History of the Squaw Valley Public Service District: Part One | SierraSun.com

History of the Squaw Valley Public Service District: Part One

Sandy and Wayne Poulsen, seen in this historic image, were key components to the formation of the Squaw Valley Public Service District.
Photos courtesy Pete Bansen |

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a three-part series on the history of the Squaw Valley Public Service District, which was officially formed by Placer County on March 24, 1964. Parts one and two are written by Pete Bansen, chief of the Squaw Valley Fire Department.

It will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the history of Squaw Valley that the formation of a local government entity to provide water and sewer service in the valley resulted from the vision and foresight of Wayne Poulsen.

A Reno native and champion ski racer at UNR, Poulsen first ventured into the valley in 1932 while fishing Squaw Creek and was immediately taken with both the potential for skiing that the mountain offered and the beautiful Valley and meadow.

He moved into the valley in 1942 with his new bride, Sandy, despite the fact that there was no road access in the winter, water or power.

Poulsen gradually acquired the land within the valley and in 1947, met Alex Cushing, who was looking for a location to develop a ski resort. The ski area opened for operation two years later.

The early years of operation were turbulent, as was the relationship between Poulsen and Cushing. By the time of the Olympic Games in 1960, the two men had gone in separate directions — Cushing to operate the ski area and Poulsen as the developer of residential real estate within the valley.

In 1964, having developed and sold a significant number of home sites in the Valley, Wayne and Sandy Poulsen, along with several friends, started the process of forming the Squaw Valley County Water District.

An election was held on March 17, 1964, to elect directors for the fledgling District. Wayne and Sandy Poulsen, Nonie Courtwright, Edwin Horton and Donald Mason were elected.

On March 24, 1964 the Placer County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution forming the district and establishing boundaries. The first meeting of the new district took place in the Poulsen home, now the site of Graham’s restaurant on April 17, 1964.

The board met about every six months for the first several years — since there was no staff, the main business was the acceptance of easements for sewer lines and facilities, acquisition of several small mutual water companies which had been formed to provide water to the Winding Creek and Forest Glen subdivisions and replacement of directors who had moved out of the district’s service area.

Things started to get more interesting in January of 1966 when the district applied to the state of California for a permit to distribute water and created the first assessment district to operate the existing pipelines along Squaw Valley Road.

By December of 1966, the district was very much in operation and hired Charles Greenwood for engineering services and Nolan Hyde as the first district manager. Mr. Hyde was employed on a part-time basis for the very reasonable sum of $5 per hour.

In February of 1967, the district installed telephone lines to the water storage tanks so that the pumps could be controlled to automatically maintain water level in the tanks. A telephone was installed in the district manager’s office — the phone number was 583-4692, the same number the district uses today.

The minutes of that board meeting reflect another important milestone in the district’s history: The board approved a payroll check to Joe Riggs, who would work for the district for nearly 33 years until his retirement in December 1999.

In 1967, the complexity of operating the district had increased to the point where the Board started meeting monthly, a practice that has continued to present day.

In February 1970, the district board approved Resolution 70-2, authorizing the district’s participation in what was called the “Five District Committee” to investigate the feasibility of developing a regional sewage treatment system.

The work of this committee eventually resulted in the formation of the Tahoe-Truckee Sanitation Agency and the construction of the many miles of pipeline and state of the art treatment plant that have protected the environment of the region for decades.

By 1974, the job of director had become burdensome enough that the District started paying Board Members $25 for half-day meetings, $50 for full-day meetings.

After renting office space from Joe Marillac for a number of years, with the takeover of the water and sewer facilities constructed by the state of California for the Olympic Games, the district offices were relocated to a building behind Blyth Arena that had been constructed for the Olympics and also housed one of the State water wells.

This was a convenient, if cramped situation, but it became problematic when part of the roof of the Olympic Arena collapsed in 1983.

The district offices were evacuated due to a remaining section of the roof that hung perilously above the building.

When given an opportunity to relocate the offices to a more spacious and aesthetically pleasing location, the District moved to leased space in the Poulsen “7-Plex” on Christy Hill Road.

Look for part two next Friday.

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