STPUD board members dispute candidate claims |

STPUD board members dispute candidate claims

Eric W. Schafer and James R. Jones

As members of the board of directors of the South Tahoe Public Utility District (STPUD), we are concerned about some of the information that is being spread by candidates for the upcoming election for three open seats on the board.

We are not up for re-election now, but we realize how misstatements and incorrect or twisted “facts” can be perpetuated. Local elections create opportunities for misstatements and distortion of facts, all in the guise of campaign statements dedicated to persuade public opinion and individual voters. Some candidates are trying to muddy your clean water.

CLAIM: STPUD gives away our recycled water to Nevada ranchers.

FALSE: We give California ranchers access to our recycled water under contracts which run into 2009. Alpine County residents accepted our recycled water when we needed a place to put it, as required by the state of California, to export the treated waters out of the Lake Tahoe Basin. We reciprocated by allowing free use of the waters for agricultural purposes.

CLAIM: STPUD will acquire the Lukins Brothers water system.

FACT: The current board was asked to consider the purchase, but turned it down because of system deficiencies. Certain candidates must not be listening to the facts already presented at past board and committee meetings and even at the recent candidate forums.

CLAIM: STPUD has lost revenue on electricity generation on the recycled water export line to Alpine County.

FALSE: We have saved money by not making expenditures to do this when our annual board review of the matter indicates it still is not cost-beneficial. Until the export line is replaced at the end of its life expectancy with a new high-pressure line, it is not feasible.

CLAIM: STPUD has no fire hydrants between the airport and Meyers.

FACT: The candidates making this claim should first explain who is responsible for fire protection in the community. Is it Caltrans (along their highway – the major evacuation route), the city of South Lake Tahoe or El Dorado County? Technically, none of the above, including STPUD.

STPUD started as a wastewater treatment district in 1950 and over the years has been asked to assume responsibility for water services by acquiring small, private water systems never built for our current population. We have systematically upgraded/upsized water lines over the past 10 years and have plans to continue until the system meets our needs. We know what your rate increases accomplish.

CLAIM: STPUD built a new building rather than replace undersized water lines.

FACT: The new building was to replace the original structure, which had been built in 1959 and had been declared unsafe in a report by outside structural engineers and architects. The report showed significant building deficiencies, previously unknown roof truss problems and major ADA problems.

When it was determined that remodeling was not a feasible option, the board determined that because of liability issues and the need for regulatory compliance, we chose to build a modern facility. This has been accomplished; we are safe, efficient and provide a high standard of service to our customers.

The pollution of our groundwater source by MTBE (methyl-t-butyl ether) was a major disaster. We were one of the first large water systems to be impacted and the first in the United States to sue the major oil companies for damages.

The litigation that resulted was successful, and the district received $69 million from the oil companies. Approximately $25 million went for legal services, which were undertaken on a totally contingent basis. Because we were able to get early settlement out of court with some defendants, the district financed the lawsuit without using customer rate funds.

The remaining $44 million has been systematically used for water system improvements, and, as a service to our water customers, there were no water rate increases for the two years after final settlement. So there was no need to reimburse the public as alleged in some of the campaign literature that is circulating.

Unsubstantiated and misleading claims are a sad byproduct of many local elections. Please check the records of the candidates and STPUD carefully as you cast your vote Nov. 6.

— Eric W. Schafer, STPUD Board president

— James R. Jones, STPUD Board vice president

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