Tahoe skies more clear every year | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe skies more clear every year

A program that began in 1968 has been burying things ever since.

Power lines, phone lines and now cable lines are gradually going underground along roads at South Shore to clear the view for trees, sky, mountains and Lake Tahoe.

For the past 34 years, the California Public Utilities Commission has required companies in the state to set aside money to finance the work. Today, Sierra Pacific (electricity), Pacific Bell (phone) and Charter Communications (cable) split costs for projects that cost millions of dollars.

In 1991, South Lake Tahoe identified areas that would benefit: Park Avenue, Ski Run Boulevard, Tahoe Keys Boulevard and a section of Lake Tahoe Boulevard north of the “Y.”

The Park Avenue work was completed about 1994 at a cost of nearly $2 million. It hid utility wires along the avenue from Stateline to Highway 50.

Ski Run was finished in 2000 for about the same price. The Sierra Pacific line that still hangs along the street is a newer technology power line that provides power in bulk. It was not included in the 1968 agreement and would be extremely costly to put underground, said Randy Kelly, Sierra Pacific Tahoe district manager.

This summer, casing was buried under Tahoe Keys Boulevard from Highway 50 to the entrance of the Keys. Cables and lines are expected to be fed through the casing by 2005.

The utility companies did the work earlier than scheduled to avoid tearing up fresh pavement.

“We don’t force this on people,” said Jeff Matthews, Sierra Pacific senior project designer. “We have public meetings and workshops, especially in places like the Keys.”

Homes in the Tahoe Keys already have their power, cable and phone lines buried, said Stephen Peck, city principal civil engineer.

Work to bury utility lines in El Dorado County, outside the city limits, also began in the early 1990s. Lines first went underground along Highway 50 from the Upper Truckee River to Pioneer Trail. By 1997, utilities were hidden along the highway from Pioneer to Sawmill Road. This summer, contractors finished the job from Sawmill to Lake Tahoe Airport.

Matthews said he is working with the county now to plan work along Pioneer Trail from Southern Pine Drive to Black Bart Avenue. It would happen between 2005-10.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com

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