INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — While Harry Reid utilized Tuesday’s summit to draw attention to the floundering local economy, Dianne Feinstein and John Ensign discussed environmental accomplishments and acknowledged there are three key challenges still threatening the ecology of the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Feinstein said the legacy of the 2007 Angora fire that destroyed neighborhoods on the South Shore has imprinted an important lesson from which communities in the Lake Tahoe Basin can continue to learn.
“The one thing we learned from the Angora fire is that we need defensible space,” Feinstein said.
Ensign described a recent mountain biking trip on the Flume Trail by Marlette Lake, where he witnessed encouraging practices of forest management.
“It was wonderful to see the early stages of true forest health,” said Ensign. “This is what a healthy western forest is supposed to look like.”
Feinstein and Ensign also recognized some defensible space practices, such as cutting down trees and pile burning, are not popular with Lake Tahoe Basin residents.
“I know people hate to see trees being cut down, but those trees are not supposed to be here,” Ensign said.
Feinstein also said she supports the efforts of Placer County to install a biomass plant within the basin to alleviate the amount of pile burning that occurs.
Meeks Bay Fire Protection District Chief John Pang said it was nice to hear support from federal representatives regarding defensible space initiatives.
“This will give momentum to our cause,” said Pang.
Aquatic invasive species
Feinstein labeled Asian clams the “new scourge.”
“If you organized all the Asian clams currently in the lake end to end, it would stretch 3.5 miles long,” she said.
Feinstein praised a recent control strategy employed by scientists at the Tahoe Environmental Research Center which involves unrolling large swathes of black rubber pond liner and placing it over the clams, essentially suffocating them.
Feinstein also lauded Joanne Marchetta and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency for aggressive boat inspection policies.
Ensign warned of catastrophic consequences should zebra or quagga mussels be allowed to infiltrate the lake.
“We must absolutely keep these species out of the lake,” he said.
Despite a slight decrease in water clarity from 2009 to 2010, Feinstein was encouraged by reports she heard from University of California, Davis, researchers regarding lake clarity.
“We have stopped the decline in lake clarity,” said Feinstein, who noted that the lake has gained an average of four feet of clarity since the Lake Tahoe Summit first convened in 1997.
The average lake clarity reading was 64 feet in 1997, according to statistics released last week by UC Davis — the worst ever average since 1968, when scientists first began tracking clarity at Tahoe.
Feinstein announced that local scientists, policy makers and stakeholders have identified a goal of an average reading of 78 feet by 2025.
Ensign relied on the eloquence of Mark Twain to drive home his point, citing the oft-used quote of the great American author deeming Lake Tahoe “the fairest picture the whole world affords.”
“Mark Twain’s vision of a pristine Lake Tahoe is what we want to preserve for future generations,” he said.