Friday, December 21, 2007

Water district seeks federal dollars

unedited 12-07 Tahoe Mt. News story

By Kathryn Reed

With devastating fires making the headlines across the country, the South Shore’s largest water-sewer district is hoping Congress will get the message that federal dollars are needed to upgrade aging infrastructure.
South Tahoe Public Utility District is hopeful in the new year that lawmakers will consider its request for $1 million to replace undersized water lines for fire protection. The appropriations bill has made it through the House and is stuck in the Senate.
Since the Angora Fire ripped through the area last summer, the district, with the help of El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago, has compiled a comprehensive needs package that will be taken to folks in Washington in the first quarter of 2008.
The district’s engineering department just came out with a report that says 185,000 lineal feet need to be replaced in the next 10-15 years. Today it costs $300 a foot. The whole project would come to $55.5 million if contracted out in 2007 dollars.
“We are trying to show them the enormity of the problem,” said Dennis Cocking, STPUD spokesman. “Wildfires don’t care about 10-year capital improvement plans.”
Each year since 1994 the district has replaced a minimum of 5,000 lineal feet of line with at least a 6-inch line. About 20,000 feet is the most that could be replaced in one year because of the short building season.
South Tahoe PUD has been working on upgrading lines in older neighborhoods and where the forest abuts homes. Sierra Tract, Gardner Mountain, Al Tahoe, Bijou and parts of the Stateline area need larger lines. Gardner Mountain had a lot of work done in the last year.
“In the last few years we have concentrated on Al Tahoe. The new well at the end of San Francisco produced more water than we had hoped for,” Cocking said.
He added that because the burn area had 6- and 8-inch lines as well as fire hydrants the outcomes was better than it could have been.
Damaged fire hydrants have been replaced up there. A bottleneck, as Cocking described it, in the area has been straightened out as well. Years ago when the lines were put in the plan was for some of the roads around Boulder Mountain to connect with one another. Because that never came to fruition, the water lines were a little haphazard for today’s reality.

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