Alternatives discussed for Upper Truckee River, Lake Tahoe Golf Course restoration |

Alternatives discussed for Upper Truckee River, Lake Tahoe Golf Course restoration

Gregory Crofton

Environmental restoration of the 7-mile stretch of the Upper Truckee River from Christmas Valley to Elks Club Drive would cost up to $20 million.

The findings of a preliminary study on the upper reach of the river were presented Tuesday at a sparsely attended public meeting at the U.S. Forest Service Supervisor’s Office.

“Every time we do something we never do it right,” said Jim Stamates, a Meyers resident who attended the meeting. “I want to see them do it right or let it mend itself.”

Stamates said 50 feet of the river’s edge eroded in his backyard during the flood of 1997.

In the last 150 years, the river has incised into the land 6 to 8 feet, causing meadows to dry up and increasing the sediment loading to Lake Tahoe, according to Mitch Swanson, an environmental engineer.

The river sunk gradually as grazing, logging and other impacts increased its hydrologic force. If the river is left unchecked, conditions are such that it will flush 350,000 yards of material into Lake Tahoe before it stabilizes.

“It is eroding chronically and feeding fine sediment down into the lake,” Swanson said. “Sand and gravel is not that big of a deal for lake clarity, it’s that fine silt and clay.”

No plan for restoration has been chosen yet, but whatever gets picked will have to deal with the perimeters of Lake Tahoe Golf Course, which would have to be redesigned to address all its erosion concerns, Swanson said.

The golf course sits on land managed by California State Parks. Further analysis of the area is planned this summer, but restoration experts want to hear suggestions from the public. The next public meeting will be conducted sometime next month.

“The idea is to get people involved in the process,” said Cyndie Walck, a hydrologist for California State Parks. “There is a list of alternatives but we can’t really choose any one of those because it would have too many impacts.”

Addressing erosion problems at the golf course is only one part of the large project, which focuses on the section of river from Christmas Valley through Meyers.

Overall, options for restoration include lining the channel of the river with rocks in an effort to prevent erosion, digging out the existing riverbed to prevent erosion, or realigning and raising the bed of the river to diffuse its erosive energies.

“I think it’s a real necessary process to help heal the damage done through the years,” said James Austin, who attended the meeting and lives at Montgomery Estates. “Every year it looks worse and worse. The last alternative would be the most costly, but we did that to Trout Creek and it was a huge success.”

The Tahoe Resource Conservation District is funding a study of the upper and middle reaches of the Upper Truckee River with grant money from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Planning for the middle reach, about 5 miles from the bridge at Elks Club to the bridge at Carrows and Highway 50, is further along. Design work for its $10 million worth of recommended restoration is expected to begin this summer and construction could start in 2005.

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at

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