Senators keep trying to get money for Tahoe


By Kathryn Reed

For the fifth consecutive year, senators from California and Nevada are asking their colleagues to come up with $415 million to fund environmental projects at Lake Tahoe.

The last four years the answer was no – or it didn’t even make out of committee for there to be a vote. When it was introduced in 2009 the cash was to be spread over eight years; this time it’s for 10 years.

Since the inaugural Lake Tahoe Environmental Summit in 1997 that was convened at the request of then-President Bill Clinton, nearly $2 billion has come to the basin to primarily help with lake clarity. Money from California, Nevada, local jurisdictions and the private sector came up with the bulk of that dollar figure.

Congress is being asked to give Lake Tahoe $415 million over the next 10 years. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Congress is being asked to give Lake Tahoe $415 million over the next 10 years. Photo/Kathryn Reed

Clinton is the one who launched the environmental improvement program.

In 2000, the first Lake Tahoe Restoration Act was funded at $424 million across 10 years. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., reintroduced the act on Aug. 1, with the support of Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif, Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Dean Heller, R-Nev.

Money has been used to improve the clarity and quality of Lake Tahoe, thin forests in an attempt to reduce the threat of wildfire, help fight aquatic invasive species, improve air and water quality, build bike trails, and improve wildlife habitat.

The new money would do much of the same.

“I strongly believe we have a duty to protect Lake Tahoe, one of the most beautiful and pristine spots in our country,” Feinstein said in a press release. “Even in times of fiscal austerity, we cannot ignore the natural wonders that define our country. Lake Tahoe continues to suffer from pollution and sedimentation that reduces the lake’s remarkable water clarity, the potential for devastating wildfires remains high and a variety of invasive species threaten to devastate the region’s economy.”

Her family has had a second home on the West Shore for decades.

With the annual enviro summit being Aug. 19, the LTRA will undoubtedly be a topic of conversation – especially with former Vice President Al Gore attending the Sand Harbor event.

“Having the authorizing legislation (LTRA) allows legislators to appropriate funding to protect our lake for future generations, with assurances the money is being used responsibly,” Cheva Heck with the USFS told Lake Tahoe News.

Also in the bill is $2 million that would be used to transfer all of the urban lots owned by the U.S. Forest Service on the California side to the California Tahoe Conservancy. The USFS would get some CTC parcels outside the urban area so its ownership is more contiguous.

The current USFS parcels would be deed restricted so the CTC could not put them in their rather recently created “asset lands bank”; which allows the CTC to sell them for development purposes.

Nevada did not want to be part of the urban lot transfer.

The Forest Service manages more than 3,200 urban parcels throughout the basin.

This version of the LTRA would also allocate $20 million to bring back the Lahontan cutthroat trout.

The legislation requires an annual report to Congress detailing the status of all projects undertaken, including project scope, budget and justification and overall expenditures and accomplishments.

Here is a copy of Feinstein’s statement that she read into the record.

This is the LTRA summary of how the $415 million would be spent.


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Comments (11)
  1. Shenja says - Posted: August 2, 2013

    How about some funds to bail out and improve our local transportation and parking? Isn’t air pollution one of the highest contributors (if not the highest) to the lakes clarity/quality decline?

  2. hikerchick says - Posted: August 2, 2013

    Yes, the money should be used responsibly and perhaps this implies some observation by people who help to appropriate the funds. I wonder what Senator Feinstein would say about the severe thinning at Fallen Leaf Lake and other areas where crews are working to thin the forests. I don’t think anyone here argues with the need for fuels reduction but a lot of the work done so far has been overkill to the detriment of wildlife and people from all over the world who recreate in the basin. It is possible to thin our forests and still leave them beautiful.

  3. John says - Posted: August 2, 2013

    Hikerchick, tell me in a little more detail what was overkill about the thinning please. What is the residual basal area and what is the current canopy closure? What forage species grow well in shade? What is the desired stand condition?

    How did you analytically determine that the thinning is inappropriate?

    Let me guess, it doesn’t look good to you….

  4. hikerchick says - Posted: August 2, 2013

    I have walked the thin with the FS staffer in charge. It looked on our walk like some of the prescription (10 understory trees per acre and nothing cut over 30″) might not be followed in all cases. The FS has said for years that it is undesirable to have a forest of same-aged trees yet some of the cut looks like the trees left indeed are the same age which would take us to what has been said would be undesirable. The computer modeling used on this project has also been questioned. We can get this job done without resorting to ugly. Also, the huge piles of slash being left everywhere are scary–with this much to burn, it could take many years if not decades. This will increase the possibility of a controlled burn getting out of control.

  5. John says - Posted: August 2, 2013

    Hikerchick, how do you convert an even-aged forest into an uneven-aged forest and push the forest composition away from shade tolerant species? You don’t is the answer. In all forestry we only intervene to change the trajectory of the development of the forest.

    About the model. There is no model for veg growth in Tahoe, so whoever questioned it, has no clue what they are talking about. There is no model because its a waste of time, money and effort. We are not maximizing wood fiber production.

    Hiker, if you cant wait a couple years for a forest to respond to disturbance you are part of the problem. This is a disturbance DEPENDENT ecosystem.

    The piles are a non-issue, how many years has this been going on.

    The point is Hiker, you just don’t like the looks immediately after thinning. Well that isn’t much of an analysis.

  6. Damian says - Posted: August 2, 2013

    This is not an appropriate use of federal money. First of all, some of the wealthiest people in CA live near Tahoe, and furthermore, things like this are better funded through appropriate property taxes or user fees for recreation / boating / whatever.

  7. hikerchick says - Posted: August 2, 2013

    I don’t think an angry tone is necessary. We are losing the art of civil discourse in our country.

  8. John says - Posted: August 2, 2013

    Hiker I am merely stating facts. You are in way over your head on forestry issues and forest stand dynamics in particular. The statement “some people are questioning the models” is most illuminating because the growth and yield models for Western forests are not used for this kind of work in Tahoe (waste of time). So the only model used would be the fire models, which happen to be ground truthed on millions of acres of wildland fire each year. Whomever is questioning them better have some pretty serious qualifications.

    You straight made up facts so you could attack the Forest Service. You owe them an apology.

  9. Jane says - Posted: August 2, 2013

    It doesn’t appear like anyone has a clue. Just throwing out technical jargon to appear smart. John is a big Johnson. The usfs owes me an apology for messing up my meadows systems. Maybe things will be better 100 years from now maybe not. Nature will have its way. And so how is the clarity of the lake going to be saved again.?

  10. MTT says - Posted: August 2, 2013

    Senator Heller posted this on his FB Feed. It’s been kinda fun abusing him about it all day.

    Best post so far?
    Other Face Book follower
    “Yesterday you were touting the fact that you were co-sponsoring legislation to get the government back to its constitutional roots. Today, you’re supporting another bill that has the government involved in our lives again…and with Dianne Feinstein, no less! You’re not a good man, Charlie Brown!”

  11. John A says - Posted: August 5, 2013

    I have an idea. Why not close down some of these state and federal agencies that are self-serving – and use that money around the basin for improvements ?