Many aspects of a 50-year-old campus go out of date – this time, it’s the utilities infrastructure that’s up for renewal.

The final phase of a four-year electrical line renewal project just began on the west side of campus and in east campus housing. The project is slated for completion during Summer 2008, just in time to begin construction on a second infrastructure project that will update storm drain lines, sewer lines, potable water lines and natural gas lines in two phases over the next six years.

David McHale, senior electrical engineer, said the electrical systems – and utilities in general – need to be replaced periodically because they are old and no longer able to accommodate the size of the campus.

“The two existing [electrical] systems are nearing the end of their useful lives,” he said, “And there were capacity issues with campus growth.”

McHale said the new system, which is currently being finalized around Student Health, the Events Center, Harder Stadium and Anacapa and Santa Rosa Residence Halls, is considered a “smart” system and has been featured in two industry magazines.

He said it is an advanced version of a looped system, which would normally be almost “deadly” if an electrical line were accidentally cut by a worker, who very likely end up electrocuted and badly hurt. The new system will cause a shutdown of power to the isolated area where the line was affected, saving workers from injury and the campus from blackouts.

“The new system can locate a fault and isolate the fault within 0.1 seconds,” he said. “No buildings will see an outage.”

McHale said funding for this project is coming from three sources: The state of California is spending about $13.5 million, Housing & Residential Services is spending about $3 million and a number of campus departments are spending about $3.5 million.

This project will wrap just in time for more infrastructure construction to begin, said Ray Aronson, assistant project manager for the second project.

“[Campus utilities] have been oversized and have been or will be reaching the end of their useful lives,” Aronson said.

The systems have been in place since the campus was a military base 56 years ago, Aronson said. Although no major problems have come up, there have been more minor ones with sewage and drainage lines.

“The water pipes are made out of cast iron, a metal that corrodes and has been corroding,” Aronson said. “The storm drains are undersized and have been backing up. The sewer lines have tree roots growing through them and they’re just crumbling, which causes them to back up.”

Vice Chancellor of Physical Facilities Marc Fisher said the problem needs to be addressed before anything “catastrophic” happens. He said erosion of the east campus bluffs is also a concern.

“The storm water goes over the bluffs, which it’s not supposed to do,” he said. “The new system will have it go into the lagoon and then the ocean.”

Funding for this project is coming from the state and campus. The two phases together will cost over $30 million, with the majority coming from the state.