STPUD pipeline receives critical funding |

STPUD pipeline receives critical funding

by Andy Bourelle

The controversy surrounding the funding of the South Tahoe Public Utility District’s recycled water export pipeline seems to have passed.

While the district and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been in disagreement about the funding of the project, both agencies announced Tuesday that they have consented on a payment plan.

“With this major step on the road to protection of Lake Tahoe, we’re that much closer to finality. An undertaking of this magnitude, in a fragile ecosystem surrounded by thriving tourism, is difficult,” said Duane Wallace, STPUD board member. “We appreciate EPA’s support as the project continues.”

STPUD has spent the past few years working to replace its recycled water export pipeline, which carries 1.7 billion gallons of recycled water 26 miles to Alpine County each year. The water irrigates more than 2,000 acres of ranch land. Originally built in the 1960s, under mandate to pump wastewater out of the basin, the pipeline had experienced breaks and spills.

Stemming from the 1997 Presidential Summit at Lake Tahoe, $7.15 million was appropriated by Congress in 1997 to go to STPUD to help for the construction of the new pipeline the district had already spent millions of dollars on. Because of the promise of the funds, which were to come from EPA, STPUD borrowed $5 million to complete its 1998 phase of the project.

However, EPA and STPUD last year were in disagreement about the money.

STPUD and the congressional supporters of the grant had said that the money the district has spent – to date, more than $20 million – should be counted as the district’s 45 percent financial match. EPA had indicated that was a significant deviation from its standard procedure. Typically, EPA only counts what agencies have spent since the time the federal agency awards the money.

Because no agreement had been reached, STPUD’s board in November 1997 canceled the construction phase planned for 1999.

Congress appropriated another $2.5 million for the project in 1998.

The disagreement seems to be behind them now; EPA Wednesday agreed to award the $2.5 million to STPUD. Also, the two have reached an agreement on the $7.15 million that has been in limbo for months.

“This funding will allow work to continue on a project that will reap great environmental and economic benefits for Lake Tahoe and Alpine County,” said Felicia Marcus, regional administrator for EPA.

STPUD expects to start receiving funds by early May.

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