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Downtown water project ties together to parts of Swearengin's legacy

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Fresno City Hall is putting the finishing touches on the best thing to happen to the South Stadium area in decades – the T-4 ground storage tank and booster pump station.

They’re another reason Ashley Swearengin will go down in local history as the Infrastructure Mayor.

The new storage tank and pump station are side-by-side on H Street, about 100 yards south of Ventura Street. This part of Downtown is often called the South Stadium area because it’s south of Chukchansi Park.

The storage tank can hold three million gallons of water. The pump station has the power to send the water throughout Downtown.

Total cost for the two buildings (called T-4 in City Hall lingo) — $10 million, all from ratepayers. According to the city website, the storage tank is already in use.

“It’s all about improving the reliability of service,” said Public Utilities Director Tommy Esqueda.

City officials are planning a news conference at the site perhaps as soon as next week. They have a handful of compelling themes to weave into a story.

For starters, there’s practicality.

Downtown even before the revitalization efforts of the last 20 years had a lot of action. Action – living, working, playing – requires water. But the supply for a variety of reasons (overused wells, among them) was uncertain. And the delivery system (pipes and pumps) was old.

I remember city officials and developers worrying about Downtown’s water system 15 years ago as work began on the $48 million stadium.

The new storage tank will fill with water pumped from wells in other parts of town. The new pump station will speed the water to its destination. Both storage tank capacity and pump station operation can be fine-tuned throughout the day to meet shifting demand.

There’s coordination.

If you want to be a stickler about such things, the storage tank and pump station aren’t officially part of Recharge Fresno. Recharge Fresno is Swearengin’s plan to modernize the city’s water system, replenish the aquifer and change the way we consumer water.

A five-year rate plan approved by the City Council is at the heart of Recharge Fresno. The money will pay for a new surface water treatment plant in Southeast Fresno and an array of new pipes, among other things. Total cost: $429 million.

But Recharge Fresno in reality is much more than what $429 million will buy. Recharge Fresno includes the huge recycled water project – the “purple pipe” system – that’s spreading fast from the wastewater treatment plant west of town.

And Recharge Fresno is T-4, an idea that really got rolling when Patrick Wiemiller was head of Public Utilities.

It’s all starting to come together. “Recharge Fresno” as a brand name will come to cover anything that improves our water security.

There’s history.

T-4 is located on about four acres along H Street, between Santa Clara and San Benito streets. One of Highway 41’s overpasses is nearby. The Monterey Street Bridge, torn down several years ago, was here.

So, too, was one of the largest and most notorious of Fresno’s homeless encampments. There actually were a handful of encampments with distinctive identities butting against each other, like a megalopolis of despair. When national news organizations needed an encampment to symbolize America’s homelessness challenge, they went to Fresno’s H Street.

The idea for T-4 wasn’t born as a means to raze the H Street encampment. T-4 is an engineering answer to a water problem.

But there’s no rule in statesmanship against collateral blessings. H Street south of Ventura is a breath of fresh air thanks to T-4.

Finally, there is Downtown’s vision.

Fulton Corridor is returning to its Fulton Street origins. New high rises are on the drawing board. Gov. Brown promises a bullet train will be making daily stops next to the stadium. The South Stadium area, once touted as the new home of Bass Pro Shop, is now touted as high-tech heaven.

T-4, it’s storage tank filling daily with water from the Southeast Surface Water Treatment Plant, will guarantee the taps throughout Downtown deliver a clean, reliable supply of liquid gold.

“That’s cool,” Esqueda said.

George Hostetter
George Hostetter is The Sun’s Fresno Civic contributor – covering the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and Fresno Council of Governments.

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