How will the City pay for the project?
A – The project will be financed through a variety of sources.  The City is pursuing grants and loans through the State Water Resources Control Board and other state and federal agencies to help fund the project. The City has been awarded a Recycled Water Planning Feasibility Study Grant for $75,000 and is pursuing a low interest State Revolving Fund Planning Loan. Kestrel Consulting is identifying grant and loan opportunities and leading the City’s strategy to secure funding from the programs that best fit the City’s project. Both the State Revolving Fund Recycled Water and the Water Infrastucture Financing and Investment Act (WIFIA) loan programs are being pursued by the City.  A grant from the Bureau of Reclamation WaterSmart program is also being pursued.  It is a competitive program that could fund up to $20M for the City’s project if awarded.

Any necessary loans will be repaid through user rates. New wastewater rates went into effect on July 2015 to help fund the first phase of the project.  A second rate increase will be needed to help fund the remainder.  To the extent the City is able to secure outside grant funding, the amount that will need to be offset through increased user rates would be reduced.

Q – How much will the project affect user rates?
A – See the Draft Sewer and Water Financial Plan for the City of Morro Bay (April 2017).  If SRF and WIFIA funding are pursued for secondary treatment and ocean disinfection (“Alternative 0” from the Master Water Reclamation Program), a total increase of $57 per month (sewer rate) is anticipated in 2021/2022 for single family residences over the approved sewer rate.  For an additional $40 per month (water rate increase), the City could implement Alternative 3 or 4 which includes fully advanced treatment and injection of recycled water.

Note that several factors could reduce the projected rate increases described above.  If additional grant funding is available, the amount financed through loans would be less.  Similarly, if the contingency is not needed to the extent projected, the overall project cost would be decreased, which would reduce rate increases from what is currently projected as a likely worst-case scenario.

Q – Where will the new facility be located?
A – The preferred site for the new facility is near the South Bay Boulevard exit of Highway 1. The City is currently negotiating with property owners to identify the final location in San Luis Obispo County, outside of City Limits.

Q – Can we recycle wastewater if we build the WRF at South Bay Blvd?
A – Yes. One of the advantages of the South Bay Boulevard site, from a long-term prospective, is the proximity between the City’s two groundwater basins (Chorro Valley and Morro Valley) allowing flexibility for future reuse within either or both basins.

Q – There are members of the community who want to investigate building a “hardened” WRF on property adjacent to the current WWTP.  Does Coastal Commission (CCC) staff believe such an approach is supportable?



A – The property adjacent to the WWTP is within the floodplain and the tsunami inundation zone similar to constraints to building a new WRF at the existing site.  Based on recent and ongoing discussions between City and CCC staff, there is no support from CCC staff for pursuing a new WRF adjacent to the current WWTP site, because it is inconsistent with previous CCC direction to move the facility farther from the coast to better implement relevant Coastal Act policies.  Coastal Commission staff expressed support for moving the project forward at the South Bay Boulevard site instead.

Q – The primary collection point for the City’s wastewater system will necessarily be at a low elevation that will likely be in the 100-year floodplain.  What special conditions can the City anticipate from California Coastal Commission (CCC) to allow a lift station to be built within the 100-year floodplain?
A – CCC will require an alternatives evaluation and justification for constructing a new lift station near the existing WWTP site.  That evaluation can be accomplished in the context of the EIR for the project.  The City’s sewage collection system drains to the existing WWTP from multiple directions. The existing WWTP lies within a floodplain. With construction of the WRF at a new location, the City’s collection system will need to be modified to flow to the new WRF. Rerouting the existing collection system to drain to the new location would involve considerable design and permitting and would significantly increase overall project costs.  Instead, a lift station at or near the existing WWTP is proposed to receive the City’s sewage and pump it to the new WRF.  The lift station will be designed with flood proofing measures, including submersible pumps that continually operate underwater. Structures will be set two feet above the 100-year flood elevation. The electrical panels will also be located at an elevation to avoid flooding and conduits will be sealed.

Q – Will the project be required to comply with the CEQA environmental review process?
A – Yes. In addition, the project will be required to comply with requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in order to receive state and federal funding for parts of the project.

Q – What permits will be required for the project?
A – The complete permit list will be developed during the CEQA environmental review process and ongoing work by the Program Management Team and our CEQA/NEPA consultant, ESA.

Q – Will the project have environmental impacts?
A – The project is intended to accomplish two primary tasks:
1)  Improve water quality by improving the level of treatment of wastewater, and
2)  Enhance water supply by producing recycled water.
While some temporary construction-related impacts are expected as a result of constructing the new WRF and related facilities, these impacts will be identified and mitigation measures will be developed through the CEQA compliance process, to be reported in an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). This is a process that encourages public review and input, and involves many agencies and stakeholders. Public hearings and opportunities for comment will continue through 2017, with the EIR certification planned to follow.

Q – How many gallons of recycled water will be reclaimed per year at the new WRF, once reclamation is fully implemented?
A – The City’s goal is to recycle as much water as possible.  All the City’s wastewater (currently 0.84 million gallons per day) could be treated and injected if the recommended project is pursued. 

Q – What will happen to the old wastewater treatment plant (WWTP)?
A – The old WWTP will be taken out of service after the new WRF is constructed, commissioned, and ready to reliably produce treated effluent.

Q – What will the old WWTP site be used for after demolition?
A – The City will determine this through other planning efforts, beginning with an update of the General Plan and Local Coastal Plan. The cost opinions for demolishing the existing site will be developed assuming all materials will be removed to several feet below grade, and the clean site will be ready for a wide variety of potential uses.

Q – How can I receive community email notifications about the project?
A – Sign up through this website by clicking here.

Q – Who can I contact with comments or questions about the project?
A – Email John Rickenbach, Deputy Program Manager, at

Contact Info

John Rickenbach
WRF Deputy Program Manager
595 Harbor Street
Morro Bay, CA 93442

Recent News

  • June 4th & 5th WRF Project Information Forum Postponed

    The June 4th and 5th WRF Project information forums are postponed until further notice.  A notification was mailed to City residents; see postcard linked below. 6/4 & 6/5 Info Forums Postponement Post Card