Royal Gorge growth concerning districts | SierraSun.com

Royal Gorge growth concerning districts

Sierra Countis
Sierra Sun

The likely growth and development on Donner Summit are among the concerns echoed by the Sierra Lakes County Water District and the Donner Summit Public Utility District.

With the upcoming November elections, the candidates for both districts’ board of directors intend to focus on ways to be proactive and involved in the region’s future.

Officials from the districts can only speculate about the future development of Royal Gorge ski resort, purchased by Todd Foster and Kirk Syme over a year ago. The 3,000-acre resort is on the summit west of Truckee.

Wade Freedle, water district board president, said Foster and Syme indicated at a September district meeting that they hoped to have a preliminary development plan before the end of the year.

Donner Summit PUD has also had preliminary discussions with the Royal Gorge owners about wastewater treatment, said Julie Davies, Donner Summit Public Utility District board president.

George Garcia, who has been a water district board member for 16 years, said he can’t predict what Royal Gorge is planning. But he said it is important to manage new development properly.

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“Do we have the capacity?” Garcia said. “There’s always the possibility of growth. You just have so much to work with. There’s limits to everything.”

The Donner Summit Public Utility District is planning to expand the wastewater treatment plant to meet the needs and requests of homeowners, Davies said. The expansion project could take up to four years to complete.

It is important to ensure there are water and sewer hook-ups for 200 Sierra Lakes property owners, Garcia said.

The two districts came to an agreement in 2003 to share the costs necessary to run the Donner Summit sewage treatment plant. The wastewater from Serene Lakes goes to the Donner Summit treatment plant to be treated, said Tom Skjelstad, Donner Summit utility district general manager. He said the water district is responsible for roughly 44 percent of the costs, with Donner Summit picking up the remaining 56 percent.

Skjelstad said the system is working well for both districts.

Sierra Lakes County Water District will get an $8 million loan from Bank of the West in funding an underground refurbishing project to replace several water mains that are more than 40 years old, said Wade Freedle, the district’s board president.

Freedle said the district has been studying two sections of the Serene Lakes subdivision for four years, digging up water pipes that are “a lump of rust.”

“You never really know until you seen what you’ve got down there,” Freedle said.

The project will also include water lines from the main line to individual homeowner’s property lines, Freedle said.

The district will seek a consulting contractor to evaluate any areas in need of reengineering, he said. Freedle said he “hopes to be moving dirt” by next summer.

In July 2006, Donner Summit PUD worked to get the Donner Summit Fire Department annexed by the Truckee Fire Protection District, said Julie Davies, Donner Summit PUD board president. She said the district is pleased with the fire department’s service to the area. Meanwhile, Davies said it has been a costly, but confident, three-year process in meeting the State of California’s requirements of a 2002 wastewater discharge permit.

There are two seats open for the PUD board with two candidates running for the positions. Davies has served on the board since 1993 and won’t be running again, she said.

Incumbent Phil Gamick is running for another term.

Rachel Tolmachoff has lived in Soda Springs for over two years. She has two sons.

She worked as a public health nurse for 19 years in Sonoma County and as a registered nurse and a family nurse practitioner. Tolmachoff is on the board of directors for the Far West Ski Association.

The remainder of the five-member board includes Vice President Cathy Preis, Secretary Bob Sherwood and director Dave Oneto.

Board members are elected, and all are registered voters within the district are eligible to run for office.

There are seven candidates running for three available seats on the water district board.

Gene Bowles is a retired high-tech entrepreneur and now spends his time working on an investment strategy start-up company. Originally from Los Altos, he has lived at Serene Lakes for four years. Bowles is married with two children. He said he enjoys downhill skiing and traveling.

He said some of the water district board policies are not adequate to the task of making changes within the community. Bowles said he will bring “fresh thinking” to the board with his technical and financial expertise.

Tom Burns retired from Chevron corporation in 2000, where he worked as a science policy advisor for the global environment. He first moved to the Serene Lakes area in 1973 and also lives part-time at his home in Berkeley. Burns is married with two sons. He said he enjoys bird-watching and skiing at Royal Gorge ski resort. Burns said there are critical parts of the future development the district board should be engaged in. He said he is in support of new development as long as it makes sense with the area.

George Garcia is a retired public works and transportation supervisor for the City of Walnut Creek, where he currently lives, he said. He said he has a home in Serene Lakes and has been coming to the area since 1979. Garcia is married with three children and five grandchildren. Garcia said he was a former board member of the Serene Lakes Property Owners Association from 1987 to 1990. He has been on the water district board since 1990. After holding a position on the board for the past 16 years, Garcia said he is “still interested in this lovely place” and the local politics.

Blake Tresan is a district engineer at Truckee Sanitary District. He said he has lived full-time at Serene Lakes since 2002. Tresan is married with two children. He said he enjoys mountain biking, downhill skiing and cross country skiing in the backcountry around Serene Lakes. Tresan has been a water district board member for four years. He said his professional work experience is a valuable service to the board. Tresan is a write-in candidate.

Bill Oudegeest has lived in Serene Lakes almost 30 years with his wife. He was the past president of Serene Lakes Property Owners Association and is a current board member. The Serene Lakes community needs to be guided through the changes of any new development at Royal Gorge, he said in his candidate statement.

Karen Heald is a lt. with the San Francisco Fire Department and is also a licensed attorney and nurse. She has lived in Davis and has lived in the Serene Lakes area since 1992. Heald said she and her partner enjoy taking their four dogs snowshoeing and cross country skiing at Royal Gorge. Heald said the water district is “in a state of flux” as the area continues to grow and adds that the infrastructure is in need of repair.

Ulrich Luscher is a retired principal engineer at URS Corporation and now works mostly part-time as a consultant at the firm. He lives in Orinda, near San Francisco, and lives in Serene Lakes part-time. He is married with two sons. Luscher said he enjoys sailing, kayaking, and cross-country skiing in the area. He is the former board president of Serene Lakes Property Owners Association, he said. Luscher said he has been a water district board member for more than 10 years, including four years as board president. He said he can contribute engineering and construction aspects in addressing the future of the water district.