Tahoe water improvements move forward

You’d think a location that overlooks one of the largest volumes of fresh water in the United States would have fewer water problems.

On Thursday, Douglas County commissioners held public hearings on two water projects at Lake Tahoe.

A hearing required for $16.5 million in bonding to complete work on the Cave Rock Water System attracted little comment.

Funding for water system improvements will be raised through the state’s revolving fund program and repaid by water rate revenues raised from water users.

Financing was approved by the state board on Wednesday and previously approved by the Debt Management Commission, County Chief Financial Officer Terry Willoughby said.

The water system has been controversial since it was acquired in the early 1990s after increased federal regulation required treatment of Lake water.

Residents sued the county in federal court, and part of the settlement required that the county consolidate management of its three water systems at Lake Tahoe with its systems in Carson Valley.

By far more controversial was an effort to establish a special district to acquire $185,347 in fire protection improvements in a Glenbrook neighborhood that has run aground.

Of the 22 potential members of the Pittman Terrace district, 15 objected to its formation, scuppering the district.

On Thursday, county commissioners instructed staff to negotiate with residents. If the county contributes half of the cost of the improvements, it can form the district without neighbors consent.

At issue are water line, standpipe and fire hydrant built by resident Chris Sauer.

Sauer built the improvements after residents received an October 2016 letter from Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District indicating there wasn’t sufficient fire flow in the neighborhood.

The issue came to light after Sauer went to build a new home on his property. He contacted the district to sign off on his permit and was told he would have to meet the county’s minimum fire flow requirements before approving construction.

In most instances, that wouldn’t be a problem, but Sauer was told that Pittman Terrace didn’t have a proper fire suppression system.

“The sole hydrant located in the neighborhood was incapable of meeting the IFC fire flow requirements,” according to a letter written by Sauer’s attorneys.

That made Sauer the first person in the neighborhood to seek a building permit, and forced him to build the infrastructure.

In a Jan. 8 letter, residents Norman Beres and Colleen Rafferty agreed there should be a means to share costs, but asked that the county pay half.

“The county and the fire department did not inform the residents of Pittman Terrace that the fire flow from the original fire hydrant was not sufficient to fight any fire in the community,” they wrote.

When Tahoe Douglas tested the hydrant in 2015, they said it only provided 100 gallons per minute, far too little to fight a fire.

“Residents, like ourselves who purchased property on Pittman Terrace, reasonably assume that the fire hydrant is in working condition and that it provides the necessary volume of water to protect our homes,” Beres and Rafferty wrote. “Home and fire insurance companies ask how far the nearest fire hydrant is from the home that they are insuring. They do not ask if the necessary water flow is available out of the hydrant.”


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