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Pipeline moving along

B.H. Bose

It may be moving slower than the worst Meyers traffic jam, but the new pipeline that will export treated sewage water out of the Tahoe Basin continues to creep its way toward Christmas Valley.

The South Tahoe Public Utility District is replacing its 30-year-old pipeline that transfers recycled, treated sewage water out of the South Lake Tahoe area to Alpine County on the West Slope, and is in the midst of phase II of the four-phase project.

“We are continuing with the second phase,” said Dawn Forsythe, public information officer with STPUD. “We are not allowed to close Highway 50, so we are boring underneath the highway.”

The pipeline will ultimately lead from the STPUD wastewater treatment plant, over Luther Pass, and down to Harvey Place Reservoir in Alpine County. The treated water, which is filled with nitrates and phosphates, Forsythe said, will be used by Alpine County farmers and ranchers as fertilizer. Phase I of the project, which was basically a line from the city to Meyers, was completed in 1996. The current phase will go from the Shell station in Meyers to the Luther Pass Pump Station in Christmas Valley. It is a 4.16-mile endeavor that will cost approximately $7.15 million (Phase I was $10.5 million, phase III is estimated at $5 million, and the fourth phase $3.5 million with $1 million for pump replacements).

“Because of the terrain, and the environmentally-sensitive terrain, the cost ranges from $300 to $600 per foot,” Forsythe said.

Since no excavating or major soil disturbances are allowed in the Tahoe Basin after Oct. 15, the construction period only ranges from spring to mid-October.

Next spring, the third phase will begin. A pipeline will be put into place from the wastewater treatment plant to the new 1996 lines at the city limits, and part of the way from the Luther Pass Pump Station to Luther Pass. In the year 2000, phase IV will complete the pipeline up the slope.

“There is some tough, rocky terrain and some wetlands in the area,” Forsythe added, referring to why phase III and IV will be a little more difficult to complete. “Plus that area is in view from Highway 50, so we don’t want it to look like construction is going on.”

At the end of each phase, the lines will hook up with the old ones meaning they can be used shortly after they are connected. The lines are tested with water first to make sure everything is working. The entire line, which climbs about 1,270 feet, should be in operation come October of the year 2000.

There also is the possibility that STPUD will build a hydroelectric plant to utilize the energy created by the treated water that flows down to Harvey Place Reservoir. The cost is estimated at $10 million, but the energy generated should be enough to operate the pipeline.

“There might be a possible phase V, which is the construction of a hydroelectric plant, so we can harvest the energy, because (down the West Slope) there is 10 miles of vertical drop,” Forsythe said.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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