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After spending years in development, a recycled water pipeline to the Stanly Ranch property and the Carneros area took a major step forward Tuesday, when crews began pulling pipe underneath the Napa River.

For more than a month, a contractor had been working to drill a tunnel under the river large enough to fit the 2-foot-wide pipeline and an 8-inch sewer main.

Tuesday morning, the crews began to pull 2,250 feet of PVC-type pipe through that tunnel, which sits 36 feet below the Napa River. The pipe was assembled in 50-foot sections near Stanly Lane, then extended under the river to the east bank and the sewage treatment plant.

The pipeline will connect the Napa Sanitation District plant to the Stanly Ranch property for the St. Regis resort project.

Once the pipeline gets to Stanly Ranch, the Los Carneros Water District has plans to extend it out to properties in the Carneros area and deliver recycled water to irrigators and landowners currently reliant on groundwater.

The pipeline is slated to provide 200 acre-feet of recycled water to the St. Regis project, with another 450 acre-feet of summer water — used during the irrigation season — to the Los Carneros Water District, said Darcy Aston, outreach coordinator for the Napa Sanitation District. More water could become available to the district if it can provide adequate storage, Aston said.

The owners of Stanly Ranch paid for the construction of the pipeline, with oversight from the sanitation district. The water district paid for the pipe to be expanded from 8 inches to 24 inches, helping share in the $1.7 million project.

Property owners in the district passed a $100-per-acre annual property tax assessment this year to pay for design of the pipeline’s extension to Carneros, and to widen the pipeline.

Several landowners objected to the assessment, as their properties wouldn’t connect to the pipeline, but owners representing more than 76 percent of the district’s acreage voted to approve it. Pipeline proponents advocated for it as a necessary infrastructure project similar to roads or utility lines, and touted the recycled water as an alternative to taxing groundwater resources in the area.

An additional assessment to pay for the cost of the Carneros extension could happen in 2015, and has been estimated at $4,200 per acre. Total costs of the pipeline could be $16 million.

John Stewart, a member of the Los Carneros Water District’s board of directors, said the work Tuesday symbolized a mark of significant progress in the pipeline project.

The district formed in the late 1970s with the intent of bringing recycled water to Carneros. The city of Napa’s approval of the St. Regis project served as the catalyst to get the pipeline extended under the river.

“What happened this morning was a key step, and a very visual step, in our process of bringing recycled water to the Carneros area,” Stewart said. “This was huge. This was a very big morning.”

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