Forest Service makes proposal to STPUD |

Forest Service makes proposal to STPUD

A summer water supply for Camp Richardson Resort, the Tallac Historic Site, Visitors Center at Taylor Creek and campground at Fallen Leaf Lake continues to be in jeopardy.

At a special meeting of the South Tahoe Public Utility District on Friday, Forest Service officials presented a draft special-use permit that would allow STPUD to use a well that it has been building for months.

STPUD’s board of directors, however, didn’t want to agree without further discussion.

“I’d kind of like to digest this and discuss it with our attorney and staff,” said Pembroke Gochnauer, vice president of the board.

After nearly six months of talks, STPUD and the Forest Service have been unable to come up with an agreement on water service for the federal agency’s South Shore recreation area. The disagreement came to a head earlier this month when STPUD decided not to go forward with the next step in construction of a new well being built on Forest Service land because it didn’t have a long-term permit to use it. That will cost at least a few-week delay in completion, meaning STPUD may not be able to take the Forest Service as a customer in June, when a temporary agreement between the two agencies runs out.

The Forest Service could be without water for the popular recreation areas on the south and west shores.

The federal agency nearly lost water service to those areas last year on the eve of the Fourth of July weekend, Tahoe’s busiest time of year. A contract dispute between the Forest Service and its provider at the time, Lukins Brothers Water Co., had been ongoing for more than a year. After Lukins Brothers threatened to discontinue service, STPUD stepped into the fray and agreed to take the Forest Service as a customer if Lukins Brothers could continue its service until the end of the summer. South Shore’s primary water provider, STPUD had mandatory water-usage restrictions in place at the time and didn’t want to take on another big customer.

STPUD, with its infrastructure severely depleted because of MTBE contamination, wanted to drill a new well on Forest Service land near Camp Richardson. If the district could do that, it would be able to accept the Forest Service as a customer permanently.

Work on the well started last summer, and STPUD already has spent more than $800,000 on it.

Disagreement now revolves around whether STPUD will be charged for the water taken from the property by the Forest Service. STPUD officials feel there was an understanding that the federal agency had no water rights regarding the aquifer, a large underground water supply which stretches elsewhere in South Shore and is already used by STPUD. Forest Service officials, however, say that the availability of water there should be included in the property’s assessed value. Therefore, that value should be taken into consideration.

“I’ve got a problem with paying for water we already own, according to the water rights,” said Duane Wallace, STPUD director.

Colin West, engineering and recreation staff officer for the Forest Service, said the agency may drill its own well now because of the problems the two parties are having.

“After the last meeting, where we were told we may have our water cut off, we’re pursuing our own well,” West said.

STPUD’s board likely will discuss the issue again at its regular meeting Thursday.

What: STPUD meeting

When: 2 p.m., Jan. 20

Where: City Council Chambers, 1900 Lake Tahoe Blvd.

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