Creek neighbors fish for solutions |

Creek neighbors fish for solutions

Robert Stern

Ormsby Drive residents upset with plans to relocate Trout Creek plan to turn out in force at tonight’s meeting of the South Lake Tahoe City Council.

The Trout Creek project, which began in 1999, is intended to restore the creek to its original path and create a wetland, protecting the lake’s clarity and increasing natural wildlife. The $3.5 million project is scheduled for completion this fall.

But nearby residents are outraged that the creek, which runs within view of their backyards, will be moved out of sight behind shrubs and bushes about 300 feet away.

While the residents live just outside the city in El Dorado County, they hope the city can offer some alternatives to help preserve their creek view. They plan to voice their concerns tonight, when the contract for the final phase of the project is up for approval.

“We feel that we were put off so that (Haen Construction) could get the project done the way it wanted,” said Stephen Gonsalves, an Ormsby Drive resident.

But Jim Haen, owner of Haen Construction, said his team of scientists determined that any changes would compromise the project. “It was a collaborative decision not to consider these alternatives,” Haen said.

The restoration project is part of a 1997 presidential mandate calling for $907 million in environmental improvements at Lake Tahoe. The creek was rerouted during the silver mining days of the Comstock period more than 100 years ago.

But residents question the accuracy of the science involved. They suggest the creek could be rerouted 1,000 yards down the slope, allowing them to keep their view of the creek without significantly affecting the project’s goals.

Cathy Gonsalves questioned why the city is trying to create a wetland floodplain to filter sediment so far from the lake when Trout Creek ultimately feeds the Truckee Marsh, adjacent to the Tahoe Keys. Residents also worry about potential mosquito problems due to standing water.

“We will end up with perennial still water and this is what we don’t want,” Gonsalves said.

City Engineer Brad Vidro said the goals of the project are better served by catching sediment at every possible spot along the way to the lake. The sediment reduces lake clarity, which scientists say is dropping at a rate of one foot per year.

Haen said the creek channel in front of the Ormsby Drive houses will be revegetated and filled in, eliminating any standing water. But there will be a total of 18 pools of water, the nearest 300 feet away, that will serve as habitat for mosquitoes, dragonflies and other bugs.

“Standing water is good thing for wildlife, for diversity, for ecological diversity and for water quality,” Haen said.

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