MWD’s new tunnel boring machine named by 3rd Grader Jessica Wang

Jessica Wang, in the center with a bouquet, namer of MWD’s Tunnel Boring Machine, celebrates with her 3rd grade Victoriano Elementary class in front of the tunneling machine. Valley News/Tony Ault photo

Rachel Carson Tunnel Boring Machine

A Moreno Valley 3rd grader was overwhelmed Thursday, Jan. 25, not only due to the huge tunnel boring machine she named, but also the large crowd that included her teacher and 29 classmates cheering her on at the March Air Force Base Museum.

The occasion was the official naming of Metropolitan Water District’s new Rachel Carson Tunnel Boring Machine offered by Victoriano Elementary School student Jessica Wang. Wang wrote the name on the machine should be named after 20th century environmentalist Rachel Carson who warned the nation of using deadly pesticides, like DDT, leaching into sources of drinking water.

There to congratulate young Jessica was MWD General Manager Adel Hagekhalil and many other MWD-served water districts including the Eastern Municipal Water District and Western Municipal Water District in Riverside. Also in attendance was the hard hatted J.W. Fowler crew who will be doing the major $60 million excavation with the MWD tunnel machine and MWD Chief Engineer John Bednarski who will oversee the project.

Student Wang, with her parents Yulan Niu and Gang (Gong) Wang proudly looking on, told the crowd and her classmates and teacher Riassa Jeffrey she wrote in short that the machine should be named after the scientist Rachel Carson.

“Rachel was important because she was the woman who challenged the notion that humans could obtain mastery over nature by chemicals, bombs and space travel.” She thanked her parents for encouraging to enter the contest and her aunt who helped her in her research and “first to the Lord.”

Following the ceremonies which provided her with many certificates from MWD, local water districts, state and local governments and actually seeing the huge machine, Wang told the Valley News, “I feel good about it. The first time I saw it I was inspired. It was like, like really big.”

During the ceremonies MWD General Manager Hagekhalil congratulated Jessica and her teacher who encouraged her for bringing the name of the tunnel machine and winning the contest over many other elementary school to 12th grade high school students who entered.

“Today’s a big day for celebrating, continuing to deliver the service of water.” He said MWD wants to continue to bring safe, reliable water to everyone with no one left behind. “We are here today to launch a critical project to extend the existing Perris Valley Pipeline and to deliver water to our growing region. We are honoring the name of the machine that is going to go underground to tunnel and build this pipeline without having a [negative] impact on our community and environment and do what we need to do.”

He indicated that the project is giving many local people a second chance to help build their lives. He addressed the 3rd graders from Victoriano Elementary School and Jessica and urged them to someday consider seeking a career at MWD.

MWD Chief Engineer John Bednarski said, “This project represents the future not just for water in this area but also the future of people who will contribute to society within Southern California and, as Adel said, to be future water leaders in California.”

Addressing the young students, Bednarski said, “I know that some of you are going to visit this construction site one day and look down that 40 foot deep hole and look at this machine back here and say, ‘I’d like to do that that when I grow up and go to high school or when I go to college I want to have a career building things.’”

It is a sight to see the 40-foot long Rachel Carson Tunneling Machine that will dig 40 feet underground for more than 3,000 linear feet at a rate of 30 to 40 feet a day under the March Air Force Museum and house a reinforced 87-inch welded steel pipe to the Perris water plant. It will bring potable water to the communities of Hemet, Menifee, Winchester, Hemet and San Jacinto where thousands of new homes are under construction and new industrial, manufacturing plants and warehouses will be seen.

This week the boring machine will be lowered into the ground to begin its 3,000-foot journey. The work will continue until late next summer but continue through early 2025, according to Jeff Armstrong, a MWD representative from Eastern Municipal Water District.

Tony Ault can be reached at

Tony Ault