PUD plans to acquire Donner Lake Co. ; replacing system pipeline unlikely to begin before spring | SierraSun.com
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PUD plans to acquire Donner Lake Co. ; replacing system pipeline unlikely to begin before spring

DARIN OLDE, Sierra Sun

With the Sept. 7 California Public Utility Commission hearing on a federal loan for water system repairs drawing near, Donner Lake residents are urging the Truckee-Donner Public Utility District to take over Donner Lake Water Co.

More than 1,200 water customers at Donner Lake have been under a boil water notice for more than two months, since June 22, after a notice issued by state water regulatory agencies stated that low pressure and water outages in the system increased the possibility that the water could become contaminated and cause illness.

PUD plans acquisition

After seven years of anticipating a new water treatment facility for the Donner Lake Water Co., residents are now asking Truckee Donner Public Utility District to acquire the water system.

The PUD is actively pursuing this plan, and in a special meeting held Aug. 28 the PUD board approved several items that could lead to the acquisition of the water company:

– Retaining Sauers Engineering to perform an environmental quality review of the Donner Lake water system.

– Providing a temporary water supply for Donner Lake residents at Donner Lake Memorial Park.

The PUD also held private discussions regarding the following two items:

– Retaining a consultant who will perform an evaluation of the fair market value of the current Donner Lake water system.

– Retaining a consultant to perform an engineering and economic feasibility study of the Donner Lake water system.

Public Utility District president Ron Hemig said if the district acquires Donner Lake Water Co., lake residents will have to pay increased rates for replacement of the existing transmission system, storage tanks and improving the standard to the system.

Should the PUD continue to draw drinking water from Donner Lake, lake residents will also have to pay for the cost of the surface water treatment plant. They may also have to pay for the PUD’s acquisition of Donner Lake Water Co., whether it is through a purchase or through legal proceedings.

The PUD hopes to report exactly how much the improvements will cost Donner Lake residents at the conclusion of their evaluation.

Repair work delayed

Donner Lake Water Co. president Bob Fortino now says his company may not begin major pipeline replacement until next spring.

If the State Revolving Fund money is approved on Sept. 7, Donner Lake Water Co. will have to submit encroachment plans to the town and engineering plans to the pipe installation company.

Once the installation company reviews the plans and the pipes are delivered work on the system can begin, but area contractors and engineering experts suspect time is running out.

“I haven’t received anything in writing from Donner Lake Water Co.,” Town Engineer Dan Wilkins said. “The town needs to review the encroachment application. Usually there are other utilities to consider, and damage to the street … The bottom line is, [Donner Lake Water Co.] is not ready to approach the town with requests … We will do everything we can to expedite the procedure but they have an Oct. 15 grading deadline and a deadline against Mother Nature.”

Fortino said he has not rushed to submit plans to the town for several reasons.

“Some of the project costs may not be eligible for State Revolving Fund reimbursement. Those have to be addressed with conventional financing,” Fortino said. “We are not going to commit to plans for joint trenching [with Southwest Gas] until the State Revolving Fund money is approved, and when we are certain of the date when we can begin seeking reimbursement.”

Even without the pipeline replacement, officials at the PUC suspect that the boil water notice could be rescinded if the Donner Lake Water Co. is able to restore pressure to the system.

Once summer is over, and water use drops, officials from the Department of Health Services will reconsider the boil water notice.

“We are not going to repeal the boil water notice prematurely … but we will reconsider the notice later this fall,” said Cliff Sharpe from the Department of Health Services.

Community petitions

To organize local support, an informal committee of Donner Lake residents created two petitions, one for the PUD and one for the California Public Utility Commission.

The first petition, which was sent to Fred Curry, Public Utility Commission Water Division Branch Chief, urges the commission not to approve any loan to fund Del Oro, the parent company for Donner Lake Water Co.

“We don’t have an exact number of signatures because we are continually getting more,” said Kathy Polucha, a member of the committee, “but we have more than 300 for each right now.”

The Public Utility Commission will meet Sept. 7 to review the State Revolving Fund loan which has been slated for the water system at Donner Lake.

If approved, the PUC would secure $5 million for construction of the proposed water treatment plant and the replacement of the transmission main on South Shore Drive.

The location for the proposed treatment plant has been appealed by Donner Lake Village. Town Council will review that appeal in its meeting Thursday, Aug. 31.

According to Fred Curry, if the loan is secured on Sept. 7, the loan would be exclusive to the project and not to the purveyor of the water company.

The second State Revolving Fund Loan is for a transmission line replacement project, which also includes the lines on South Shore Drive.

Robyn Hook, State Revolving Funds Manager from the Department of Health Services, said he has not received a complete application for the second loan, which is required before approving the funding.

The second petition from the committee was delivered to Peter Holzmeister, general manager of Truckee Donner PUD. The petition listed Donner Lake residents who support the PUD in their efforts to acquire Donner Lake Water Co.

“I signed both of them. But I don’t think that it will result in cheaper water, that’s for sure,” said lake resident Russell Rosewood. “I signed it because it is a nuisance to Del Oro. If they see that the whole community wants them to lose the water company it may stimulate them to do something.”


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