Donner Lake residents miffed with PUD Construction | SierraSun.com
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Donner Lake residents miffed with PUD Construction

Katherine Morris

Donner Lake resident Karen Odmark has had it.

“Here, listen – this is what I have to listen to all day long,” Odmark said as she held up her portable phone to the air while standing on her front porch.

From the other end of the line, one can hear the roar of bulldozers, beeping backhoes and what sounds like boulders crashing onto metal.

“The other day I was home trying to catch up on some things and do homework and I had to go in my room, turn on the fan and put ear plugs in just so I could concentrate,” said Odmark, a full-time student at the University of Nevada, Reno. “The house literally shakes when they dump the rocks. It’s gotten so bad that if I want to study, I have to go to the library.”

The raucous Odmark is describing is part of a massive collaboration between the Truckee Donner Public Utility District and Southwest Gas to replace all gas and water lines in the Donner Lake area.

One of the noisier portions of the project is taking place near Odmark’s home at the intersection of Donner Pass Road and Donner Lake Road, where an empty lot has become the screening site for the truckloads of dirt being excavated from the neighborhood.

Southwest Gas crews, which are being contracted for the job by TDPUD, often work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and sometimes on Saturday.

“Basically, the dirt that is being excavated to dig the trenches is hauled by truck to this particular lot and then screened to remove the rocks so that the dirt can be reused in the trenches once the lines have been installed,” explained TDPUD General Manager Peter Holzmeister.

As of early this week, Holzmeister said he was well aware of the discontent among residents and business owners in the area and was working around the clock to find an alternative site.

“I know that what we’re doing over there is very ugly, noisy and messy,” Holzmeister said. “There’s diesel fuel and dust. I completely understand why people are upset and if I could move it today, I would.”

He said he’s yet to have much success, as he’s continued to run into significant opposition when approaching people about the use of alternate sites.

“I’ve been on the phone all morning trying to find a place to move this thing, but it’s a messy, noisy project, and no one else seems to want it in their neighborhood either,” he said.

The other problem is that TDPUD would like to keep the screening site near Donner Lake to keep costs down, as opposed to moving it across town.

Mike Alagna, owner of the West End CafZ located across from the work site, said he is appreciative of Holzmeister’s recent efforts and is hopeful that a solution will be reached soon.

In the meantime, though, the dust and diesel is definitely affecting his business.

“As a business owner, I’m trying to bring food to the lake area and attract people the area, meanwhile there’s a beeping backhoe, throwing dirt and dust up into the air,” Alagna said. “We’ve been trying to rejuvenate this lake and bring recognition to the area. And, this is keeping people from wanting to come there.”

Neighborhood resident Grant Barta agreed.

“I don’t even want to hang out around here anymore, no one does,” Barta said.

He’s not as optimistic as Alagna about finding a solution anytime soon.

“We’ve been talking to the TDPUD about this for quite some time and they’ve been really nice, but I’m not sure how much they’ve really been looking into the problem,” he said.

Holzmeister said in the worst case scenario, TDPUD would be unable to move the site, meaning residents would have tolerate the situation until sometime in October.

“I haven’t given up, though,” Holzmeister said. “Believe me, I’d love to move this thing as soon as possible, too.”


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