The Reno area can handle a growth spike fueled by construction of Tesla Motors’ $5 billion battery factory, regional officials said, but it will involve a hefty price tag with uncertainty over who will foot the bill.
The Washoe County Commission and Reno and Sparks city councils considered Tesla’s impact at a joint meeting this week.
Regional officials expressed confidence that the Reno area is well positioned to provide water and housing to as many as 6,200 new residents by the time the gigafactory opens in 2018, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.
But officials warned the region faces a costly challenge when it comes to sewage, which is already straining its largest waste water treatment facility.
The region faces a choice of either building a $35 million pipeline to send effluent water to Storey County for industrial use or installing $40 million in new nitrogen treatment technology.
“We have enough capacity to treat the growth that is coming at us in the next decade,” Sparks Assistant City Manager Neil Krutz said. “We certainly don’t have it ready to go today.
“Really, it’s up to us to deliver on those capital and operating plans so that the capacity is there when it is needed,” he added.
The region has some 64,000 housing units that have been approved but are not yet built, which is more than enough to handle the population influx from Tesla and other growth.
But regional officials question whether the housing is the right type needed to meet the needs of Tesla employees, about half of whom are expected to live in Washoe County centered around Reno.
“We are in the very, very early stage in this process of planning for Tesla,” said Kim Robinson, executive director of the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Authority. “We are going to have to constantly reevaluate that particular piece.”
Water planners said the region has enough water to meet the demands of the projected population growth, but only if the Fish Springs Ranch water importation project is brought online. Water rights are secured and the pipeline already is constructed for the project.
Local officials hope to meet in January to discuss Tesla’s impact on the region’s roads and school system.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk in September declared Nevada the winner of a high-stakes battle with California and three other states for the factory, which will mass-produce cheaper batteries for its next line of more-affordable electric cars.
The factory will be located about 15 miles east of Reno.