STPUD, Forest Service coming closer to water agreement |

STPUD, Forest Service coming closer to water agreement

Andy Bourelle

The situation surrounding two Lake Tahoe agencies’ water woes is slowly ameliorating from a big brouhaha to a series of fruitful discussions.

And, with those talks, fears that a popular South Shore recreation area will be without water this summer and that the South Tahoe Public Utility District will have to abandon an unfinished well on which it has spent $800,000 are fading away.

“I think we’re making progress,” said Chris Strohm, president of STPUD’s board of directors. “I think we understand each other much better. I think there’s a pledge by (the U.S. Forest Service’s) Ed Gee and myself to make this happen.”

What has been causing some controversy is the inability of STPUD to get a special-use permit from the Forest Service to operate a well under construction on federal land. And, without that permit to use the well, STPUD officials have said they cannot provide water this summer to the Forest Service’s South Shore recreation area, which includes Camp Richardson Resort, the Tallac Historic Site, Visitors Center at Taylor Creek and campground at Fallen Leaf Lake.

Now, however, the Forest Service plans to drill its own well, which the agency says will be ready by June.

And, Strohm said, a draft special-use permit is scheduled to go before STPUD’s board Thursday. If approved, the permit may go back and forth between the Forest Service and the district to work out details still in question.

Regarding the federal agency’s proposed well, a need for a backup source still exists. And the agency’s well, which will be considerably smaller than STPUD’s unfinished one, may not provide enough capacity for adequate fire protection for the area. However, Strohm said it is possible STPUD’s system could serve as a backup.

The problematic situation of providing water for the area goes back more than a year. The Forest Service nearly lost water for the popular visitors’ areas shortly before the busy July Fourth weekend last year after Lukins Brothers Water Co., the supplier at the time, threatened to discontinue service. A contract dispute had been ongoing for more than a year.

STPUD, South Shore’s biggest water provider, stepped into the fray but couldn’t supply the Forest Service with water at that time. The district, because MTBE contamination had depleted its infrastructure, had mandatory water-usage restrictions in place then.

After negotiations, Lukins Brothers continued its service until the end of the summer, and STPUD has been supplying since September.

Work on a new STPUD well began last year on Forest Service land. With water-usage restrictions again likely this summer, district officials have said they can’t continue to supply the Forest Service unless the well is on-line. Under a current agreement, STPUD only plans to provide water for the area until June 1.

The problems between the Forest Service and STPUD emerged last month. With one board member saying she was “disappointed and disgusted” with the Forest Service, STPUD’s board stopped work on the well, indicating it didn’t feel comfortable proceeding without the special-use permit.

Completion of STPUD’s well likely has been delayed until August.


What: STPUD meeting

When: 2 p.m., March 2

Where: City Council Chambers, 1900 Lake Tahoe Blvd.

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