Protecting the lake, benefiting the community

The Upper Truckee Marsh in the 1950s would have have been developed today. Photos/League to Save Lake Tahoe

The Upper Truckee Marsh, as seen in the 1950s, would have have been developed today. Photos/League to Save Lake Tahoe

Publisher’s note: This is one in a series of stories Lake Tahoe News will be running leading up to the 50th anniversary of South Lake Tahoe on Nov. 30.

City 50th Anniversary Logo v4By Darcie Goodman Collins

As the city of South Lake Tahoe turns 50 this year, I have been contemplating the League to Save Lake Tahoe’s relationship with the city. As many people are aware, we have not always had the strongest partnership.

To understand the legacy between the city and the League, we should consider the environmental challenges we inherited as our organizations grew during the 1960s. Unbridled development without any urban planning had already begun to impact the lake. The Tahoe Keys had destroyed hundreds of acres of valuable wetland. The region lacked any long-term vision. By the 1990s, however, the idea of redevelopment gave hope for revitalization on the South Shore. The League, the city and other interested parties ironed out a plan for Tahoe’s first redevelopment project, the Heavenly Village. The League worked to get as many old motels torn down as possible, and sought to gain as much wetland and shoreline restoration as possible from the project. The Heavenly Village now serves as a model for redevelopment around the lake.

Finding a redevelopment model to help Tahoe’s communities revitalize while also benefitting the lake is a bright spot from the past 50 years. In reflecting on my three-year tenure as the League’s executive director, I also found many positive points.

For example, the Tourist Core Area Plan passed in 2013 with relatively little controversy. We supported it after the city addressed our concerns on new zoning identified in the draft plan. Also in 2013, we were thrilled when the city passed a landmark plastic bag ban, the first community at the lake to do so. The ban will substantially reduce the amount of plastic waste in our streams and lake. And this past year, the League was very pleased to see the commercial service option dropped from the Airport Master Plan process. This will help keep airport noise in check, to the benefit of wildlife and community members, as well as eliminate any need to expand the airport’s footprint. The city is also making step-by-step progress toward achieving pollution-reduction targets set by the TMDL, an EPA program to reduce sediment flowing into the lake.

These encouraging examples remind us that we can protect the lake while also benefitting the community.

Next up, the League will be keeping a close watch on the Tahoe Valley Area Plan and the Loop Road project to ensure they maximize benefits for the lake. The League supports the Tahoe Valley Area Plan, which will be brought forward for adoption within the next few months, for its open space and environmental benefits.

In the 1960s when the Tahoe Keys was built environmental concerns were not a major concern for most people.

In the 1960s when the Tahoe Keys was built environmental concerns were not a major concern for most people.

The second phase of the TMDL will be more challenging, and the city will have to identify several new water quality improvement projects to meet pollution reduction requirements. We are also encouraging the city to improve public transportation and winter road sanding operations, a huge source of sediment flowing into the lake. As the city moves forward with more redevelopment, we’re hoping to see the city create targets for coverage reduction and restoration on sensitive lands. We are committed to productive dialogue with city staff and policy makers to identify solutions to these current challenges.

The League’s purpose has always been to act as a strong watchdog for the lake. However, we can’t Keep Tahoe Blue without community involvement. I was born and raised in South Lake Tahoe and care deeply about its future. Since coming on board, I’ve built a robust community engagement program because I believe the more residents gain hands-on experience tackling the lake’s environmental challenges, the more they’ll understand what solutions are needed and stand up for them.

For example, in addition to our two new volunteer programs, Eyes on the Lake and Pipe Keepers, which call on community members to help with scientific monitoring, we are now partnering with Lake Tahoe Unified School District to develop a Tahoe-based environmental curriculum. Students will use the lake itself as a laboratory to study geography, biology, public policy and other subjects.

The environmental movement is evolving, and finding more productive ways of achieving results. We are encouraged that the city is also growing and responding more to the concerns of its citizens.

Environmental progress is slow without true partnerships. With the League, the city and the community working together, we can achieve so much, for much less money and in a quicker, more efficient way. We wish the city a very happy 50th anniversary and look forward to collaborating to improve our environment and benefit our community.

Darcie Goodman Collins is a native of South Lake Tahoe and serves as executive director for the League to Save Lake Tahoe.



About author

This article was written by admin


Comments (16)
  1. david dewitt says - Posted: April 30, 2015

    lets bash the keys every disaster story starts out with a story about the keys. its here now and its not going anywhere can we not make it the poster boy for all the do the correct thing people. please enough is enough.

  2. Chief Slowroller says - Posted: April 30, 2015

    all of you folks should go to the Keys and look at the dredging project on the home owners side.

    they took all of the sand from the channel and spread it on the beach.

    that sand has all of those weeds and the roots of those weeds buried in it.

    the League all you folks want to do is drink and party.

    times have changed and it’s not getting any better, more government agency’s are just fooling every one.

  3. oldtimer says - Posted: April 30, 2015

    If the League is serious about saving the lake then it should put all of it’s effort into Curb and Guttering the entire City and putting all drainage underground. this would control 85% of the erosion and improve the look of the City and increase the property value’s. this could be done in a couple of way’s, Form assessment Districts throughout the City and Apply for Government Grants. This is the Jewel of the Sierra’s and is Treasured by all.
    The key’s are done and nothing can be done to Change that, Let’s start working on cleaning up this town.
    I came to Tahoe in 1945 and have seen all of the changes and many were not the best choices but they are done, Let’s move forward and clean up this City With CURB AND GUTTERS.

  4. Noel says - Posted: April 30, 2015

    There are many approved herbicides that will KILL all of the milfoil etc. in the Keys. Why do you folks keep refusing to use it. It is proven to dissipate quickly. Until we kill the offending plants in the Keys they will continue to spread around the lake. That will also eliminate the habitat that allows warm water fish a habitat. A nice dose of Rotenone will solve that problem as well.

  5. david dewitt says - Posted: April 30, 2015

    I have owned property here at the lake for 25 years and the keys was here when i bought. I can walk out on my deck and see the houses at the keys. I don’t know if a swamp would look better than a well kept housing community. I am sure that the decision was made with all sides having a vote but when the environmental wackoes loose you get to hear about it for ever.

  6. LS says - Posted: April 30, 2015

    The League has zero credibility when they’ve bought into the pseudo science of TMDL. It makes as much sense as cap and trade.

  7. Keys Rat says - Posted: April 30, 2015

    Old timer… Times have changed. Curb and gutter and underground piping is not the solution to water quality problems but makes them worse unles you store all water from a storm in a pond somewhere. Green infrastructure and low impact development are the shift the last decade. The keys aren’t going anywhere and that is fine, but many things can be done in the keys itself to limit water quality issues such as rain gardens and curb cuts. Cutting the curb and allowing a small amount of water to percolate into a landscape feature would be huge. Or relaxing the homeowner assn rules by allowing xeriscaping, using low water or no water alternatives to grass/sod. This would reduce water and fertiliZer both of which are only making the keys milfoil issue worse. Lots can be done. It appears no one wants to do anything…

  8. Buck says - Posted: April 30, 2015

    Chris: the sand on the beach is really dark so it must be very dirty. I thought it was to be moved off the hill. The lake front people when they show up this summer are not going to be happy. Its funny most of the sand is on state lands and they don’t care.

  9. duke of prunes says - Posted: April 30, 2015

    ” I don’t know if a swamp would look better than a well kept housing community.”
    That’s the mentality that I assumed everyone who lives in the Keys has. Now I know at least one person thinks that way.

  10. nature bats last says - Posted: April 30, 2015

    Its so easy to find fault and blame someone else for things out of ones controll. Regardless of personal b itching, if it wernt for watchdog groups or individuals looking out for this lake, our backyard, we most certainly would have a dead green lake. I would be surprised if anyone can honestly say that keeping lake tahoe unpolluted has not been worth every bit of sacrafice, id call them a liar. So quit whining about who is to blame about this or that and realise how lucky you are to live and work here. To raise your family or retire here. To visit here or to just pass through. It gets really old hearing the same old rants over and over. If the whiners spent half the time they spend whining and pointing fingers at people whose efforts have kept lake tahoe clean and blue, well shame on those people. They dont have a clue how lucky they really are.

  11. david dewitt says - Posted: April 30, 2015

    if you really want to see the bad choices all you have to do is take a tour of state line and then the keys will look a lot better.

  12. duke of prunes says - Posted: April 30, 2015

    Stateline didn’t bisect the largest wetland in the Sierra. Your ugly neighborhood did.

  13. AROD says - Posted: April 30, 2015

    @ David DeWitt. Should we forget about 9/11? The biggest environmental disaster at the Lake is Tahoe Keys and we should never forget. It is a legitimate fact not to be dismissed because it happened so long ago.

  14. lou Pierini says - Posted: April 30, 2015

    Heavenly Village was not the first redevelopment plan, the ski run hole was, promoted by Lou Feldman and Richard Hodge in 1989. The Keys could go away if the lake drops another 7 feet and stays that way.

  15. rock4tahoe says - Posted: May 2, 2015

    The fate of Lake Tahoe was endangered when Cavalry blocked Native Americans access to Lake Tahoe in the 1850’s, when Virginia City needed timber for their mines, when the US Congress failed to make Lake Tahoe a National Park, when Squaw Valley hosted the Winter Olympics in 1960 and when Dillingham Construction developed the Tahoe Keys.

  16. KeysFuture says - Posted: May 25, 2015

    Lets look forward instead of living in the past people. There has been great comments from earlier posts that offer up solutions. The topic of the Keys HOA not allowing Xeriscaping is outrageous. What message does that say? Lets work to allow forward thinking by overthrowing these ‘It dont work cause its broken’ authorities and step into 21 century solutions. To continue to hate rather than to work towards a better future is plain lazy. Evil will continue if the good do nothing.