Vegas Agency Awards $447M Contract For 3rd 'Straw' To Lake Mead

LAS VEGAS (AP) - The Southern Nevada Water Authority has awarded
a $447 million contract to an Italian firm to build a so-called "third straw" to draw water from the Lake Mead reservoir.

Impregilo group was hired Thursday to design and excavate an almost 3-mile tunnel beneath the lake for the pipeline, which is expected to be operational by 2013.

The job represents the largest single construction contract ever
awarded by the regional water authority.

The new water intake won't increase the water supply to the Las
Vegas area, but it will let the region continue to draw water if the level of the drought-stricken lake drops below current intakes.

Marc Jensen, authority engineering director, said contracts for elements of a massive $2 billion to $3.5 billion pipeline network across eastern Nevada will be divided up into a number of smaller contracts.

Separate contracts for a new pumping station at Lake Mead's Saddle Island and pipelines to two existing water intakes and treatment plants are scheduled to be awarded later this year.

According to an estimate produced in 2007, the entire Lake Mead "third straw" project could end up costing $817 million.

Officials say excavating the 20-foot-tall, concrete-lined shaft is expected to be difficult, dangerous and wet work.

The Lake Mead reservoir on the Colorado River behind Hoover Dam
supplies about 90 percent of the water used in and around Las

The new intake will draw water from one of the deepest points in
the lake, about four miles from a new treated wastewater outflow
being built to release the region's treated effluent into the lake.

Lake Mead is currently at a surface level of about 1,116 feet above sea level, or about 66 feet above the 1,050-foot level of the original intake. A second intake draws water from 1,000 feet above sea level. It was completed in 2002, at a cost of about $80 million.

The third intake is expected to draw water from below a 900-foot
elevation. Officials have said it will require a rate increase costing the average southern Nevada household about 75 cents per month.

Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal,

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-03-21-08 1628EDT

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