STPUD working on deal with U.S. Forest Service
The South Tahoe Public Utility District is set to assume water service Oct. 1 to the U.S. Forest Service’s South Shore recreation area in an effort to remedy a long-running dispute between the federal agency and its current water supplier.
STPUD’s board of directors have approved a temporary agreement with the Forest Service, which will go into effect when a contract with Lukins Brothers Water Company expires Sept. 30. The contract will run through the spring; however, officials are confident a permanent solution will be reached long before then. The Forest Service will be treated as an ordinary customer, with no contract.
“The only thing that hasn’t been hammered out is the long-term agreement,” said Dennis Cocking, STPUD information officer. “The short-term from Oct. 1 through May 15 has all been hammered out and put to bed. It’s really a question of a long-term agreement, and I think within the next few weeks we will have worked that out.”
Colin West, engineering and recreation staff officer for the Forest Service, said the agreement with STPUD was a fair solution to the agency’s problem.
A contract dispute between the Forest Service and Lukins Brothers had been ongoing for more than a year. The Forest Service was fighting a proposed rate hike and the desire of Lukins Brothers for the agency to sign a five-year contract. However, according to the Forest Service, the federal agency cannot enter the into a long-term contract.
Lukins Brothers officials said they could not continue to provide service to the Forest Service without the increase and without the contract. The Forest Service uses 40 percent of Lukins Brothers’ capacity, and the private water company needed the money to pay for improvements its system needed to accommodate the Forest Service. It wanted the long-term contract for assurance that the improvements would be needed.
The disagreement reached its climax in June when Lukins officials said they planned to discontinue water service to the area prior to the busy Fourth of July weekend. That would have left Camp Richardson Resort, the Tallac Historic Site, Visitors Center at Taylor Creek and campground at Fallen Leaf Lake without water service.
After STPUD officials indicated their plans to take over service, Lukins officials changed their minds.
With the imminent loss of the Forest Service as a customer, there was no longer a need for a long-term contract. Lukins agreed to the short-term contract for the summer.
STPUD’s water system supplies about 30,000 people through about 12,500 connections. In the summer, because of tourism, that number can be as high as 60,000. The public utility district, which has shut down more than one-third of its wells because of MTBE contamination, is enforcing mandatory water-usage restrictions this summer. The restrictions likely will be lifted shortly after Labor Day but may be necessary again next year.
STPUD started drilling a new well on Forest Service land near Camp Richardson this month, an act it had planned long before getting involved in the Forest Service-Lukins Brothers dispute.
Whether STPUD will continue service to the Forest Service area beyond June 2000 may depend on the capacity of the well. STPUD officials believe it likely will provide enough water to fulfill the Forest Service’s demand and be used to help the rest of the district’s over-stressed system.
The Forest Service may need only 10 percent of the well’s capacity, Cocking estimated.
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