Another Break In Our Pipeline

October 9, 2019

The Effluent Pipeline – Another Failure

Once again there has been a failure of the yet to be replaced 50+ year old section of the effluent pipeline that runs under SR28 between Sand Harbor and Spooner Summit. This failure caused SR28 to close on September 26th and be restricted to one lane on the 27th.

IVGID has been collecting approximately $2M per year since 2012 to replace this failing piece of our infrastructure. This failure and expensive repair could have been avoided had our prior GM Pinkerton and the Board taken action to replace this failing section of the pipeline.

The History

The effluent pipeline transports treated sewage from Incline Village and Crystal Bay out of the Tahoe basin to wetlands in the Carson Valley to protect our pristine lake from contamination. Portions of the pipeline are over 50 years old, with a critical portion running under SR28 from the sewage treatment plant on Sweetwater Road to Spooner summit. Four (4) miles of the pipeline between the sewage treatment plant and Sand Harbor was replaced about 10 years ago. The most recent failure occurred within the six (6) remaining miles of deteriorated pipeline to be replaced.

IVGID started collecting the $2 million per year in 2012 with the promise to use those funds to complete the remaining six (6) miles to Spooner Summit. IVGID’s Board and former GM Pinkerton have delayed action on this important piece of infrastructure for seven (7) years. They have instead diverted at least $5 million of the more than $12 million collected for the pipeline to other projects. Instead of replacing the pipeline, they have spent money on repairs and inspections while “hoping” funds will become available from the Federal Government. They have also been “hopeful” that the District could position the pipeline beneath Tahoe Transportation District (“TDT”) proposed multi-use path extension. Now, once again, we have paid for another emergency repair.

Fact 1 – The pipeline presently has 12 additional potential points of failure.

Fact 2 – IVGID needs to store the treated wastewater while the pipeline is replaced. IVGID has an effluent storage pond, however in 2014 the State required IVGID to line the pond to protect the lake from seepage. The pond remains unlined and has been decommissioned. Last year IVGID financials reported the District had spent $788,000 to line the pond. After much investigation, it was learned it had not been lined and the funds were used for another project.

Fact 3 – Rather than just replacing the entire segment of the pipeline, IVGID spent $1.4 million to repair 13 breaks on the pipeline in 2017. This same area will be torn up again to facilitate a full replacement.

Fact 4 – Our Board Chair, Kendra Wong, without IVGID Board approval, promised $7.5 million of our pipeline funds to the Tahoe Transportation District (“TDT”) to put the pipeline under a proposed extension of the multi-use path from Sand Harbor to Spooner Summit. Upon review of the proposed plans, only 2.65 miles of the pipeline can be put under the multi-use path. The remaining 3.35 miles still needs to be put under SR28. Furthermore, there exists no environmental impact study or funding for TDT’s project – so, even in the best case scenario, no construction could take place before 2023.

Fact 5 – We were told 75% of the $23 million dollar project to replace the failing 6 miles of pipeline would be federally funded. However, at this time the funding is not available. IVGID’s federal lobbyist has identified potential Federal government funding for the pipeline replacement and the pond liner. The latter is estimated to cost $2.3 million. Staff stated there may currently be $1 million available for design of the pipeline and another $1 million for the emergency pond liner.

Fact 6 – Because we do not have an operative emergency wastewater storage pond, IVGID spent $675,000 to buy land from NV Energy so a truck turning area could be built. This enabled IVGID to truck our wastewater down to Carson Valley when they did the pipeline repairs in 2017. IVGID also had to upgrade our cement storage tanks to hold the wastewater during repairs.

Fact 7 – To hope against time and the failure of the pipeline, IVGID has spent $1.2 million on electromagnetic remote field testing of the failing pipeline and an additional $1.0 million to install air pressure relief valves in the failing pipeline.

IVGID has imposed rate increases on our community with the PROMISE that the failing pipeline would be replaced. We cannot risk any more pipeline failures nor can we jeopardize the clarity of our lake. We need to demand that the interim GM and the Board take action NOW to:

  1. Engineer, permit, contract and install a pond liner early next year (2020).
  2. Use the remaining funds to begin replacing the remaining 6 miles of pipeline in 2020 and 2021 UNDER SR28. If the District has insufficient funds to complete the projects, a bond may be necessary. Let’s ensure we don’t experience more expensive breaks and that the District protects our health while also protecting our lake.

By Mike Abel, edited by Incline Village Crystal Bay Community 1st.

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