New: Helicopter over Berkeley is lifting water pipes

Kiley Russell (BCN)
Thursday April 27, 2017 - 10:48:00 AM

East Bay Municipal Utility District crews are using a helicopter today to airlift thousands of feet of pipe into the hills of Berkeley as part of a water main replacement project. 

Scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., the airlift operation entails picking up dozens of pieces of 40-foot-long pipe by helicopter, flying them to a staging area near Panoramic Way and repeating the process until all 4,400 feet of pipe are in place, according to EBMUD officials. 

The crews will fly about 22 trips back and forth from Fernwald Road and Dwight Way, where the pipes await, to Panoramic Way, where the project area is located, a process that will likely last until about 4 p.m. 

During that time, traffic restrictions will be in effect at Dwight Way and Fernwald Road and at the intersection of Dwight Way and Panoramic Way, where the helicopter will drop off the pipe sections. 

"The Panoramic Hill Improvements Project replaces 7,000 feet of water pipeline in the Berkeley hills and includes replacing University Reservoir and the University Pumping Plant in late 2017," EBMUD officials said. 

Once the pipe is dropped off, crews still have to dig trenches, install the pipe and repave any sections of roadway that need to be dug up for the project, which is expected to wrap up by the end of this year, according to EBMUD spokeswoman Andrea Pook. 

This is the second such helicopter operation for this project. The first was completed last September and is intended to shave up to 60 days off the project timeline. 

If EBMUD were to truck the pipe pieces up to the project site, crews would have to cut them in half so they could be moved around the narrow roads and tight corners in the hilly neighborhood. 

They would then have to weld the pipes back together so they could be installed, according to EBMUD officials.