Lake Forest will have choice of water upgrade plans | SierraSun.com

Lake Forest will have choice of water upgrade plans

David Bunker and Julie Brown
Sierra Sun

Lake Forest water customers have a big choice ahead of them: Pay to upgrade their water system and become part of the Tahoe City Public Utility District or pay to upgrade the system and stay with private water company Tahoe Park Water.

The private system’s operator, Rick Dewante, rolled out his plan for fixing Lake Forest’s water system at a Thursday meeting. Meanwhile, Lake Forest residents got their wish to begin a process that may eventually land them within the Tahoe City PUD.

Dewante’s upgrade plan ” which includes digging a new well, replacing water lines, adding fire hydrants and introducing water meters ” could cost more than $1.2 million. Approximately $420,000 of that could be paid by a grant that Dewante hopes to receive and is only available to small, private water companies.

“We have a plan. We’d like you to join us. You don’t have to like us,” Gary Jennings, a water consultant working for Dewante, told a group of Lake Forest home and business owners, many of whom had just finished criticizing their water supplier.

Dewante unveiled his plan one day before the Tahoe City PUD approved a resolution to work with Lake Forest homeowners to form a general improvement district. The formation of the district would signal the homeowners willingness to pay for the upgrade of the water system so it could be absorbed by the district.

The district estimates that their cost to upgrade the system will also be about $1.2 million.

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“We have got a problem in our community, and we’ve got to fix it,” said district President Lou Reinkens before the board unanimously approved the Lake Forest General Improvement District.

More than 70 percent of Lake Forest property owners signed a petition supporting the move that will eventually give the Tahoe City district authority over the neighborhood’s water system, said Wally Auerbach, an advocate of the special district.

Several residents voiced their support of an improvement district at Friday’s meeting. No attendee protested the action.

“I for one don’t mind paying for that water,” Lake Forest resident Robert Jones said to the board. “I just want water delivered to my home that my family can drink.”

Director Erik Henrikson was the sole board member to question the implications of the move.

Lake Forest residents will have to pay an assessment tax to fund the needed improvements to their water system before the district can assume authority. Henrikson questioned whether homeowners would support the assessment.

“I think today is about acknowledging the customers,” said General Manager Bob Lourey. “And we’re hearing from the vast majority of them that they would like to proceed.”

Director Ron Treabess said it was in the district’s best interest to be the purveyors of the water system for all district residents, as they are with sewer utilities.

Lake Forest’s water system has a troubled history. The system had been serving its customers unfiltered lake water, before buying water from the Tahoe City PUD to supply the subdivision. The subdivision also doesn’t have adequate hydrants or water pressure to fight a large fire.

Dewante’s plan didn’t impress some residents, who said the problems have gone on too long.

“We’re asking Mr. Dewante to not invest anything more in this system,” said Susan Smith, a property owner. “Because we’ve asked that it be done comprehensively” by the Tahoe City Public Utility District.

The upgrade plan will be presented to water users in an official letter from the water company. The letter would serve as an informal vote, asking residents to send feedback to the California Public Utility Commission. If the state commission hears enough opposition to the project, they will hold a hearing on the upgrade plan, said Fred Curry with the California Public Utility Commission.