County moves ahead with Cave Rock drought upgrade |

County moves ahead with Cave Rock drought upgrade

Not willing to bet that El Niño will end the drought, Douglas County will move forward with work on the intakes for the Cave Rock water system.

Last summer’s water shortage had the county’s Lake Tahoe water systems close to declaring a drought emergency.

The Lake was so low that the intake pipes were rising above the surface near the shore, where wave action was damaging them.

Cave Rock and other Lake Tahoe water systems generally get their drinking water from the Lake.

A $240,000 project is proposed to improve the system’s ability to draw water from the Lake no matter the level.

“We did make it through the summer by the skin of our teeth,” said Public Works Director Carl Ruschmeyer. “We all recognize this El Nino pattern in question. Is there a chance the Lake can recover at this point? Are we going to have additional droughts? We need to be prepared in managing risk.”

Cave Rock resident Ralph Miller questioned the need for the improvements given reports that El Niño will make a difference.

“There is no chance of this proposal being required,” he said. “Even at a ridiculously low level, our own charge peak demand can be met without the expenditure of $240,000 with a .5 percent reduction.”

Ruschmeyer said the work goes beyond the system’s immediate needs.

An inline booster pump will help protect the system from future drought conditions.

County commissioners said the project isn’t entirely about the immediate threat.

“It looks good right now, we’re way ahead of last year,” Commissioner Greg Lynn said. “I can see the rational here. Just because we’re doing good this year, doesn’t mean we’re going to do good next year.”

Commissioner Barry Penzel pointed out that if the county waits to find out what the weather brings, it will be too late to do the work.

“We can’t wait until summer for that answer,” he said. “If we don’t get it started, we won’t be able to do the improvements this summer.”

According to a proposal presented last fall, work would have to be completed before the Memorial Day crowds arrive.