Century-old pumps retired: new pumps for Southport

The new pump works: here it discharges into the shipping canal on the other side of the Southport levee (News-Ledger photos by ERIC HARDING, www.ebharding.com)


‘Old pumps played a role in keeping Southport living room floors dry for about a century’

By Steve Marschke
News-Ledger Editor

A pair of drainage pumps in Southport that have been diligently working or on call for about a century have just been retired.

[adrotate group=”7″]   The City of West Sacramento and Reclamation District 900 on Nov. 18 celebrated the opening of a new pump station designed to help move water out of Southport and over the deep water channel levee whenever flooding threatens.

The old pumps were “pretty low tech,” said Ken Ruzich, manager of Reclamation District 900, which monitors a lot of the city’s levees and waterways. “They were similar to a hunk of metal that goes around in a circle. They’re not running on bearings, just bushings. They’re almost like a water wheel inside a casing.”

It was the job of those wheels to take water from Southport’s canal system when it got overloaded, and push the water over a levee into the deep water shipping canal that serves the port. The original pumps from 1911 were electric, although one was converted to diesel power in the 1950s.

RIBBON CUTTING for a new pump station designed to help about 90 percent of Southport to stay dry: William Denton, RD 900 President, holding scissors; Mayor Pro Tem Bill Kristoff; Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, holding scissors; Councilmember Oscar Villegas; Councilmember Chris Ledesma; Peter Palamidessi, RD 900 Vice President; Dan Ramos, RD 900 Board Member; and Bryan Turner, RD 900 Board Member (News-Ledger photo by ERIC HARDING, www.ebharding.com)

In 1980, the old pumps got some reinforcements.

“We put in three electric pumps right next to it, and they’ve been doing the bulk of the work,” Ruzich said. Even with the brand-new station, they continue to do so, he said.

“In a normal year, we will run them just to keep them lubricated,” said Ruzich. “They’re just for really big storms.”

And what would happen during some “really big storms” if the pumps weren’t around?

“In a bad year, since Southport’s pretty flat, you’d put several thousand acres under water,” he answered. “It might be only a foot or two, but that’s pretty inconvenient when it’s your living room.”

The pump station, as seen from the Main Drain canal in southwestern Southport. Behind it is the levee. (ERIC HARDING/News-Ledger)

[adrotate group=”9″]     The new pumps are diesel, served by a 5,000-gallon fuel tank on the site. The facility runs automatically most of the time. The Main Drain Pump Station is now capable of moving up to 150,000 gallons of water per minute out of southern West Sacramento.

“The fuel in the tank will last two to three years, with normal operations,” said Ruzich. The diesel pumps have the advantage of being able to work through a power failure.

And a nearby generator used at a city water storage facility can kick in to power the older electric pumps if they’re needed and the power is out, he said.

Do the new pumps work?

They haven’t yet been put to the test by rain or by a crack in a levee, but when they flipped the switch on Nov. 18 for local city council members and other dignitaries, the water indeed flowed out of Southport and into the canal.

Ruzich said the pump project cost about $12 million. It was a combined city/reclamation district project.

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