SW Gas seeks approval for additional pipeline work
Southwest Gas and the Town of Truckee want to bring gas service to Prosser Lakeview, a portion of the downtown commercial core and the remainder of Tahoe Donner within the next three years.
Jim Kane, Southwest Gas’ senior vice president of operations, said his company filed a new project application with the California Public Utilities Commission asking slightly more than $15 million be added to the original project budget.
$45 million budget
Should the CPUC grant the application, which would bring the total budget to $45 million, Kane said by the year 2000 Tahoe Donner, Prosser Lakeview excluding Prosser Lake Heights and Prosser Lake Acreage and an area downtown will have natural gas service.
Beyond the scope of the application, however, the gas provider is looking for other ways to bring gas service to residents in the two excluded Prosser areas and at Donner Lake.
“As currently envisioned, we will install facilities to the remainder of Tahoe Donner and the majority of the Prosser Lakeview areas over the next two to three years bringing natural gas service to more than 7,400 of the 8,300 customers in Truckee,” Kane said in a letter to town councilmembers. “We will continue efforts outside of this application to identify other construction options that may allow service to be installed in the more difficult digging areas.”
Kane appeared before the town council at its July 3 meeting and asked the town to send a letter to the CPUC in support of Southwest Gas’ application. Councilmembers voted unanimously in favor of the request.
“We are hoping the letter from the Town of Truckee will encourage the application to be bumped up (on the CPUC priority list),” Kane said.
Currently, Southwest Gas is installing meters and service to more than 1,000 new customers where gas mains are already in place. Kane said Southwest Gas plans to get as many people hooked up before Nov. 15, but the final number is contingent on the CPUC’s application decision.
“Whatever we can get done before Nov. 15 – the cutoff for the building season – we want to be able to do,” Kane said, “but it is all contingent on approval.”
The application was submitted last week, beginning a process that can take as long as three months. Following that is the town’s encroachment permit process, which will take another month. By then, the construction season will be nearing its end.
The promise of natural gas for residents of Tahoe Donner, Prosser Lakeview and Donner Lake blew up in April when Southwest Gas officials announced remaining pipeline installations wouldn’t begin until 1998 because the company spent more than its entire budget on a half-completed project.
With only about half of the Truckee project complete, the company was already $5 million over its $29 million budget. It was estimated to finish the job, not including Donner Lake, it would cost $11 to $25 million more.
Company representatives told a room full of frustrated locals at the sanitary district in April that the company should never have promised to serve Donner Lake in the first place because trenching the rocky terrain would cost about $13,000 per lot, or $14 million total. The average cost for Truckee service is $3,000 per lot.
The town and Southwest officials have been working on the problem since April when tempers flared after the gas company blamed unexpected Truckee trenching requirements for some of the cost overrun. The problem even caused Truckee-Donner Public Utility District board members to ponder taking over where Southwest Gas left off and completing the original project.
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