South Tahoe Public Utility District recommending rate increase (opinion)
Tribune Guest Columnist
South Tahoe Public Utility District is currently in the process of preparing its 2016-17 budget. We invite the community to participate in a public meeting and presentation on the proposed budget and capital improvement plan at the district offices on May 12 at 6 p.m.
In 2014, the district sent a five-year Proposition 218 notice to all customers; this permitted the district to increase water rates up to a maximum of 6.5 percent and sewer rates up to a maximum of 6 percent.
In the proposed water budget for 2016-17, district staff is recommending that the board approve the 6.5-percent increase in order to fund the necessary water infrastructure projects. In 2015, the district began installation of extra fire hydrants to meet the fire department’s desired 500-foot maximum spacing. This effort will continue with approximately another 100 fire hydrants in 2016.
Work will also continue on replacing water lines and installing water meters. Water lines that are less than 6 inches in diameter will be upsized to increase fire protection and fire-fighting capabilities. The Ponderosa Street area is the next location scheduled for this sizing upgrade. Water meter projects will continue with the installation of approximately 700 meters in 2016. Visit http://www.stpud.us for details on where meters will be installed.
In the proposed sewer budget for 2016-17, district staff is recommending that the board approve the 6-percent increase in order to fund the necessary sewer infrastructure projects. Sewer funding will continue to replace facilities that are reaching the end of their expected life due to age and the corrosive nature of the sewer environment. An example of this at the Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) is the rehabilitation of concrete treatment tanks. Two were completed in 2015; two more are scheduled for completion in 2017. Another example of this is the two-year project of replacing electrical equipment and motors at the Luther Pass Pump Station, the station which pumps all of the recycled waste water from the district to Alpine County. Not only will new equipment be more reliable, the new high-efficiency motors will reduce electrical power used at the pump station.
The requested funding will also allow for replacement of equipment that no longer meets current standards, such as air-quality regulations. The standby generator at the WWTP, which allows the district to continue full operation in the event of an electrical utility outage, is the prime example of this necessary work. This two-year project will commence in 2017 and be completed in 2018.
Finally, funding will allow the district to improve its reliability in meeting all the requirements of collecting sewage in the basin, and recycling it in Alpine County, with as minimal spills as possible. Improvements/upgrades to pumping facilities in the Fallen Leaf Lake area, and expansion of areas available to the use of recycled water in Alpine County, are examples of this improved reliability. The project in Alpine County to expand the recycled water application area includes the first district hydropower generation project on our export pipeline — capturing the energy of the water as it flows downhill from the top of Luther Pass.
Richard Solbrig is general manager of South Tahoe Public Utility District.