Truckee River ‘chewing gum’ pipe to get artistic overhaul |

Truckee River ‘chewing gum’ pipe to get artistic overhaul

This sewer pipe over the Truckee River has collected stickers, chewed gum and other forms of filth over the past half-century.
Courtesy TCPUD |

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Click here to learn more about the project and how to make a submission.

Editor’s note: The original version of this story noted that funds for the pipe replacement would come out of a general budget. The updated version makes it clear the funds will be withdrawn from TCPUD’s capital budget.

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Efforts are under way to replace the somewhat iconic chewing gum-plastered sewer pipe that spans a portion of the Truckee River.

The Tahoe City Public Utility District has partnered with Tahoe Public Art on a project to replace the 50-year-old metal pipe.

What business would Tahoe Public Art have replacing an aging sewer pipe, one might ask?

“We have this big hulking sewer pipe crossing this picturesque river,” said TCPUD spokesman Kurt Althof. “The idea was that we have to replace this ugly pipe anyway — are there any options to make this thing look pretty?”

Enter Marguerite Sprague, Tahoe Public Art’s coordinator on the project.

Sprague and the TPA team will spend the rest of the month collecting artist proposals for the West Shore Export Crossing Rehabilitation project.

There will be two rounds of selections — the first by a jury and the final selection by the TCPUD Board of Directors, according to a TPA statement.

“We have heard from a number of artists already, and it’s exciting to hear about their visions,” Sprague said.

Sprague explained that artists are encouraged to present a vision for the project that blends well with the river’s natural environment.

“We don’t want neon pink elephants dancing across the pipe, in other words,” Sprague said.

While artist selections are being made, TCPUD and its contractor will proceed with pipe preparations.

Construction on the actual pipe is planned to last from September through October, with an estimated completion date of Oct. 15, Althof said.

TPA will have 14 consecutive days in September to complete the artistic rendering on the pipe, he added.

“We as a utility district are not experts in the art field,” Althof said. “Looking at how Tahoe Public Art has helped the North Tahoe Business Association (with Kings Beach roundabout art) … they were just the natural partners to help on this project.”

Replacing the pipe is projected to cost $1.3 million, which will come out of the PUD’s capital budget, Althof said.

The painting will occur far from the river, likely in a commercial parking lot, he added, using environmentally friendly paints. An ultraviolet coating will be added to the finished rendering in order to preserve the art project for as long as possible.

Disposal of the existing pipe — which has collected 50 years worth of stickers, chewed gum and other forms of filth and has become a familiar site for those floating the Truckee River during the summer — will be the responsibility of the contractor and will be part of the project bid, Althof said.

“We won’t officially know who the pipe bid was awarded to until after our board meeting on June 19,” he said.

Those interested in making a proposal for the art project must make their submission by 6 p.m. July 10 to be considered.

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