Tahoe Conservancy ready to restore Upper Truckee Marsh


By Kathryn Reed

While the Tahoe Keys subdivision will remain as is, the sensitive wetlands surrounding it could expand, sand dunes may return, the sailing lagoon that abuts the Cove East walking trail may be filled in and that trail rerouted, and the mouth of the Upper Truckee altered.

These are some of the proposals in the draft environmental documents that will be released by the end of the year for the Upper Truckee Marsh.

Four alternatives are being studied. The California Tahoe Conservancy owns this swath of land that borders the Tahoe Keys and Al Tahoe neighborhoods in South Lake Tahoe and goes from Highway 50 to Lake Tahoe. No preferred alternative has been selected, so all four will receive equal analysis.

It's possible this lagoon at the Tahoe Keys will be filled in. Photo/LTN file

“The purpose of the project is restoration, but we know it is well accessed so we had to do some level of public access,” explained Scott Carroll, project manager. “We just put different features in different alternatives so we could evaluate the impacts – from water quality to impacts on biological resources to parking – the array. In the end, when we develop a preferred alternative, what we do to the site will be guided by what access works in that type of setting.”

One option includes building a platform that would allow cyclists and walkers to get from one side of the meadow to the other. Other things being considered to make the area more people friendly include a fishing platform, signs and kiosks.

Most of the proposed changes are for the Cove East side of the marsh. It’s possible the mouth of the Upper Truckee River could be rebuilt or reduced. In the 1960s it was dredged and was the original access to the Keys.

The Conservancy acquired the 22 acres in a settlement agreement stemming from the Keys development. In 2002, a $10.5 million restoration project was completed that brought back the wetlands that run between the walking path at the end of Venice Drive and the river.

Three of the alternatives would fill in the sailing lagoon, which is to the left of the trail when walking toward the lake. Then the trail would head in that direction where boats come into the marina instead of along the river.

Restoring the Upper Truckee River is a large component of this project.

“We want to restore the historic and natural hydrology of the system as much as we can within the constraints we have,” Carroll told Lake Tahoe News. “(The) express purpose (is) enhancing the ecosystem of the area – from habitat for aquatic species and terrestrial, and species utilizing the riparian zone. We are trying to create a sustainable linked system.”

The other goal is improving the water quality that enters Lake Tahoe.

Three individuals own some of the land where the Conservancy would like to do work – Marjorie Springmeyer, Knox Johnson and Royce Dunlap. All have been approached, but no agreements are in place.

For the most part, little is proposed for Trout Creek, which runs through what was known as the Barton Meadow. Those 311 acres were purchased about 11 years ago for $10 million and is now referred to as the Upper Truckee Marsh. It is considered one of the most sensitive areas in the basin.

The bank of the creek near the highway is proposed to be fortified in each of the alternatives.

What this project will cost is unknown. And when it would begin is also undetermined. CTC employees expect a number of comments will be received during the 60-day comment period. The plan is for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Advisory Planning Commission and Governing Board to discuss the project in January. The final environmental impact report and environmental impact statement could take a year to prepare.

When the project begins, it’s possible it will be done in multiple phases depending on funding sources.




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Comments (22)
  1. Local Yokel says - Posted: October 27, 2012

    Why is it we keep trying to restore streams, rivers and creeks after first messing them up? Is this a case where leaving nature to nature and not mucking about further might be the better and cheaper course. I have yet to hear of a successful stream restoration… Let it restore itself with time.

    If you want to fix lake clarity focus on the interchange between roadways and the environment.
    My two cents.

  2. HangsUpsFromWayBack says - Posted: October 27, 2012

    Now the water in the home owners area will surely turn green.

    That’s been the whole problem out there,”lack oxygen in the water what started the whole green mess”then it moved into the lake”.

    You can’t take with you when you GO!

  3. Worldcycle says - Posted: October 27, 2012

    Why should the restoration stop at the sailing lagoon at Cove East. Rip out the Keys I say. They are not part of the natural watershed either. I live close to Trout Creek. It was restored along with Cold Creek to the Black Bart/Martin Ave. bridge back in 2001 if I remember right. Now they plan on doing “little” with the remainder. If it is considered the “most sensitive” why not finish the job?

  4. Criticalthinker55 says - Posted: October 31, 2012

    OK cycle we need to come up with about 10 billion to buy the keys out, how much are you good for?

  5. Jacqui S. Grandfield says - Posted: October 31, 2012

    I was the Wildlife lead and Public Outreach Officer for the CTC on the Upper Truckee Marsh (UTM) for several years. CTC and TRPA are way more interested in public access out there than they are natural resources. The UTM is one of the largest remaining wetlands in the Sierra Nevada and as such is extremely critical habitat for wildlife and migrating waterfowl. It is also home to the largest Tahoe Yellow Cress (TYC) colony in the basin. (TYC is a type of mustard plant indigenous to Tahoe occurring nowhere else on the planet). For many years people and dogs have been impacting the marsh, people being far more destructive of the two. CTC has banned dogs during the breeding season but done little to discourage public access. In fact they have increased it by allowing the Water Trail to go in there and advocating a boardwalk bicycle trail through the TYC colony and Pacific flyway. To date, they have spent at least $50M (of taxpayer money) over a twenty plus year period without moving the first shovelful of dirt. Consultants and consulting firms have built careers and gotten rich on this project. Plus Royce will never allow CTC on his property and Knox and Marjorie have shown little interest in the past. This marsh desperately needs to be a legally designated wildlife preserve. At present TRPA has determined that it is a “conservation only” area. But developers want to change that to use this wonderful natural resource as a “tourist attraction” for their customers. It’s time we turned this “cash cow” into a protected wetland. Let your voice be heard in any way you possibly can.

  6. lou pierini says - Posted: October 31, 2012

    55, If you take out the dam in tahoe city, the keys and the milfoil will go away without any $ it will just dry up in a drought, that happens once in a while.

  7. Frank says - Posted: October 31, 2012

    Jacqui, spoken like a true tree hugger, non sensical enviro bureaucrat.

  8. thing fish says - Posted: November 1, 2012

    Jaqui sounds like a well informed, science minded person, Frank.
    All you have are personal attacks, a feeble attempt to make up for your ignorance and general intellectual deficits.

  9. Dogula says - Posted: November 1, 2012

    Fish, you gotta STOP insulting people while trying to make yourself sound superior just because you disagree. Taking of land from private or true public use for what YOU call ” sound science” is theft, pure and simple. This country protects private property rights. If you want to protect certain properties, buy them yourself. Then you can protect them all you want.

  10. John says - Posted: November 1, 2012

    thing fish, how important is Tahoe to the pacific flyway? If I had $1 million and want to help ducks, (we do, I am with Ducks Unlimited) would you spend it on the Upper Truckee or buying land in the Sac Valley and restoring marsh on the Sac River? The Uppper Truckee marsh supports a couple hundred birds on migration before they blow out of the mountains and down into the Pacific Flyway. The Sac Valley supports millions. So if we are worried about waterfowl then where should the money go? The Upper Truckee is just completely inconsequential to the flyway.

  11. Jacqui says - Posted: November 1, 2012

    Frank: you are only half right. I WAS an enviro beaurocrat until I found out they are on your side and their only bottom line is $$$, not protecting the environment. I AM, however, a proud, unapologetic tree hugger though I prefer Wildlife Biologist and Enviro Policy Expert. Planet Earth supports all the known life in our universe. Humans are part of the animal kingdom so when all the “wildlife” is gone what’s next? The final animal remaining on the planet goes too …. and that’s us!
    And John: as a duck guy you are woefully ill-informed. If waterfowl (numbering in the thousands not a couple hundred), i.e. those north and east of the Sierra, don’t stop in smaller wetlands to refuel along their route they’d never get to the Sacramento area. Besides, would you deprive the folks here of the wonder and beauty of wildlife?
    Finally, the Upper Truckee Marsh belongs to all Americans, not just the scientifically ignorant.

  12. thing fish says - Posted: November 1, 2012

    First, where is land being taken (implies no compensation and unwilling participation)?
    Who is talking about ‘taking’ land?
    Beat that straw man.
    Sound science speaks for its self, it doesn’t matter if you understand it or disagree with it.

    Then Frank goes off and just attacks a person without even addressing any of their points. I pointed that out and offered an explanation why they didn’t attempt to address anything.

  13. thing fish says - Posted: November 1, 2012

    I hit enter by accident.
    Most of what I know about the Pacific flyway involved saline lakes, specifically Mono. I don’t know how the Upper Truckee plays a role in that. I do know that the Upper Truckee has some serious issues with channelization, lack of sinuosity, encroachment of pines, water table problems, etc. Meadows are the most threatened ecosystem in The West, The Upper Truckee has potential.
    No one is going to take land.

    I don’t understand the mindset behind ‘hey look, a meadow, lets build stuff on it’.

    In closing, The Tahoe Keys is disgusting.
    Do you know what happens in a meadow at dusk?

  14. sunriser2 says - Posted: November 1, 2012

    Would it help if the loggers clear-cut some forestland to make room for more meadows?

  15. Dick Fox says - Posted: November 1, 2012

    When you imply that meadows would spontaneously spring up under clear-cut forestland it kinda ruins your hate everything green arguments.

  16. John says - Posted: November 1, 2012

    Jacqui, you dont do any favors for anyplace you are trying to protect by overstating its significance. Right now, like today, we are getting the first major waves of ducks down to this latitude in the flyway. Go out to the Upper Truckee Marsh. Its not important for duck migration for the Pacific flyway or it would be full today. Now there are a whole bunch of other reasons that marsh is important, but overstating its importance for migration when it obviousely isnt just turns people off of a cause. Its the same for the anti-golf folks at Washoe Meadows. They grossly overstated and lied about what is proposed out there and turned a lot of people off.

  17. John says - Posted: November 1, 2012

    Thing fish named all of the reason the Upper Truckee Marsh really does need serious help, and if it got that, could actually support some ducks.

  18. Dogula says - Posted: November 1, 2012

    Funny how divisive and oversimplifying some people have to be.
    “. . .hate everything green arguments”
    Mr. Fox likes to pretend that conservatives would like to burn everything natural to the ground, then strip mine it and build factories on top of it all. How absurd.
    But we do believe people are more important than plants, we believe in private property rights, and our Constitution too.
    Oh, and that in the natural world, lakes have a tendency to turn into meadows, which turn into forests, which burn down in naturally occurring fires. Mother nature has a way of taking care of herself.

  19. Jacqui says - Posted: November 1, 2012

    I’ve wasted too much time on ill-informed, narrow minded people … ENUF said…

  20. Jacqui says - Posted: November 1, 2012

    P.S. Thank you “thing fish” for your moderate support and John, doesn’t Ducks Unlimited support protecting ducks so you folks can go out and shoot them? One can never overstate the importance of protecting natural resources … don’t you live on this planet too? Moreover, I’ve spent years in the Upper Truckee Marsh doing bird surveys, and rec and access surveys so get off your high horse. I know exactly what’s going on in the marsh right now.
    Bye, Y’all

  21. Jacqui says - Posted: November 1, 2012

    PPS. During my tenure with the CTC I also collected and analysed data from UTM ground water wells, and did public outreach. One of the main reasons I no longer work for the CTC is that management told me I “didn’t always have to tell the public the truth”. I strongly disagreed. So, who do you trust, baby?