Tossing dirt into Truckee River costs Caltrans $32,000 |

Tossing dirt into Truckee River costs Caltrans $32,000

by Jeff Munson, Tribune city editor

Caltrans has agreed to pay more than $32,000 in fines to the California Regional Water Quality Control Board for dumping dirt into the Truckee River last summer.

Fines were levied after Caltrans admitted to discharging dirt and small rock debris on June 6, July 18 and Aug. 5. Last year, Caltrans was fined more than $160,000 for similar violations.

The matter was to be taken before the the Lahontan Regional Board on March 12-13 in South Lake Tahoe, but was canceled when a settlement was reached. Public input regarding the proposed settlement can be made in writing to the board by April 6. If the settlement is contested, the board can revisit the issue.

The fines amount to $10,000 for the June 6 discharge, $17,760 for the July 18 discharge and $4,370 for the Aug. 5 discharge.

Caltrans spokesman Mark Dinger said Caltrans has agreed to pay the fines and will seek reimbursement from its contractor, Granite Construction of Watsonville.

“These were self-reported,” Dinger said. “We are diligently working with our contractor to ensure that our best management practices on storm water treatment are followed in the future.”

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The $86 million Caltrans project, which began in 2001, is to rebuild an 11-mile stretch of Interstate 80 east of Truckee, between Boca and Floriston roads. It is expected to be finished by 2004.

The incidents violate the Clean Water Act, said Eric Taxer, water resource control engineer for Lahontan. The Truckee River is considered having sedimentation impairment and regulations regarding water quality are enforced rigorously.

“Basically this is storm water related,” Taxer said. “What happens is storm water picks up some sediments from inadequately protected stockpiles and discharges it into the river. Any additional sediment load impairs the river. “

In 2001, Caltrans was fined $20,000 for violations on July 20 and Sept. 12, 2001; $10,000 for a series of events from Oct. 17 through Nov. 1, and a $130,000 fine for not implementing best management practices.

For their part, “Caltrans has been good about self-reporting their violations,” Taxer said.

Public input of the proposed settlement can be made in writing to the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, 2501 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150.

Jeff Munson can be reached at