South Coast Water District Earns Top National Communications Award

By on September 14, 2018

South Coast Water District (SCWD) recently took home a national “Savvy Award” from the National City-County Communications and Marketing Association’s (3CMA) national Savvy Awards Competition during a ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee, WI. SCWD received the top national award for its marketing and communications plans for its Tunnel Stabilization and Sewer Pipeline Replacement Project.

The national 3CMA Savvy Awards recognize outstanding local government achievements in communications, public-sector marketing, and citizen-government relationships. The judges for the Savvy Awards praised SCWD’s Tunnel project for “a creative solution and a multi­faceted communications approach to a complex problem.” The other Savvy Award finalists were the city of Burlington, NC and the city of Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada. Over 700 entries in 40 categories were received.

SCWD’s Tunnel Project is the replacement of a two-mile, 60-year-old tunnel that currently houses a gravity sewer. The sewer provides wastewater service for the northern portion of Dana Point and homes along the west side of coast highway at Three Arch Bay and in South Laguna. It is buried approximately 50 feet beneath the bluff from Three Arch Bay to Aliso Beach. The five year, 100-million-dollar tunnel project is underneath multi-million-dollar homes that sit right above the Pacific Ocean’s federally protected marine life habitat and is some 20 to 30 feet from the edge of the cliffs.

Working cooperatively with community, SCWD spent over $500,000 in site improvements in response to public concerns. These including a sliding gate and utilization of an electric crane. Instead of using a diesel crane an electric crane avoided any possible health effects that could be caused by prolonged use of diesel machinery.

“The health, safety and the day-to-day impacts on residents are always carefully considered when we construct any projects,” said Rick Shintaku, acting general manager and chief engineer. SCWD recently completed Phase I of the Tunnel Project.

In addition to the site improvements at the request of the nearby residents, SCWD initiated several communications tactics to keep residents and the public aware of the project’s status. Quarterly community meetings kept residents informed of the project’s progress while the SCWD website and Facebook pages kept them apprised of day-to-day activities. SCWD also utilized a 360-degree camera to produce a 3-D tour to allow the customers to “virtually” visit the worksite. The 3CMA Savvy Awards judges praised the multi­faceted communications approach to the complex project and further claimed that the communications plan “leaves no stone left unturned.”

The SCWD the Board of Directors, community, contractor Drill Tech and project management firm Parsons Engineering worked closely together, and with the addition of constructability reviews — including identifying design and liability issues, value-added suggestions and comments — saved the project over a million dollars in the first year alone. An estimated 11 million dollars in savings are expected over the course of the project.