My Turn: Undergrounding utilities a bad idea
The Sierra Sun reported Wednesday the staggering cost of $163 million to bury Tahoe Donner’s utility lines [“Study: $163M to bury Tahoe Donner Utilities, Feb. 1]. I would like to present three arguments against burying the utilities, cost being only the most obvious: 1. cost; 2. construction hassles; and 3. environmental impact.First, obviously, the cost is staggering. Even if spread over 30 years, $39,000 per property would increase property taxes on our home by some 40 percent. This doesn’t even include the up-front cost of $5,000 to $10,000 to bury the utilities from the street to our home.It would be difficult to conclusively prove that property values will increase by the amount of investment. However, these are only the most apparent talking points – I’d like to propose some other arguments against undergrounding the utilities.The construction would most likely take seven years. It makes me cringe to think about endless summer road construction. I know that some of our part-time neighbors are equally disenchanted with the idea of trips to their mountain homes being disrupted by backhoes for years on end. If things get bad, then it’s conceivable that traffic delays could reduce the number of visitors to Tahoe Donner and negatively impact tourism revenues for the rest of the area.If traffic delays are not enough of a problem, imagine the dust and noise that will go along with it. How sad to be hiking on your favorite trail out your backdoor only to hear, see and smell construction each time that the trail nears a street.Now, we’ve been fortunate enough to live full-time in Tahoe Donner for five years and have only experienced occasional power outages. I’ll bet that the number of outages to all of our utilities over seven years of construction will far exceed the outages that we’ve experienced in the past five years.Yes, it is possible that outages and maintenance costs may be reduced in the very long run. However, our electrical system has 40 years of life left in it, which brings me to what I believe is the most important argument against burying Tahoe Donner’s overhead lines …It’s just plain piggy (i.e. selfish). We have a perfectly good system that is expected to continue functioning for another 40 years. Is it really worth the environmental resources to throw away the existing system?Think about the fossil fuels used to power the heavy machinery, to transport workers from who-knows-where to Tahoe Donner, and to heat the building where the project administrators will work. Think about the potential damage to our water quality (our beautiful lakes, Tahoe and Donner). Think about the debris and waste generated when tearing down the old system. Think about the pollutants added to the air – green house gasses and particulate matter.Tahoe Donner is our home, and I know that our part-time neighbors also consider their Tahoe Donner properties to be just that – their mountain homes. We all have homes here to enjoy this beautiful place and quality of life. Even if our property values were to increase due to burying the power lines, is it really worth the disruption to our homes and to the environment just to be so piggy?Decisions are made by those who show up. These are my opinions. Please write the Sierra Sun and the Tahoe Donner News with your opinions.Helen Pelster is a Tahoe Donner resident. “My Turn” is a guest column open to readers of the Sierra Sun. Send submissions of 500850 words to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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