Friday, December 19, 2008

City of Detroit, Suburbs Reach Accord Regarding DWSD

The long-simmering dispute between the City of Detroit's Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) and its Suburban customers reportedly was resolved on December 18, 2008 in a hearing in U.S. District Court before Judge John Feikens. An outline of the settlement was reported earlier by Crain's Detroit Business here, and by the Detroit Free Press here.

The terms of the accord are laid out in a 50 page Settlement Agreement (below) that was presented to the Court, and will be accepted unless someone comes forth to show cause why the Agreement should not be accepted. Opposition is unlikely.

This Settlement Agreement will not end Judge Feikens' three-decades long control over DWSD, -- paragraph 8 of the Agreement refers to a potential Third Amended Consent Judgment -- but it will end lengthy and costly litigation between DWSD and Oakland and Macomb Counties over repair of the Macomb Interceptor and payment for an 800 megahertz radio system.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel Design Issues Outlined in Recent Presentation

The Michigan Water Environment Association (MWEA) has posted a presentation made earlier this year by Mirza Rabbaig (DWSD) and Bob Barbour (Jacobs Engineering), which outlines some of the many design issues and geotechnical challenges involved in the Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel project.

As reported here and here, the South Tunnel (PC-764) was bid in April and approved in September, 2008. The North Tunnel (PC-764) is bidding on February 12, 2009, as noted here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Judge Denies Reports of Retirement, Ending Oversight of DWSD

Despite reports that he may be ending his 31 year oversight of DWSD, U.S. District Judge John Feikens, who turned 91 last week, denies that he's close to retiring and stepping down from overseeing the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department -- "There's no truth to it," Feikens said Tuesday. "I don't know who is coming up with these rumors."

The Judge's comments were reported (here) by the Detroit News on December 10, 2008.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel (North) Bid Date Extended

The bid date for the Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel (North) (PC-763) has been extended to Thursday, February 12, 2009 at 2:00 p.m. from December 18th. This is second of half of the Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel.

The Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel (South) (PC-764) was bid on April 24, 2008, as noted here. A low bid of $316,170,200 was submitted by Kenny Construction/Obayashi, JV. The contract for the South Tunnel (PC-764), was approved by the Detroit City Council on September 25, 2008, as reported here.

For more information about the Upper Rouge CSO Tunnel project read here. For specific information about PC-763 (South Tunnel), read here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

DWSD Special Master, Thomas Lewand, Profiled in Crain's Detroit Business

Crain's Detroit Business this week profiles Attorney Thomas Lewand, who has served as Special Master for Judge Feikens since 2002 in connection with the 1977 EPA lawsuit against the City of Detroit (DWSD) for pollution discharge violations. The article is here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Federal Oversight of DWSD May Be Near End

The Detroit Free Press reports that Judge John Feikens, who turned 91 on December 3, 2008, may be ready to end his supervision of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Feikens, who has overseen the Department since 1977 as part of a pollution lawsuit settlement, has sought a global resolution of a number of outstanding disputes between the Department and its suburban customers.
"Feikens said the system now complies with the Clean Water Act, but he worries that falling revenues caused by decreased water consumption this year could make it hard to fund improvements still needed to maintain that compliance. But Feikens said that if the region can work together, court supervision could become unnecessary."
Under Judge Feikens' supervision, DWSD has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on upgrades to its main wastewater treatment plant.

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) recently reported that Southeast Michigan communities, including the City of Detroit, had spent $2.4 billion in projects designed to reduce combined sewer overflow (CSO) pollutant discharges, resulting in an 85 percent reduction in untreated CSO discharges.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Water Demand Drops -- May Affect Rates, DWSD Construction Plans

The Detroit Free Press reported on November 30, 2008 that a drop in the demand for water among City and Suburban users may contribute to an increase and water and sewer rates by DWSD:

"Detroit officials are expected to raise water rates 6% to 10% and sewer rates by as much as 13% to 17% next month, according to some suburban leaders who have met with the department.

"The revenue dip was enough to prompt U.S. District Judge John Feikens to schedule a hearing for Tuesday [December 2, 2008] to hear how the water department and others in the region plan to deal with it.
* * *
"Feikens, who has ordered hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements to the sewerage side of the system to bring it into compliance with the Clean Water Act, said revenue is needed to fund those projects.
"If a revenue stream is affected by a certain percentage, there are rules in the Clean Water Act that say some projects may not be economically possible," Feikens said.

"It isn't yet clear whether the revenue picture is bad enough to consider such delays, Feikens said."

Comment: This article, and Judge Fekeins' comments, appear to be a reference to several ambitious, and expensive, water transmission projects announced earlier this year by DWSD, the North Oakland Transmission and Flint Loop projects, bids for which have already been delayed once, and could be delayed into 2009.