Dam good job for Tahoe | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Dam good job for Tahoe

The benefits that resulted when the Lake Christopher Dam was removed five years ago as part of the Cold Creek Restoration Project should serve as an example for the rest of the country, the national office of Trout Unlimited announced Monday.

“I really believe these kinds of collaborative, ecosystem-wide efforts are the ones that will have the most progress for restoration,” said Trout Unlimited’s Sara Johnson.

Trout Unlimited, a 100,000-member nationwide organization, released a report Monday called “Dam Removal Success Stories: Restoring Rivers through Selective Removal of Dams that Don’t Make Sense.” It details the removal of 25 dams throughout the United States to be used as a reference for dam owners and government officials who deal with dams. Removing the dam at Cold Creek has been included in that report.

“This one was unique not just for restoration benefits but also because of the approach,” Johnson said. “This shows that people can work together on this in a collaborative way. There was a real solid effort to do public education and have public participation in planning for Cold Creek.”

In the 1950s, the 10-foot-high, 400-foot-long Lake Christopher Dam was built on Cold Creek. However, the dam was a flood safety hazard, and the deep, straightened channel neither provided decent fish habitat nor adequately filtered sediment before it entered Lake Tahoe.

With funding from the California Tahoe Conservancy, the city of South Lake Tahoe in 1994 started the $1.4 million Cold Creek restoration project that re-established the stream channel and restored the meadow. The dam was removed in the process.

The project recreated 6,000 feet of meandering stream channel, which now is prime for fish habitat and more naturally filters runoff before it reaches the lake.

The project already has served as a model within the Tahoe Basin. Work on the $2.9 million Trout Creek Wildlife Habitat Enhancement and Restoration Project, the largest stream restoration project officials have ever started in the Tahoe Basin, began during the summer. Officials want to achieve the same goals on that project as they did with Cold Creek – but on a larger scale.

“Lake Tahoe is a national treasure, and to improve the water quality of the lake by improving the water quality of its tributaries makes a lot of sense,”Johnson said.

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