Conservancy wraps up restoration project |

Conservancy wraps up restoration project

Emily Aughinbaugh

Traffic on Tahoe Keys Boulevard should be less congested next week.

The California Tahoe Conservancy is finishing up excavation of its wetland restoration project next to the Tahoe Keys Marina.

Trucks carrying 300 loads of dirt a day have been traveling Venice and Tahoe Keys boulevards to U.S. Highway 50 for more than a month. The hauling of nearly 63,000 cubic yards of dirt from 11 acres has gone smoothly, according to Conservancy officials.

“I think it’s worked out fairly well,” said project manager Brian Wilkinson. “I just want to thank the public for putting up with the traffic.”

The next step of the $10.5 million project is to begin planting native wetland species.

Wilkinson said wetland plants like juncaceous and carex have been growing in a nursery in the Washoe Valley for a couple of months and will be ready to plant at the restoration site about mid-August.

Wilkinson said the plants will take about two years to properly root. Once the plant species are well established, portions of the dirt berm built around the lowland area will be removed to allow lake and Upper Truckee River water into the restored wetland.

Wilkinson said the Conservancy hopes to have this complete in the next three years.

The goal of the restoration project is to return the area to the marshy state in which it existed prior to the Tahoe Keys development in 1959.

Construction coordinator Carol Schupbach said the project may be a little ahead of schedule because workers didn’t hit water as dirt was taken out. Because of the low water table this summer, the Conservancy didn’t have to remove water from any of the dirt, which was a concern.

As workers dug 4 to 5 feet down, Schupbach said they uncovered interesting artifacts like original plant materials and an old real estate sign advertising waterfront lots for $12,000.

She said residents have been interested in the project’s progress and have expressed their anticipation of the future wetland site.

According to the Conservancy, 84 percent of the wildlife species in the Tahoe Basin each year use wetland habitat for foraging, nesting and cover. More than 280 wildlife species inhabit the wet meadow systems around the lake.

Development around Lake Tahoe destroyed 75 percent of the basin’s marshes, 50 percent of the meadows and 35 percent of the streamside habitat.

Once the wetland area is restored close to the Keys, Wilkinson said the Conservancy will examine the feasibility of rerouting the Upper Truckee River where it spills into the lake, just east of the restored wetland.

The river was channeled during the development of the Keys and empties silt and sediment directly into the lake. By creating a more meandering path, sediment will be filtered more effectively, Wilkinson said.

When the river swells it can spill over its banks and settle into the wetland, which will also filter sediments.

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