Lake Tahoe Restoration Act Passes Committee

From on Wed, 01/20/2016 – 9:24am

The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2015, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, passed the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on Wednesday. The legislation, created alongside senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Harry Reid, D-Nevada and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., provides federal, state, and local partners important tools to reduce wildfire threats, improve water clarity, jumpstart innovative infrastructure projects, and combat invasive species.

“As a lifelong Nevadan and an avid outdoorsman, I grew up enjoying Nevada’s beautiful outdoors, such as Lake Tahoe. Today’s committee passage is a big step toward combating the numerous threats that take a toll on the Tahoe Basin,” said Sen. Heller. “I look forward to working with our delegations in both the Senate and the House to resolve the discrepancies between the two different Tahoe proposals and enact a bill that helps conserve the Basin’s natural beauty for generations to come.”

The Senate and the House both have bills before their members called the “Lake Tahoe Restoration Act.” But going about protecting the lake’s cobalt blue waters varies with political interests wanting less money spent on water clarity issues and more spent on fire protection and forest management.

Heller and Feinstein, both spoke at the annual Lake Tahoe Summit in August, showing bipartisan support of the Senate version that calls for $415 million to be spent on preserving Lake Tahoe.

Sen. Reid made the following statement:

“Since 1997, when we held the first Lake Tahoe Summit with President Bill Clinton, we have made incredible strides in restoring the health and famed clarity of Lake Tahoe’s waters. With the passage of the first Lake Tahoe Restoration Act in 2000, we have been able to accomplish so much. Major forest restoration and fuel breaks have been completed to lessen the impact of wildfire on the lake itself and the community that surrounds it.

Marshlands and wildlife habitat around the lake have been restored and improved. Pollution from stormwater and transportation that was clouding the lake’s clear blue waters has been mitigated. The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, which had disappeared from the lake in 1939, is on its way to recovery. We have made significant progress in restoring our Jewel of the Sierras, but there is still much more that needs to be done. This bill is vital to ensuring that the work of protecting Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Basin continues uninterrupted.

“But this legislation does more than simply carry these existing programs forward. This bill focuses our investments by making science a priority, calls for better management of our public lands in the Lake Tahoe Basin and better public access to those lands, and takes aggressive action against new threats, specifically algae growth and the spread of aquatic invasive species such as quagga and zebra mussels. We have seen the threat of quagga and zebra mussels in Lake Mead in southern Nevada. Quagga mussels, which were discovered in Lake Mead for the first time in 2007, now number in the trillions. They clog water intake pipes, cover beaches with sharp shells and compete with native species for nutrients. We must do everything we can to prevent Lake Tahoe from befalling a similar fate.

“I would like to thank the coalition of people and organizations in Lake Tahoe who have proven to be a model of cooperation. The local residents, federal employees, town and county representatives, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the business community and the non-profit community in the Lake Tahoe Basin have demonstrated the impact that federal funding paired with state and local resources can have. The partnership to protect Lake Tahoe works and we should continue to invest in that partnership with this legislation. By guarding against pollution, wildfires and invasive species, we can ensure that the Jewel of the Sierras continues to be a thriving tourist destination for those who enjoy Lake Tahoe’s crystal clear waters for many years to come.”

The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act addresses:

— Wildfire Prevention – Provides $150 million for fire risk reduction and forest management. These dollars go toward fuel reduction projects in high-risk areas like South Shore, Carnelian Bay, Incline, and West shore stewardship contracts to restore forest health and wildlife habitat, and municipal water infrastructure to support improved flows for firefighting.

— The Environmental Improvement Program (EIP) – Provides $80 million to jumpstart projects spanning from new bike trails to creek restoration and fire treatment. Some previous EIP projects that have benefited the region include the Heavenly Gondola and Village, the Angora Fire rehabilitation, Lake View Commons, the Sand Harbor Visitor Center, and the Incline Creek Restoration.

— The Invasive Species Management Program – Provides $45 million to prevent the introduction of the quagga mussel and manage other harmful invasive species like the Asian clam. This includes lake-wide aquatic invasive species control and a watercraft inspection program.

— Stormwater Projects – Sets aside $113 million to implement storm water management, erosion control, and watershed restoration projects. Storm water runoff from roads and the urban areas in the basin, vehicle exhaust, altered wetlands and streams, and inadequate storm water pollution control have significantly impacted Lake Tahoe’s famous clarity.

— The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout Recovery Program – Allocates $20 million to recover the Lahontan cutthroat trout – a federally threatened species and Nevada’s state fish.

— Increases Accountability and Oversight – Provides $5 million to ensure projects will have monitoring and assessment in order to determine the most cost-effective projects and ensure dollars are properly utilized.

— Overall Management Improvement – Sets aside $2 million to cover the cost of land exchanges and sales on both the California and Nevada sides of the Tahoe Basin that will improve efficiencies of public land management.

The federal government owns nearly 80 percent of the land in the Lake Tahoe Basin, creating a significant responsibility for its agencies to contribute to the ongoing management of its natural resources. The $415 million authorized under the Senate bill ensures the federal government’s share of this responsibility is met.


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