A large rubber cover protects the city of Newport Beach's largest reservoir, which holds 195 million gallons of water. The City Council voted for a contract to replace the torn and deteriorating cover.

A large rubber cover protects the city of Newport Beach's largest reservoir, which holds 195 million gallons of water. The City Council voted for a contract to replace the torn and deteriorating cover. (SCOTT SMELTZER / January 26, 2012)

A new cover will soon span Big Canyon Reservoir.

The Newport Beach City Council approved a $5.7-million contract Tuesday to replace the torn and deteriorating cover that spans the water supply at the base of Spyglass Hill.

The reservoir will be drained between April and September, but that should not affect supplies because the city will still be able to access wells that produce ground water and connections to imported water, Deputy Public Works Director Patrick Thomas said Wednesday.

Installation should be completed by October.

The council hired MPC Containment to construct a replacement from chlorosulfonated polyethylene, or Hypalon. The material is more durable than the existing polypropylene tarp.

"It's a stronger material. It's designed for a longer life span, designed to have better resistance to ultraviolet light and the weathering effects of being outdoors 24/7," Thomas said. "We think it's going to be a better product."

In 2004, the city commissioned Banshee Construction Co. Inc. to construct a $6-million tarp to protect the 200 million-gallon reservoir from debris, but it began deteriorating within five years, according to city officials and court documents.

The city sued the floating cover's makers — a host of subcontractors are named in various cross complaints — for breach of contract in December 2011, arguing that promised UV- and weather-resistant protections weren't added to the cover during manufacturing.

The case's next court hearing is scheduled for April 9, but a trial date has not been set.

City Attorney Aaron Harp is "hopeful we'll reach some type of resolution without going to trial."

In the meantime, the city, which made some repairs, is using the deteriorating tarp, said Public Works Director David Webb.

 

In March the city hired another firm, MWH Global, to design the replacement cover. On Tuesday the unanimous council amended the contract with MWH to include construction management.

"It takes a long time to get one of these covers going," Webb said.

The tarp is expected to last 30 years. A full value, 15-year warranty is part of the agreement with MPC, after which the tarp would be prorated for its age, Thomas said.

Because the city is advancing the project money from the water enterprise fund from fiscal 2013-14, other projects, including replacement of cast iron pipes in Newport Heights and Via Lido, may be delayed a year.

Councilman Mike Henn asked whether the pipe replacement would pose any danger to residents.

Thomas said there have been no major failures with the pipes, and the project's aim is to replace aging infrastructure.

lauren.williams@latimes.com

Twitter: @lawilliams30