Water dispute kept 1,100 West Shore properties dry two weeks ago | SierraSun.com

Water dispute kept 1,100 West Shore properties dry two weeks ago

Jenell Schwab and Kevin MacMillan
Sierra Sun

TAHOMA, Calif. and#8212; A homeowner’s apparent recent refusal to allow officials onto his property kept more than 1,100 West Shore parcels and Sugar Pine State Park campers without water service for more than 12 hours, officials said.

According to Ed Miller, a Meeks Bay Fire Protection District board member, when a water main owned by Tahoe Cedars Water Company broke sometime in the night between Wednesday and Thursday, June 13-14, Tahoma homeowner Robert Ferwerda did not allow workers to cross his property at 492 Elm St. to fix the leaking pipe.

Ferwerda’s property is next to a parcel owned by the water company. Robbie Marr, part-owner of Tahoe Cedars, said proper easements were never established when the main was placed in the early 1960s.

In an email to the Sun, Ferwerda said he has lived at the Elm Street property full time since 2006.

and#8220;This facility was not disclosed in my title documents when I purchased my property,and#8221; he wrote. and#8220;There are not any easements for this water line.and#8221;

Ferwerda further said the water company was requested to provide appropriate certificates of insurance, which officials failed to do; thus, Ferwerda did not allow water crews to access his property due to liability issues.

and#8220;Insurance certificates are routine when a contractor works on someone else’s property. It is necessary to cover the liability issues,and#8221; Ferwerda wrote. and#8220;To date, The Tahoe Cedars Water Co. has failed to provide proof of insurance.and#8221;

The June 14 dispute was not resolved until late that day, when the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office intervened. The repair should have taken only a few hours, said Miller, but due to the contention, service was not restored until 5 p.m. Additionally, for the next 24 hours, residents were required to boil their water.

In his email, however, Ferwerda said the line break occurred at about 7 a.m. June 14, and it wasn’t until about 3 p.m. before the necessary equipment arrive on the site.

and#8220;It should be recognized that this entire incident could have been avoided, The water line failed because it was improperly installed in the first place,and#8221; he wrote, adding that there is a pressing need to modernize Tahoe Cedars’ water system, considering it is half a century old.

After looking into the legal issues for several hours, El Dorado Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Almos, who responded to the incident, said the sheriff’s office decided to treat the matter as if passage was allowed by prescriptive easement. A prescriptive easement is a permitted right-of-way based on continuos use, meaning the passage way has been used for a long period of time much like when a trail has been used by hikers or backcountry skiers and it too becomes right-of-way.

and#8220;The issue came down to one of public safety,and#8221; Almos said.

In 2010, Tahoe Cedars Water Company, which distributes to West Shore residents around Tahoma, raised its flat water utility rate to $503.20 per year, up from the previous annual rate of $284.36. It was the first raise in 16 years, and its current rates are some of the lowest along all the North Shore water utilities. Residents of the West Shore community supported the hike after an information campaign by the district explained the move.

and#8220;I want that, I want this and#8212; we don’t have the money to do all this stuff,and#8221; Marr said.

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