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The South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority (the “Authority”) is a non-profit public corporation that provides an essential, life sustaining product – water. The Authority was created in 1977 by Special Act No. 77-98 (the “Act”), as amended. The creation of the Authority was to assure the provision of an adequate supply of pure water at a reasonable cost and, to the degree consistent with the foregoing, of advancing the conservation and compatible recreational use of land held by the Authority.
The Authority serves a population of almost 430,000 in 15 municipalities, with land holdings in additional municipalities. The utility recognizes the innate potential to make a positive impact on the region and acts as a responsible steward of the environment by owning and protecting approximately 27,700-acres of land, providing a wide array of recreational opportunities and water-related services, and promoting sustainable practices.
Our higher purpose is to make life better for people by delivering water for life. Our purpose is what drives us to work consciously, innovate for the greater good and continuously improve for all our stakeholders.
As we pursue this purpose, we focus on three pillars of sustainability – social, environmental, and economic.
The Great Hill tunnel and the pipeline were completed in 1927 as part of a major project to address an acute water shortage for the growing population of the New Haven region. Shortly before the original project was launched, low rainfall reduced the city’s water supply to less than two months. The Great Hill tunnel and pipeline allowed some of the water from an additional 39 square miles of watershed to be delivered to greater New Haven, assuring an adequate supply and allowing less water to be drawn from other watersheds and from groundwater.
The Great Hill tunnel has the capacity to transfer up to 100 million gallons a day (MGD) of raw water from the reservoir to one of the Authority’s water treatment plant. The tunnel transitions to a 48-inch diameter cast iron pipeline (CIP) and to a 54 inch and 72 inch pre-stressed concrete cylinder pipe. This is one of the most critical pieces of infrastructure owned by the Authority. It is the means for supplying water from the reservoir to this water treatment plant which provides a considerable portion of the overall water that the Authority produces.
The tunnel was periodically inspected. One inspection indicated a single defect in the general area of the tunnel/pipeline transition, with the remainder of the tunnel found to be in relatively good condition. The Authority began closely monitoring this area of the watercourse.
By 2017, two leaks were being monitored, one in the tunnel and one in the pipe. The long-term leak on the tunnel had been managed. However, in late 2017 the Authority identified additional water in the area. A site visit revealed two ‘boil’ areas and a significant increase in the flow at the weir, which had been installed earlier. A second leak was confirmed to be on the 48-inch pipeline through an inspection and fluoride tracer study. The two leaks equated to approximately 140 gallons per minute or 200,000 gallons per day. This is the amount that could be observed. It is believed that some additional of the leakage was not surfacing and remained underground.
Catastrophic expansion of either leak would require shutting down the tunnel. Should the tunnel be out of service, the water treatment plant would be off-line; many customers would be out of water, others under boil water advisory. This would affect approximately 260,000 people and numerous industries and institutions, such as the Yale New Haven Hospital.
Additionally, a catastrophic failure of either the tunnel or the pipeline could have released water at a rate of 185 cubic feet per second. This presents additional significant risk to public health and safety, downstream property and state roadways, and potentially human life with the volume and velocity of water discharged from the tunnel. The flow of water from such a leak would have also caused extensive erosion and deposited many tons of earth in downstream wetlands.
With this information, it was clear that the leaks needed to be addressed as soon as possible. The Authority began evaluating options for immediate action and with the required authorization the Great Hill Tunnel & Pipeline Restoration project (the “project”) began.
The project included cleaning the entire length of the arched concrete-lined tunnel, inspecting the tunnel for additional defects and addressing any known, and any newly identified defects. In addition, the project included replacing portion of the 48” CIP and cleaning and structurally lining the remaining portion of the 48” pipe up to the transition to the arched concrete-lined tunnel.
The project was successfully completed in April 2018. The tunnel was restored to like-new condition and the 48” CIP was replaced in some areas and rehabilitated in others. There have been no issues with either the tunnel or pipe leakage since the project’s completion.
Sustainable Water Management- Drinking Water Infrastructure Upgrades:
The use of proceeds for this green bond issue, the Thirty-fourth Series C Bonds, will be used to pay-off the interim financing notes, subordinate to the General Bond Resolution, used for the Great Hill Tunnel & Pipeline Restoration project, including interest due, as well as for the cost of issuance, underwriters fees, and the debt reserve and capital contingency funds associated with this green bond issue.
Interim subordinate financing was used to fund the Great Hill Tunnel & Pipeline Restoration project because the project needed immediate attention and could not wait until the Authority’s next scheduled bond issuance.
This project was the restoration of a public water supply tunnel and pipeline located in Connecticut. This tunnel and pipeline is the means of conducting water from a pristine 13.1 billion-gallon reservoir to customers in the city of New Haven, Connecticut and nine surrounding towns.
Special Act 77-98 (the “Act”), as amended, mentioned above established the Regional Water Authority, a five-person board to function as a board of directors. This board oversees the adoption of annual operating and capital budgets and provides strategic direction. The Act further provides for the establishment of a Representative Policy Board (the “RPB”), composed of one member from each of the municipalities comprising the “District,” appointed by the chief elected official of the municipality, and one member appointed by the Governor. The RPB is empowered, among other things, to approve capital projects costing more than $2 million, the issuance of new money bonds, and water rates and charges. Pursuant to the terms of the Act, as amended, the RPB has established an Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) to act as the advocate for consumer interests with regard to matters such as rates, water quality, and supply.
The South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority has a number of capital projects and a robust capital prioritization process. The capital prioritization process involves single year and multi-year planning and ranks projects against several criteria including customer service and satisfaction, water resource adequacy and water quality, personnel and public safety, and infrastructure stability, security, reliability, and vulnerability as well as sustainability. The capital prioritization process involves capital project managers, members of a cross-functional capital program control team, and members of the Authority’s leadership team. The resulting prioritization matrix for the upcoming fiscal year is shared with both the five-person board and the RPB as part of the budgeting process.
Through the annual budgeting process, the single and five year capital budget is approved by the five-person board and reviewed by the RPB. However, proposed projects of more than $2 million require a project application. The application is first submitted to and then reviewed with the five-person board. If accepted by the board, the project application is submitted to the RPB. A public hearing, including a presentation from the applicant, is required for capital projects requiring RPB approval and notice of such hearing is also required.
Due to the critical nature of the Great Hill Tunnel & Pipeline Restoration project, special meetings were scheduled while still meeting all required protocols. The project application and associated financing was accepted by the five person board and approved by the RPB. The OCA also expressed support of the project moving forward.
Periodic updates were given to the five-person board and RPB as the project progressed and at its completion.
Additionally the five person board approved the issuance of “green bonds,” the Thirty Fourth Series C Bonds.
While other of the Authority’s capital projects would fall within the “green bond” designation, the Great Hill Tunnel & Pipeline Restoration project was selected for this particular “green bond” financing, the Thirty-fourth Series C Bonds, as this critical water infrastructure project has already been completed. Therefore, there are not concerns regarding any delays or unknown costs.
Regarding external involvement, our “consulting engineer,” a role defined in our General Bond Resolution, provided oversight of this critical infrastructure project, including a review of all aspects of the project. External members of the team also included an expert related to the design of the bypass system and a tunnel expert. Other contractors were hired based on the various work required.
The main risk associated with this project, addressing environmental, social, health, and safety, was the potential for a catastrophic failure and the associated ramifications, as mentioned above.
Steps taken to mitigate these risks included: forming an Incident Command Structure within the Authority; meeting with key external stakeholders, including police, fire, local elected officials and legislators, coordinating with local and state regulators to put a plan in place for a potentially more serious failure; providing letters to residents in the area of the proposed work sites; and, alerting a larger population through local newspapers of the proposed project.
During the construction aspect of the project, the following additional risk-mitigating measures were taken: diverting downstream flow to help avoid significant damages; shielding the source water from potential contamination by installing two booms to protect the raw water intake from storm water runoff and to protect a larger reservoir area from any potential fuel spill associated with the by-pass pumping system; escorting fuel delivery trucks around the lake access road to the area of the bypass pumps to help minimize the risk of a fuel related accident, causing fuel to contaminate the reservoir. Also during the construction, the Authority required a highly-qualified rescue team to be on site at any and all times when there were workers in the tunnel.
Additional environmental considerations related to construction of the by-pass included review of the State of Connecticut’s Natural Diversity Data Base for sensitive or endangered species and coordination with the Department of Public Health (DPH) and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) regarding the protection of wildlife habitat, protection from erosion, and the restoration to the natural conditions at the end of the project. The local wetlands and Planning and Zoning Departments were also notified and kept abreast of the project.
3) Management of Proceeds
Throughout the project proceeds used were tracked. This was necessitated not only due to our capital reporting process but also for other reasons. The proceeds from the interim financing used for the Great Hill Tunnel & Pipe Restoration project are subordinate to the Authority’s Revenue Bonds issued under our General Bond Resolution and; therefore, could not be intermingled. One of the interim notes is a draw-down note and monies needed to be drawn as needed.
The Authority has a robust process of requesting authorization for and tracking capital expenditures. While expenditures from interim financing proceeds do not require as much documentation as the authorization to use monies held by our trustee in our Construction Fund, a fund under the General Bond Resolution, a somewhat comparable process was utilized as this project progressed.
Other than the already expended project costs and the interest payments made, remaining expenditures include interest on two outstanding interim notes not yet paid, cost of issuance, underwriter’s fees, and the funding of the debt reserve and capital contingency funds associated with this “green bond” issuance. These amounts will all be known at issuance. Monies from this “green bond” issuance will be specifically directed to pay-off the interim notes as well as any interest due but not yet paid. Additionally the cost of issuance, underwriter’s fees, debt reserve and capital contingency reserve fund deposits, will be specifically delineated in closing documents and reserve funds will be deposited with our trustee.
Ensuring that the proceeds from this “green bond” issuance are used as outlined above are the responsibility of the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer and the Vice President of Finance and Controller.
As the Great Hill Tunnel & Pipe project is already completed and proceeds will be expended, including deposits into reserve funds, at time of issuance. The Authority will provide one report indicating the expenditures made from this “green bond” issuance. Such information will be posted to the Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA) website of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, accessible at www.emma.msrb.org. This report will be posted along with other of the Authority’s fiscal year ending May 31, 2019 filings, which will be made on or before the date eight months after the close of the fiscal year.
The report will include the use of proceeds from the Thirty-fourth Series C Series Bonds, project background, and a description of the project, including potential ramifications if the project was not undertaken.
Second-Party Opinion from Sustainalytics