Bill abolishing Tahoe sewer district clears committee
A measure that abolishes the sewer district that serves Douglas County’s Lake Tahoe precincts was approved by a senate committee Friday.
Senate Bill 471 replaces Douglas County Sewer District No. 1 with the Douglas County Lake Tahoe Sewer Authority, which will be governed by a coalition of Lake Tahoe districts and the county.
The Senate Government Affairs Committee moved the bill forward on Friday afternoon. The bill still has to be approved by the entire senate and go through the Assembly before it becomes law.
The sewer district treats all sewage at Lake Tahoe and pumps it over Kingsbury Grade to ponds in the East Valley.
For most of its existence it has been governed by representatives of the Stateline casinos, which are among its chief customers. The district was founded in 1953.
It became a topic of controversy when district trustees sought approval to sell gravel to help defray the cost of digging a new sewer pond on land it owns off of Sawmill Road in the Pine Nut foothills.
Carson Valley residents opposed the measure after learning the gravel would be hauled along residential streets so it could get to market.
After planning commissioners denied a special use permit, district board members allegedly attempted to coerce county commissioners into approving the mining operation by accusing a county employee of an ethics violation.
That accusation prompted Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson to conduct an investigation into the sewer district. The legislation approved on Friday was one of the results of that investigation. State officials cleared the county employee of the ethics violation. The Nevada Attorney General’s Office accused the sewer district of violating the Nevada Open Meeting law in connection with the charges.
Should it be approved, the authority would be governed by representatives of other agencies served by the sewer plant, including the Kingsbury General Improvement District, the Round Hill Improvement District, The Tahoe-Douglas District, a Douglas County commissioner and someone appointed from the Stateline business community by the other four trustees.
The county commissioner would serve for three years, while other district representatives would serve for two years, and the business community representative would serve for one year.
Sen. James Settelmeyer said the composition of the board was because of the low number of actual voters in the district’s current boundaries, which encompasses just Stateline.
In a letter opposing the bill, East Valley resident Bob Ballou said changing the composition of the board a step further from voters increases “the opacity of an already opaque organization.”
East Valley resident Jim Durso pointed out that the county could currently dissolve the district and replace it with a district that’s more responsive to residents.
Both letters were part of the committee’s April 9 record.