Private Lake Tahoe water companies looking to sell — not to TCPUD | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Private Lake Tahoe water companies looking to sell — not to TCPUD

Amanda Rhoades
arhoades@sierrasun.com

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — In 1962, Earl and Marjorie Marr had $50 set aside and a plan to go to dinner. Instead, Mr. Marr used the money to buy the Tahoe Cedars Water Company.

Now, more than 50 years later, the family owned and operated company in Tahoma is expected to change hands soon, along with Homewood's Madden Creek Water Company, which are both owned by the private company Mid-Sierra Water Utility.

While the Tahoe City Public Utility District has been interested in purchasing Mid-Sierra Water Utility since it was first put up for sale in 2013, the deal could go to a much bigger company instead.

Earl and Marjorie Marr died in 2009. Their children have since managed the company.

Their son, Robert Marr, said in an interview with the Sierra Sun on Thursday he wants to sell Mid-Sierra Water Utility because he's ready to retire.

He said that in 2013, when they first put the utility company up for sale, they had a price in mind, and the TCPUD couldn't meet it. They negotiated back and forth, but no agreement was reached.

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Then, earlier this year, the TCPUD found out about additional grant money that could help purchase Mid-Sierra, so the administration made a bigger offer, said TCPUD spokesperson Kurt Althof.

That's when the PUD found out that Golden State Water Company, a privately owned company based in San Dimas, Calif., that's a subsidiary of American State Water Company, had also put in an offer.

Althof said that Mid-Sierra wasn't interested in selling to TCPUD, as they'd already made a deal with Golden State, so TCPUD's offer was accepted only as a back-up.

While Althof did not have specific details regarding price, he did say the PUD offered to pay more than whatever Golden State was willing to put up.

The Sierra Sun reached out to Golden State for an interview on Wednesday. Their spokesperson responded with an email statement from their vice president of regulated utilities, Denise Kruger.

The statement says, "Golden State Water Company has been providing safe, reliable water service to Californians for more than 85 years, and we are always looking into opportunities to serve new areas in the state that could benefit from our expertise. At this time, we don't have any updates to share regarding new opportunities."

However, at the Aug. 19 TCPUD board of directors meeting in Tahoe City, Robert Marr confirmed that Golden State is interested in Mid-Sierra Water Utility, adding that Golden State's potential rate increases are comparable to those TCPUD would impose.

In a later interview, Marr said, "it doesn't matter whatever we do, the rates are going to go up."

Marr's sister, Amie Haskill, told the Sierra Sun on Wednesday that there is a disclosure agreement that limits the details she's able to provide about the sale.

She did confirm that a sale is under negotiation, and said the decision not to sell to the TCPUD wasn't just about money.

"There are more aspects that are more valuable to us than the PUD was able to offer," she said. "It's a bigger deal than people know."

Before a sale can be finalized, the California Public Utility Commission — which regulates privately owned utility companies — must approve the deal.

CPUC Water Divison Director Rami Kahlon said Wednesday afternoon that no application has been filed.

Robert Marr said Tahoe Cedars serves water to 1,265 customers, while Madden Creek currently serves 165 customers. He added that Madden Creek will serve an additional 80 customers once the Homewood Mountain Resort redevelopment project is complete.

According to TCPUD, Madden Creek and Tahoe Cedars represent two of 10 small privately owned companies that provide water to homes and businesses within and around the PUD's service boundaries on Tahoe's North and West shores.

Correction

An earlier version of this story incorrectly labeled Golden State Water Company as being based in Sacramento. In fact, the company is based in Southern California, in San Dimas. The Sun regrets the error.

More Information

— The TCPUD gave a presentation on the potential sale of Mid-Sierra Water Utility at its Aug. 19 board meeting. Visit http://www.tcpud.org/download/general/mspres.pdf to read the slides.

— TCPUD General Manager Cindy Gustafson and Director of Utilities Tony Laliotis will host an open house on Tuesday, Aug. 30, at Marie Sluchak Park in Tahoma from 4:30-6:30 p.m. According to the PUD, residents can attend to learn about the differences between private ownership and public ownership of Mid-Sierra Water Utility.

— Visit gswater.com to learn more about Golden State Water Company.

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