Nevada Legislature OKs Tahoe sewer authority
A year and two days after Douglas County’s district attorney accused a Lake Tahoe sewer district of violating open meeting and election laws, the Nevada Legislature voted to replace the district and repeal the law under which it was formed.
Douglas County Sewer District No. 1 and its board will be replaced Oct. 1 under Senate Bill 471, which was approved by the Assembly on Thursday. The Senate agreed to an amendment that would limit the authority’s power on Friday and sent the bill to the governor for his signature.
Under the new law, the district would be renamed the Douglas County Lake Tahoe Sewer Authority with a board consisting of three representatives of the districts it serves and two county appointees.
The district was formed March 30, 1953, after state health officials said the Stateline clubs would not be allowed to open for the season unless they had a means to dispose of their sewage.
An attorney representing the district said the original statute allowed landowners to serve as members of a district developed to operate power, sewer or water utilities.
The sewer district was the only remaining entity formed under Nevada Revised Statute 309, which will be repealed under the new law. The Legislature had already banned any new districts from being formed under the law in 1967.
While taking a new form, nothing in the legislation prevents the authority from picking up where its predecessor left off seeking county authorization to mine gravel to subsidize construction of a sewer pond.
The sewer district processes all the effluent from the Lake Tahoe basin and pumps it to the Pine Nut Mountains where it is stored during the winter.
First proposed and rejected in 2011, the sewer district brought the proposal back three years later.
The district owns 1,000 acres in the Pine Nuts near the end of Stockyard Road where it constructed three unlined sewer ponds. The district was ordered by the state to abandon the ponds in 2007 after they were found to be leaking.
Since then the district has been sharing a reservoir on Bently land with Minden Gardnerville Sanitation District to store effluent over the winter. During the summer, the treated effluent is used to irrigate Bently and Park fields.
Construction of a new pond is estimated at $10 million, which the district hoped would be paid for by selling aggregate.
However, the prospect of 25-100 truck trips a day on routes that included East Valley, Buckeye, Fish Springs and Pine Nut roads sparked protests from Carson Valley residents.
While planning commissioners approved the plan on Dec. 9, 2014, the district didn’t take the approval to county commissioners.
A new proposal that would have kept the trucks on Stockyard crossing Bently land to get to Highway 395 was denied by planning commissioners 4-3 in Nov. 10, 2015.
That denial prompted district board members to back an ethics complaint against Hope Sullivan, the planning official who presented the proposal to planning commissioners, saying she failed to publicly disclose that she could see the truck route from her new home. The Nevada Ethics Commission said she was only required to disclose the issue to her supervisors, which she did. Sullivan resigned her position in Douglas and now holds a similar position in Carson City.
It was the ethics complaint that prompted Douglas County District Attorney Mark Jackson to call a May 23, 2016, meeting where he publicly accused the district of violating Nevada election and open meeting laws.
An open meeting law complaint lodged against the district by Jackson resulted in a Dec. 9, 2016, letter from the Nevada Attorney General’s Office citing a half-dozen violations.