It isn't as flashy as a new downtown sports arena, but a massive public works project that officials argue is vitally important to the city's future is poised for approval tonight by the Sacramento City Council.
The council will be asked to green-light a $171 million rehabilitation of the city's two major water treatment plants.
Most of the renovation will occur at the 90-year-old Sacramento River Water Treatment Plant just north of downtown, but work also will be done on the Fairbairn Water Treatment Plant on the American River in east Sacramento.
Last month, the city issued $240 million in revenue bonds to fund the work - the largest revenue bond issuance in the city's history.
Those bonds will be repaid by gradual increases in water and sewer rates approved last year by the City Council that will add $19 to the average residential bill by 2014. All together, those increases will allow the city to back $344 million in revenue bonds to make significant upgrades to the city's aging water treatment and sewer system.
"This is work that should have been done a long time ago, but these are the type of things that get deferred when people aren't willing to make the hard choices and pay for them," Councilman Jay Schenirer said in an interview Monday.
Councilman Darrell Fong added Monday that the city's water treatment system is "something we've neglected for too long."
In addition to the water treatment plant work scheduled for council debate tonight, the revenue bonds will also help fund the installation of 15,000 water meters and thousands offeet of new water lines.
The city is also planning to issue bonds in the coming weeks to pay for a $12 million underground tank in Oak Park that could hold 5 million gallons of stormwater during major rains.
The Sacramento River treatment plant was built in the 1920s and, officials say, has outlasted its useful life. It can treat 135 million gallons each day, but utility officials said they want to increase that capacity to 160 million gallons to meet future demands.
If the plant were to fail during the summer, said Dan Sherry, a supervising engineer with the city's Department of Utilities, there would likely be "water rationing like we've never seen before."
"You can't wait for this to fail," city utilities director Dave Brent said. "It gave us a good 90 years."
Ron Stork, a senior policy advocate at Friends of the River, a Sacramento-based environmental group, said that "when you have an old plant that's under performing, it's clearly a priority to fix it."
"If you want water and you want a reliable supply and a good supply, this is one of the important investments the city has to make,"he said."It's going to mean that water bills are going to be higher. But it's pretty essential. There really isn't much choice."