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Summit PUD plans to expand

DARIN OLDE, Sierra Sun

For board members of Donner Summit Public Utility District, the need to expand their wastewater treatment and collection facility is clear, but what remains to be seen is who will pay for it.

On Dec. 30 the plant received 400,000 gallons of influent or wastewater, approximately 80 percent of the facility’s capacity to treat 520,000 gallons per day. On normal weekends, however, the plant may treat only 30 percent of its maximum capability.

Donner Summit PUD board members are not concerned about the facility’s capability to serve current customers, but they are preparing for concerns by land owners and neighboring agencies who have been denied new sewer permits because the facility has reached its maximum connection capacity.

“When (the sewer treatment facility) was built it was never built to handle every lot,” said Steve Grimm, general manager of Donner Summit PUD. “So we are working with Sierra Lakes County Water District on a plan for increased facilities.”

There are only eight vacant sewer connections available at Donner Summit PUD’s treatment facility, and they have been reserved for Donner Summit PUD customers.

The owners of the remaining 300 lots at Serene Lakes, under the operation of Sierra Lakes County Water District, will have to commit to paying for capital improvements to the facility if they want to obtain a permit, or seek sewer service somewhere else.

“We’ve done our responsibility in planning,” said Donner Summit PUD board member Dale Verner, referring to the wastewater treatment plant expansion study, which was adopted in 1997.

Verner, who presides on the PUD’s sewer plant expansion committee, says the study recommends expansion to treat up to 720,000 gallons of influent per day.

“We could build … in the summer of 2002. But there is a problem: somebody is going to have to pay for it,” said Verner.

Verner said it is not the responsibility for current rate payers to pay for plant expansion, it is the responsibility of new users, those who are demanding capital improvements to accommodate future development.

With Sugar Bowl Ski Area looking to expand services, Arizona Acreage LLC looking to develop Donner Ski Ranch and several hundred land owners with lots in the area Donner Summit PUD may be hearing the demand to expand treatment facilities sooner than expected.

Grimm said he has not been approached by Arizona Acreage LLC, but has been meeting with Sierra Lakes on a regular basis to discuss future plans, which will include a survey of land owners to determine whether or not they will pay for a permit.

“We will send a letter to lot owners asking them whether they would submit money for a connection,” said Sierra Lakes County Water District President Ulrich Luschera. “When both districts have the results of the poll we would make a decision.”

The sphere of influence, a document which describes the growth of the PUD until the year 2018, states Sierra Lakes County Water District could have 695 connections by the year 2003. They currently have 680 connections and may have demand for several hundred more, which exceeds the projection made in 1998.

“There is a sense of urgency about building the plant,” Verner said, noting that the urgency resides with the people who can’t obtain sewer permits, not current customers. “They have stopped growing out there (in Serene Lakes). They have reached their capacity.”

With Sierra Lakes’ temporary moratorium on sewer connections, the results of the survey, which land owners will have 90 days to complete, will determine the PUD’s action.

The surveys should be mailed by the next regularly scheduled PUD board meeting, Luschera said.

Last summer Sierra Lakes commissioned an environmental study to determine the amount of snow melt infiltrating the sewer system. Luschera said the result led to repairs which culminated in reduction of snow melt infiltration estimates by 100,000 gallons. He hopes the repairs will lead to more connections with the treatment facility.

Luschera also said the PUD and Sierra Lakes are working to update their 1971 contract, which is required before the PUD will make any commitment to expanding the treatment facility.


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