Best Management Practices: ‘The most important component to the basin’s health’
Editor’s note: This is the last in series about the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act Round 6 funds and how nearly $40 million will be spent in the basin, not on land acquisition, but on fire-fuel reduction and land- and water- quality projects over several years. This will be the biggest infusion of money for restoration in the basin’s history.
What does $23 million in Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act money buy? (And don’t answer a stretch of unbuildable lake-front property in Crystal Bay – that’s off the books.)
It buys, in the words of one U.S. Forest Service official “a whole lot of public BMPs.”
Indeed, one of the more oft-overlooked basin improvement efforts that both environmentalists and agencies say is of paramount importance to the overall health of Lake Tahoe are Best Management Practices and watershed restoration.
Best Management Practices are environmental improvements usually intended to control soil erosion, a leading cause of Lake Tahoe’s declining clarity.
And the money behind it shows. Public projects of all stripes will be funded through the federal lands act latest rounds of funding.
Some $2.7 million of that money is slated to be spent on a Kings Beach Commercial Core Transportation improvement project that will “construct water quality improvements, provide bicycle and pedestrian facilities and related improvements within the main street commercial district of King’s Beach.”
On the South Shore, public BMP projects for the Meyers Work Center, William Kent Campground and Fallen Leaf Campground will also take place thanks to more than $800,000 of the funds.
What these public projects actually mean to the basin some environmentalist advocates said, ranges from “important” to “of grave importance.”
“Basically BMPs have become another one of those buzzwords,” said Forest Service spokesman Rex Norman. “But when you see what happens around the basin – well, that explains a lot more.
“We had this heavy rain here (this week) and it’s pretty clear to see the water runs off many different ways. There’s a lot of places where the creeks overflow, where there are mudslides, where the water runs over the road. (Enforcing) BMPs is one of the best things we can do to help the lake.”
Public BMPs don’t just apply to paved roads or developed areas – a misconception around the basin, Norman said.
“We do retrofits on the whole system, a lot of work is done on unpaved roads, foot trails, bike trails (Freel Peak and East Shore restoration projects),” Norman said. “It’s about managing stormwater – everywhere – and how it affects water quality.”
The locus of instituting new and better public BMPs in the basin, according to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, began during the 1997 Presidential Summit at Lake Tahoe. President Clinton kicked off a program that would result in more than 700 capital improvement, research, program support, and operation and maintenance projects in the Lake Tahoe Basin, all designed to help restore Lake Tahoe’s clarity and environment.
“BMPs have continually been a focus of the TRPA,” said TRPA communications representative Angela Moniot. “Our staff recently attended a workshop learning the latest water quality and management BMPs. It is constantly changing.”
“I think what you’ll find with new (BMP) funds, agencies like the Forest Service are trying to have the maximum effectiveness … they’re not going to do restoration efforts just to check it off their list,” said Kim Carr, senior environmental planner for a South Shore-based consulting firm EDAW. “They’re trying to meet the goal of their project, but it takes good data and good BMP information to know what’s the best match.”
But, the public BMP pitfall, besides simply being misunderstood – is actually making them work for the long-run.
And this doesn’t mean just throwing money at something, Carr said.
“We can think something’s working and prescribe a particular BMP and implement it on a large scale and it’s not effective, because we’re just asking too much,” Carr said. “The people that are part of the project technical advisory committee need the most updated knowledge possible so they can make the best the decision.”
Environmentalists say new scientific evidence of problems throughout the basin results in a constant re-inspection of what needs to be done, and what can be done.
“Tahoe is unique in that we are an alpine lake, our ground is frozen much of the year, we apply a lot of sand to our roads, so things that work in other areas don’t work in Tahoe,” Carr said. “We have different conditions. For example, vegetation is good at catching fine sediment and nutrients in most forest areas.
“Yes, it’s daunting; yes, the science is always improving; yes, the work will never stop.”
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