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The Water Replenishment District of Southern California has unanimously approved and signed an agreement with J.F. Shea Construction to build a $110 million water treatment plant in Pico River that will enable the district to develop the first locally sustainable groundwater basins in California.

Construction of the plant, called the Groundwater Reliability Improvement Project (GRIP) Advanced Water Treatment Facility, is scheduled to begin this fall, with the facility expected to be operational by 2018.

The district said when the facility is completed, WRD's two groundwater basins will be exclusively replenished with captured stormwater and recycled water, much of which will be purified by the GRIP facility for safe and reliable groundwater replenishment.

"Because of this project, this district and the millions of residents who depend on WRD will no longer have to worry about droughts or disruptions to the giant aqueducts that now bring us imported water," said board Vice President Rob Katherman "Two years from now we'll be completely independent of imported water. I can't wait for that day."

"The Los Angeles region has a long and sometimes colorful history of importing water to quench our thirst," WRD board President Willard H. Murray Jr. said in a statement. "With this project, WRD will be turning a corner in our water history. WRD's future will be built on water recycling, drought-proofing our water supplies and ending our reliance on imported water. All these new developments will be great for rate-payers and for the environment." WRD said GRIP will replace the need for 21,000 acre feet of water imported from Northern California and from the Colorado River to maintain water levels in the groundwater basins. With the plant, water imports will no longer be necessary, it added.

WRD groundwater supplies are the source of half of the water used by 4 million residents of south Los Angeles County who live in 43 cities. WRD said it plans for the GRIP/AWTF plant to be the cornerstone of its Water Independence Now program, a suite of water conservation efforts aimed at helping the district achieve independence from imported water, the cost and availability of which has been aggravated by the state's continuing drought.

The deal signed Thursday follows a WRD vote on April 7 that unanimously selected Walnut-based Shea Construction to build the district's AWTF plant and set in motion final talks with Shea about the details of a design, build and operating agreement.

"Our company has built some of the premier public works projects in California, including the Golden Gate Bridge, the Boulder Dam and more recently the largest wastewater to drinkable water project in the nation," said Shea President and Chief Executive Peter Shea Jr. "We're proud and excited to be working with WRD on this project. The result is going to be terrific."