Padre Dam Municipal Water District Maintenance and Operations Yard Improvements Project

Collaboration and careful planning keep tricky upgrades on track

Inherently complex. That’s the best way to describe any new construction project taking place around the Padre Dam wastewater treatment plant. But with improvements needed, Harris embraced the challenge to manage the process.

Crews would have to perform extensive underground utility and foundation work on a site in a floodplain with a high water table—without disrupting the plant’s 24/7 operations. Adding to the complexity was the lack of reliable records and looming unknowns, including the locations of contaminated soils to be removed as well as unmarked underground utilities from the 1950s.

Harris relied on extensive pre-planning and complete collaboration among varied stakeholders from day one. Harris fostered a team spirit by:

  • Clearly defining all roles and responsibilities

  • Setting up a method for conflict resolution

  • Getting buy-in on a commitment to transparency

Even though this was a design-bid-build project, Harris saw the imperative to enhance collaboration by borrowing best practices from the design-build method, including the early adoption of a project partnering agreement by the key stakeholders and the tracking of change orders on an add/deduct list. Harris promised a resolution within 30 days for each change order, creating a level of trust with the contractor that proved critical to avoiding delays.

Despite setbacks due to weather and poor as-built records, these partnering efforts pushed the project forward and led to completion on time and on budget.

Core Elements

The $8.3 million improvement project included:

  • Demolition of existing facilities

  • Excavation and grading for the future Operations Yard, including environmental remediation and removal of 4,500 cubic yards of impacted soils

  • Extensive underground electrical, communications and wet utility relocation work

  • Construction of a 25,000 square foot pre-manufactured metal building to be used as a mechanics garage and material warehouse to support Padre Dam’s infrastructure and utility maintenance programs

After completing the utilities and earthwork, construction began on foundations for the metal building as well as two outlying structural steel awning structures that required deep foundation caissons terminating four feet above ground to handle flooding.

Beyond the Blueprints

At the start of the project, Harris set the tone for a successful collaboration by inviting all stakeholders to a session to discuss their concerns for potential cost overruns.

The team encouraged valuable ideas from the contractor and subcontractors to capitalize on their expertise and field experience. This led to $95,000 in value engineering, savings which were returned to the budget to offset other costs.

Meet the Team

Eric Jackson, CCM, QCM, SMS, CHST

Eric Jackson, CCM, QCM, SMS, CHST

Sr. Construction Manager / Program + Construction Management


Padre Dam Municipal Water District


Santee, CA




Construction Management


2016 CMAA Project Achievement Award, Infrastructure: Constructed value less than $25 Million - CMAA National

2017 APWA Honor Award - APWA San Diego & imperial Counties Chapter