Bill could give Lake Tahoe $415 million over 10 years
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Tahoe could see more money to improve water clarity, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, combat invasive species and protect threatened species and wildlands, if Congress passes the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2011.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is set to introduce the bill today. The legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., John Ensign, R-Nev., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
“Fifteen years ago, we started a public-private partnership in Lake Tahoe that has led to significant environmental gains, including an improvement in Lake Tahoe’s famed clarity,” Sen. Feinstein said. “This bill gives us the opportunity to continue to confront those challenges and make sure we that we do our best to preserve Lake Tahoe for generations to come.”
The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2011 continues the federal commitment at Lake Tahoe by authorizing $415 million over 10 years to improve water clarity, reduce the threat of fire, and restore the environment.
All projects funded by this legislation will have monitoring and assessment in order to determine the most cost-effective projects and best management practices for future projects. The legislation also requires an annual report to Congress detailing the status of all projects undertaken, including project scope, budget and justification and overall expenditures and accomplishments.
“Not only will this legislation help maintain the clarity of the water and the health of the lands in the Basin, but it will safeguard the 23,000 tourism jobs in Nevada and California that we cannot afford to lose,” Sen. Reid said.
The bill is supported by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce, the California Tahoe Conservancy, the League to Save Lake Tahoe, the Tahoe Area Sierra Club, the Trust for Public Lands, Tahoe area fire chiefs, the Tahoe Fund, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Washoe Tribe.
The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2011 builds on efforts that began under the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2000, legislation sponsored by Senators Feinstein, Reid, Boxer and then-Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev.
That bill, which was signed into law in November 2000, led to significant investments in the health of Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Basin, including $453.8 million from the federal government, $616.6 million from California, $91.3 million from Nevada, $61.4 million from local governments, and $264.4 million in in-kind contributions from the private sector.
Investments in the 2000 legislation resulted in fuels reduction treatment of 42,275 acres, wildlife habitat improvements on 15,361 acres of land, including 1,392 acres of Stream Environment Zones and acquisition of 3,103 acres of sensitive land and improvements to 444 miles of roadways to prevent sediment from entering the lake. ?
• Authorizes at least $72 million for stormwater management and watershed restoration projects that are scientifically determined to be the most effective ways to improve water clarity. The legislation also requires a prioritized ranking of environmental restoration projects and authorizes $136 million for the Lake Tahoe stakeholders to implement these priority projects. Priority projects will improve water quality, forest health, air quality and fish and wildlife habitat around Lake Tahoe.
• Authorizes $136 million over 10 years for hazardous fuels reduction projects to reduce the threat of fire in Lake Tahoe. It provides the Forest Service up to $10 million for fuels projects that have multiple environmental benefits with an emphasis in restoring Stream Environment Zones. It also creates incentives for local communities to have dedicated funding for defensible space inspections and enforcement.
• Provides $20.5 million for watercraft inspections and removal of existing invasive species and would require all watercraft be inspected and decontaminated to prevent the introduction of invasive aquatic species. Watercraft will be exempted from decontamination if they were last launched in Lake Tahoe.
• Authorizes $20 million over 10 years for the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout Recovery Plan. The Lahontan cutthroat trout is an iconic species that has an important historic legacy in Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is one of the historic 11 lakes that had Lahontan cutthroat trout in the past and is a critical part of the strategy to recover the species.
• Provides $30 million over 10 years for scientific programs and research that will produce information on long-term trends in the basin and inform the most cost-effective projects.
• Prevents the start of any mining operations in the Basin, ensuring that the fragile watershed, and Lake Tahoe’s water clarity, are not threatened by pollution from mining operations.
• Requires signage on federally financed projects in order to improve public awareness of restoration efforts. In addition, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency will have a public outreach and education program to encourage basin residents and visitors to implement defensible space, best management practices for water quality and to prevent the introduction and proliferation of invasive species.
• Allows the Forest Service increased flexibility to exchange land with state and local entities which will allow for more cost-efficient management of public land. Currently, the Forest Service manages more than 3,200 urban parcels spread throughout the Basin.
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Under new rules proposed by California’s insurance commissioner, home and business owners will have open access to their wildfire risk scores that companies use to determine rates and renew coverage.