Pipeline funding one step closer | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Pipeline funding one step closer

Patrick McCartney

A key Senate appropriations committee approved a $7.15 million grant last week to help replace an aging 27-mile pipeline that exports treated wastewater out of the Tahoe Basin.

The South Tahoe Public Utility District must replace the export line, which carries treated wastewater over Luther Pass to Alpine County, at an estimated cost of $34 million. The district has spent $10 million on the project so far, but is seeking federal assistance to replace the rest of the pipeline.

“We’re absolutely thrilled,” said Julie Regan, the utility district’s public information officer. “We’re hesitant to get too excited until we have the check in hand, but are very excited about clearing a major hurdle.”

On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the grant, which is included in the funding bill for the Veterans Administration, Housing and independent agencies.

The House appropriations committee already approved the grant, so few obstacles appear in the way of final approval.

The grant is half the total funding the district has sought from the federal government. The rest of the amount may be awarded next year.

“I can’t even begin to tell you how excited and thankful we are for Sen. Boxer’s advocacy for this project,” said the utility district’s board president Chris Strohm.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., lobbied for the federal aid, saying it is needed so the South Shore utility can replace the existing, 30-year-old export line in a timely way.

“The (existing) pipeline is an engineering wonder, but it is only a matter of time before a major rupture occurs,” Boxer said. “The pipeline must be replaced quickly if we are to avoid the possibility of a catastrophic spill resulting in serious environmental harm to Lake Tahoe.”

The South Tahoe district was the first utility in the country to export treated wastewater from a mountain basin to protect the environment when the pipeline was completed in 1969. The export line carries 1.7 billion gallons of treated wastewater a year out of the basin.

But a series of leaks from the aging pipeline in the late 1980s and early 1990s led to a decision to replace the export line.

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