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PUD announces plans for Donner Lake water

DARIN OLDE, Sierra Sun

Truckee Donner Public Utility District announced draft plans yesterday for $13.5 million to rebuild the water system at Donner Lake.

PUD General Manager Peter Holzmeister said the plan will result in rebuilding the water system, abandoning Donner Lake as a source for drinking water and integrating nearly 1,300 customers into a larger groundwater distribution system.

Holzmeister said the plan would result in a surcharge of $450 per year for single-family residences at Donner Lake for 20 years. The surcharge would be in addition to the cost for acquisition of water rights and water rates.

The PUD anticipates using an aquifer, a supply of groundwater, in Martis Valley to meet the added demand of Donner Lake on the water system, and is expected to continue the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process leading to the formation of new wells.

Holzmeister said he hopes the information for customer ballots, which may give the PUD the authority to move forward with acquiring the water system at Donner Lake, will be presented to the board in a special meeting soon.

Donner Lake Water Company anticipates spending $12 million on capital improvements, and in a press release announced that it seeks $4.8 million immediately based on the water emergency.

If received, the emergency funds would amount to an average annual cost per customer of about $195 for the first year and $378 for 19 out of 20 years. The water company plans to spend an additional $7.2 million on capital improvements which include a surface water treatment plant, something the PUD considered initially but abandoned, opting for groundwater exclusively.

Donner Lake Water Co. spokeswoman Heather Milne was not able to comment on the price for a single family home if the total $12 million for capital improvements is delivered to the company.

Attorney Terry J. Thomas, council for Real Parties, has filed a protest with the California Public Utilities Commission over Donner Lake Water Company’s request for $4.8 million in emergency funds.

The protest by Real Parties, a small contingent of the Donner Lake Citizens Group for Drinking Water, was filed on the grounds that Donner Lake Water Co.’s application for emergency funds contains false rate information, that the company is subject to condemnation, that the company’s plans are tied up in litigation and that the company has failed to maintain and repair the system at the expense of public health.

A pre-hearing conference for the protest will be held in San Francisco at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 24. CPUC staff, Donner Lake Water Co. and the Donner Lake Citizens Group for Drinking Water will meet to discuss hearing dates, issues and the nature of the proceeding.

To help support their cause, the Citizens Group requested Truckee Town Council write a letter to the utilities commission. As a response, town council wrote a letter to the CPUC saying the town could not take a position with regard to quality of service or acquisition issues. However, the town said despite repeated attempts to secure their cooperation, Del Oro Water Co., the parent company for Donner Lake Water Co., made no effort to obtain the necessary permits for the repair and maintenance of the existing system despite a California State Department of Health Services order.

“It is the town’s position that no funds should be loaned to Del Oro Water Co. until it has obtained all required permits from the town and all other permit issuing authorities for repair, maintenance and any new construction related to system operations,” wrote Mayor Don McCormack in a letter dated Jan. 19.

Holzmeister said the price for single family residences at Donner Lake would be lower with the PUD despite a higher capital improvement plan because the cost would vary depending on the type of customer, service connection size and the addition of new connections from vacant lots during the 20-year repayment plan.

Officials at Donner Lake Water Co. say what makes the PUD’s cost higher would be the acquisition of water rights, which the company does not wish to sell.

Dean Evans, director of the water division for the CPUC, said there will probably be a public participation hearing at which time any and all customers who wish to comment can make statements on the record.


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