Focus of lake clarity doesn’t sit well with SLT council


By Kathryn Reed

A letter expressing South Lake Tahoe’s displeasure with fixating on how far a scientific white plate can be seen in the middle of Lake Tahoe instead of dealing with the muck growing near the shore is being finalized today.

City Councilwomen Claire Fortier and Angela Swanson were tasked with working with staff to formulate the words for the letter to be sent to the state Water Board by the March 18 comment deadline. The letter will be on the council’s March 15 agenda for approval.

The state board plans to conduct a public hearing April 18 in Sacramento regarding the total maximum daily load allocations approved by Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board in November. Officials from the regional office have been briefing state board members this week about TMDL in Lake Tahoe.

Street sweepers like this one in South Lake Tahoe on March 9 are supposed to reduce sediment. Photo/Kathryn Reed

A street sweeper in South Lake Tahoe on March 9 is designed to reduce sediment. Photo/Kathryn Reed

“We need to wave the flag that says before you pass this more consideration needs to be focused on the costs and science,” Fortier told Lake Tahoe News. “I personally feel as if we are being railroaded with a standard that is impossible to meet.”

At a September meeting about TMDLs Bob Larsen, environmental scientist with Lahontan, estimated it will cost $100 million a year for 15 years to accomplish his agency’s clarity goal. He also said that estimate is “very rough.”

Today the Secchi disc can be seen to a depth of 70 feet. The goal is add seven to 10 feet to that number.

To reach that goal the city, five counties and two state transportation departments in the Lake Tahoe Basin have mandates put on them by Lahontan to reduce the fine sediment from their jurisdictions that reach Lake Tahoe.

At the council meeting last week, Swanson called it an unfunded mandate.

Lauri Kemper, assistant executive officer with Lahontan, told Lake Tahoe News the municipal stormwater permits the agency is working on that should be before her board in October will focus on maintenance of what is in place – which in turn will allow the local governments to meet the state’s initial goals.

“We think with the first five-year targets some will have met them. We are comparing it to the 2004 baseline year,” Kemper explained. “They will get credit for anything they have done in that time.”

This includes using high-end street sweepers and putting in stormwater facilities, sometimes known as an erosion control project.

Fortier at the meeting and afterward questioned why the near shore – the depth people wade into – isn’t being addressed.

“Milfoil is a problem, but it’s more of a habitat problem than water quality,” Doug Smith with Lahontan told the council.

He admitted there are a lot of unknowns regarding the near shore.

Kemper said Lahontan is working with other entities that are addressing invasive species issues. Another thing her agency is looking at is allowing aquatic pesticides to be used for the first time in Lake Tahoe. A hearing on the subject will be conducted this spring, with possible adoption in the fall.

“The good news is everything we are doing is for lake clarity,” Kemper said.

She also pointed out how the city has a number of drainages that contribute to the near shore being less than pristine. Some of those will be cleaned up as Lakeview Commons comes on board and Caltrans does its Highway 50 projects starting this year.

In regards to the TMDL time line, after the state board has its hearing next month, which could be pushed back to one of its May meetings depending on the number of comments received, the Office of Administrative Law has 60 days to make a decision. Then it goes to the Environmental Protection Agency for approval. The Nevada Division of Environment Protection also has to approve the plan.

If all the agencies approve the TMDL for Lake Tahoe, it would become the law of the land once the EPA signs off on it.

For more information about the Tahoe TMDL or how to comment, go to the state website.

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Comments (13)
  1. Bob says - Posted: March 10, 2011

    Who made Lahontan God? For an agency to make their own study with their own rules is ridiculous and I hope SLT Council can stop this BS. Maybe I should put up a blockade in front of my home and charge $1 for each person who wants to pass just because I want to do it. Throw this water company in the Lake with the plate for them to suck on the way to the bottom!

  2. Alex Campbell says - Posted: March 10, 2011

    Hold it right there !!!! $100 Million a Year for 15 years ???
    Could it be that Lahontan is outsourcing to Halliburton ?????

  3. Perry R. Obray says - Posted: March 10, 2011

    Very hard for me to believe that someone is treating symptoms and not wanting/not being able to institute a cure.

  4. the dude says - Posted: March 10, 2011

    We just saw an article the other day about a 415 million dollar effort over ten years for Lake Tahoe Restoration. It appears less than 70 million is available for the stormwater effort with most funding going toward other items. That is 70 million over 10 years! Nowhere near this 100 million per year estimate to meet clarity goals. Sounds like were setting ourselves up for failure… If this goal is not met due to a lack of funding.., then what? How does all this funding fit in to the pothole in front of my house the City can’t fix cause they have no money? The City is in dire straights… It does sound like a standard that is impossible to meet.

  5. Perry R. Obray says - Posted: March 10, 2011

    Since it is much easier to whine than provide possible solutions……

    What about removing all that snow in the median of 50 immediately so as to deice as fast as possible. Realistic thinning of plants that block the sun on transportation areas to deice at a faster rate. Try to design structures to not block the sun deicing transportation/access areas.

    As far as the Keys possibly being the hugest offender (most likely one of the biggest non natural causes at minimum) to clarity, putting the filtration effect of slowed down water back into effect as much as possible within reason. This might involve retiring lots when transfer of title happens/the family wants out of the lot. After about 50-100 years of retiring most lots, there is a possibility the natural, most likely no maintenance filtration will be more effective in increasing clarity than any other single measure instituted/possibly being instituted.

    A bonus to retiring lots in the keys will be a huge boon to the local ecology. This should drastically increase recreation.

  6. Steve says - Posted: March 10, 2011

    As with most government programs, most of this funding gets burned up in bureaucracy, keeping bureaucrats and government administrators employed, endless unproductive meetings and useless studies, and nothing substantive gets accomplished. We have seen it for years.

    You don’t need an expensive study to conclude that the city’s street sweepers kicking up all kinds of dirt and dust into the air, which then settles again somewhere else, probably adds more pollution to the lake than if they just left it alone. Or the fuel-burning buses to and from Carson City with nobody, or only a person or two, on board. Thanks to government and its endless funds, the net effect is actually negative.

  7. thimesnv says - Posted: March 10, 2011

    Mr. Perry, plz explain how you would institute a “filtration” system for a development (tahoe keys) that is non-natural.

  8. ATC says - Posted: March 10, 2011

    I like Perrys thought on that… Its simple, take the water and allow it soak into the ground or filter natually through vegetation. I dont think it matters if its natural or not. The idea is simple. Why not remove some of the curb and put in rain gardens like they do everywhere in the northwest. How come places like portland are 10 years ahead of us? Over regulation has crippled this area. Cant move a stick without triggering some process.

  9. Local700 says - Posted: March 10, 2011

    Looks like that sweeper is doing a fine job saving the lake with that huge dust cloud Comin out of it… Not sure anyone around here knows what their doin… It’s all process creating process meanwhile nothin gets done to the tone of multi millions.

  10. KINKYLOVER says - Posted: March 10, 2011

    There’s no way around this debate that’s been going on for years “It’s a catch 22 “with no clear answer to resolving the matter before all the different agencies that got monies coming into their offices to preach what we already know.
    The army core of engineering and the federal Government should be brought in to just fix it on a pork project, credit card.
    The Government doesn’t think it’s that important, so be it ,enjoy the water ,air, trails, crumbling roads, closed bathrooms with turds close to the shore line…just swim out a little farther to the clean ,clear, water.
    With any luck all those Asians clams, other little creatures will clean the beaches for us.
    We all have watched for many years as they dig, haul dirt ,rocks, reform river passages, burn forest, seed clouds, sweep the streets, put filter in the homes, parking lots, check boats, no wake zones, shorter piers, capture geese flocks(relocate)……and millions upon millions spent without a lot hell of improvement.
    Kinda like trying to move the sands of the world with a teaspoon and the weather just flips you the bird, grins about it.
    We got dirt from china, rock slides that cover highways, downpours that wash anything that will flow downhill, ash from forest fires, air born chemicals from the cities, and really there’s not hell of a lot you can do about it. I’m glad nature in control, that’s the way it was suppose to be. All this is classified as a natural phenomenon ,so send your sueing ligation papers to god, I’m sure he’ll be in touch one way or another.
    Maybe he’ll answer with 11 POINT EARTHQUAKE ALL THE WATER end up in Carson valley for some more time share, beach front property.Nothing stops time,the wind,the sun,the rain,”Nothing.”

  11. Robert says - Posted: March 10, 2011

    Lahontan is only concerned with water quality not air quality thats some other agencys problem! So sweepers are in.