The city of Benicia has declared a local emergency one week after severe storms caused a landslide that damaged a water transmission line.

The pipe was damaged when a hillside collapsed on March 29 in Fairfield, the city said. The slope failure occurred just outside the city’s limits, near Interstate 680 and Gold Hill Road.

The declaration of an emergency Wednesday will allow Benicia to access all the resources necessary to repair the pipeline, a spokesperson for the city said.

Interim City Manager Mario Giuliani said the declaration will enable Benicia to access funding through the California Disaster Assistance Act, as well as other state and federal funding.

Currently, the Benicia Department of Public Works is creating a temporary bypass so the city can access its primary water source.

An aerial view shows a hillside in Fairfield that collapsed March 29, 2023, damaging nearby Lopes Road and breaking a water transmission line that provides potable water to the city of Benicia. (City of Benicia via Bay City News)

Construction on the bypass began on Tuesday and was expected to continue through Friday. If testing is successful, then water transmission from Cordelia to Benicia will be partially restored. However, the testing could take several days, the city said.

City officials held a news conference last Thursday to address the damaged pipeline and to call for a mandatory 40 percent reduction in water use by residents in what they called a “stage 4 critical water shortage.”

Benicia Public Works Director Kyle Ochenduszko said that city water usually comes through the impacted 14-mile pipeline from Lake Berryessa and the Delta, and when they first noticed soil erosion in the area about two weeks ago, they began to monitor the pipe and its pressure.

A damaged water transmission line serving customers in Benicia is prepped for an emergency bypass repair on April 4, 2023. Benicia Public Works crews estimate the project may be completed by Friday but could require several days of testing before water capacity is fully restored. (City of Benicia via Bay City News)

Crews eventually found a leak in that area that is approximately near Lopes Road. Crews also noticed that erosion had grown significantly since the last rainstorm. At that point, the city turned off the pipeline and switched to an alternate water source, Lake Herman.

The new bypass line will deliver water at a lower capacity and the water will still come from Lake Herman until the line tests are successful, the city said.

The city has created a website to provide a one-stop source for information about the pipeline situation.

Katy St. Clair, Bay City News

Katy St. Clair got her start in journalism by working in the classifieds department at the East Bay Express during the height of alt weeklies, then sweet talked her way into becoming staff writer, submissions editor, and music editor. She has been a columnist in the East Bay Express, SF Weekly, and the San Francisco Examiner. Starting in 2015, she begrudgingly scaled the inverted pyramid at dailies such as the Vallejo Times-Herald, The Vacaville Reporter, and the Daily Republic. She has her own independent news site and blog that covers the delightfully dysfunctional town of Vallejo, California, where she also collaborates with the investigative team at Open Vallejo. A passionate advocate for people with developmental disabilities, she serves on both the Board of the Arc of Solano and the Arc of California. She lives in Vallejo.