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Property sale stalls sewer line for Thunder Valley Casino

By: Cheri March The News Messenger
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A sewer line that would serve Thunder Valley Casino and, potentially, nearby residents is on hold after one of the properties the line would intersect changed hands. Ownership of Antonio Mountain Ranch, a wetlands habitat at Athens Avenue and Fiddyment Road, was transferred in late June from developer Reynen & Bardis to Lewis Antonio Mountain Ranch LLC, a company formed by Timothy Lewis of Elk Grove, according to a document filed with the Secretary of State’s office. Lewis could not be reached for comment. The Lincoln City Council adopted a resolution in January that would have allowed the city to acquire the property through eminent domain. But action was delayed while the city attempted to agree upon a value with Reynen & Bardis, a process complicated by permitting issues and, eventually, the change in ownership. At a July 22 meeting, the City Council rescinded the eminent domain resolution. City officials are in the process of meeting with the new owner, said John Pedri, Lincoln’s public works director. “We’re very optimistic we can now reach a deal,” Pedri said. “Our goal in the next two or three months is to hopefully have a solution.” Earlier in the month, the council approved an agreement between the city and United Auburn Indian Community to provide sewer service to Thunder Valley Casino by constructing a line that would connect the casino to the city’s wastewater treatment and reclamation facility on Fiddyment Road. An almost identical agreement was reached in 1999, before the casino was constructed, said Rod Campbell, the city’s community development director. But it was put on hold as the tribe was ordered to construct its own wastewater treatment system as a result of a California Environmental Quality Act lawsuit. While the city negotiates right of way, the agreement allows for Thunder Valley to build a temporary line for service during its large-scale expansion, which includes a 23-story hotel and 3,000-seat performing arts center. That line would transport 500,000 to 600,000 gallons of sewage per day along Athens Avenue to Lincoln’s treatment plant, Pedri said. Its use would be eliminated once the permanent sewer line is constructed, he said. However, it might be converted into a reclamation pipeline for treated water. “It’s not a throwaway – we would find a way of using it,” Pedri said. While planning the project, the city considered building a force main that would pump sewage down Athens Avenue to the city treatment plant, but determined a gravity line would be more effective, both in cost and functionality. “We believe it would be the best environmental and most cost-effective long-term solution,” Pedri said. It would save an estimated $10 million in operating expenses over 20 years, he said. It would also reduce the risk of overflow, as pump stations would have required a tank large enough to eventually service up to 8,000 homes. A downside, though, is that the gravity line’s path is dictated by slope, requiring it to intersect private properties on the way to the plant. The line could have other uses, however. While working with the casino, the city found other property owners interested in acquiring services. Approximately $18 million to $20 million has been set aside in the city’s 2008-09 budget for the sewer line, Pedri said. He added the city is optimistic bids for the project could be as much as 20 to 35 percent lower than previously anticipated. In exchange for sewer services, the UAIC agreed to fund $2 million of the $15 million Ferrari Ranch Road interchange project. Pedri said the interchange, which will connect to the completed Highway 65 bypass, is also funded in part by the South Placer Regional Transit Authority. Along with the $2 million, the tribe will provide amounts still to be determined for a Twelve Bridges Drive interchange and Fiddyment Road improvements. Additionally, it will contribute $50,000 for police services and $1,200 for emergency medical services to the casino, and $50,000 for youth recreational activities.