Muck by any other name is still muck


I still remember when the Department of Water Resources (DWR) caused such a public uproar about the muck ponds from tunnel construction (aka the “spoils” removed from under ground) that would be left throughout the Delta from tunnel construction.

What is tunnel muck? In 2013, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) said it was “plastic mix consisting of soil cuttings and soil conditioning agents (water, air, bentonite, foaming agents, and/or polymers/ biopolymers)”. Yuck. Muck (their term, not mine).

To solve their problem with muck, they did a global edit on their 40,000 page BDCP Plan to change the word “muck” to “RTM” or “Reusable Tunnel Material.” Voila! That sounds nicer, doesn’t it? Then they spent years in marketing campaigns and other efforts to look for nice uses of the “RTM”. They even want to use it to fill in Franks Tract as a tidal marsh.

On Page 10 of the January 31 report by the Independent Technical Review (ITR) Committee, a group of engineers advising the DCA (that’s the Delta Conveyance and Design Construction Authority), Section 4.2 Tunnel Material states:

Based on ITR experience, soft ground tunnel material is not a commodity (has no residual value) and is difficult to dispose or find a use for. These two factors were part of the reasons the ITR recommends (above) moving the alignment closer to industrialized land, close to multiple modes of transport, to handle removal of it in the most economical manner.

ITR cautions that the “reusability” of such material should not be over-sold within the project team, as no experience exists (within the ITR members) where material from a soft ground tunnel has been used as structural fill.

That sounds like a big “no” for planning on leaving the stuff around the Delta.

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