$1 million for Tahoe research | TahoeDailyTribune.com

$1 million for Tahoe research

Gregory Crofton

Funding for scientific research thought to be key to stopping the loss of clarity in the lake will be a focus of the Lake Tahoe Forum today on the North Shore.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Wayne Nastri is expected to announce approval of a $1.1 million grant to fund pollution studies for Lake Tahoe at the invite-only event this morning at Ponderosa Ranch, according to Laura Gentile, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Other speakers at the event include: Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., Gale Norton, secretary of the Interior, Mary Peters, head of the Federal Highway Administration, Mike Chrisman, resources secretary for California, and Jack Blackwell, regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service.

Reid and other officials also plan to attend the dedication of the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences from 1 to 3 p.m. It will be at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village, a few miles north of the Ponderosa. It is open to the public.

The EPA grant money will fund an ongoing bistate research project called the TMDL – or total maximum daily load. The study aims to determine how much sediment and nutrients Lake Tahoe can absorb without affecting its clarity.

The TMDL research will be done by UC Davis, Desert Research Institute in Reno and private consultants. The study is scheduled to be completed by 2007 and provide crucial data for long-term plans by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

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“It’s great news,” said Chuck Curtis, division manager at the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, which is coordinating the TMDL project. “We were one of about 100 proposals nationwide that put in for these watershed grant funds and our proposal was the only one accepted in California.”

The grant will fund work to help identify innovative sediment and nutrient control technologies and establish ground rules for how water quality officials can achieve the reductions the lake requires, Curtis said.

The grant is one of 14 to be handed out by the EPA this year. It will fund $15 million worth of watershed research in 17 states. To date, $6.7 million has been committed to the TMDL. But that figure probably will increase to more than $8 million by 2007. Tack on monitoring and implementation costs for the massive study, Curtis said, and total price tag will run about $16 million.

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com