Ensign pushes to protect Tahoe | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Ensign pushes to protect Tahoe

B.H. Bose

The feeling that the Lake Tahoe area is a natural jewel and should be protected is spreading among representatives in Congress, as another bill that will help clear away high levels of forest fuels will soon be introduced.

“It should be introduced early next week,” Jack Finn, press secretary for Rep. John Ensign, R-Nev., said Wednesday. “It is a stand-alone bill that we hope will get attached to a tax bill, which should be out of the House subcommittee in early September.”

The bill, which is co-sponsored by Ensign and fellow congressmen Wally Herger, R-Calif., and Bob Matsui, D-Calif., provides a tax incentive for companies to clear undergrowth from the forest floor surrounding the lake and convert it into a reusable energy source.

According to Finn, companies receive “a credit of 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour of energy produced.” In other words, the company that clears the forest floor gets a tax credit equal to the amount of energy that is produced by the removed sticks, branches, logs, and dead shrubs.

“The company, basically, goes out to Tahoe, clears the area, and uses it for clean-burning fuel and qualifies for a tax credit,” Finn said. “The benefit is two-fold. For one, the fuels are cleared from the floor, and two, it is used to produce clean-burning fuel.”

With an estimated 30 percent of Tahoe Basin trees listed as dead or dying by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, the goal of many legislators and environmental advocates is to clear as much of the fire hazards from the forest as possible. That way the area isn’t as prone to a disastrous fire as it is in its current state.

“We can’t afford to wait for a major fire to devastate that region,” Ensign said. “It’s important to act now to preserve this great natural resource. Anyone who has experienced the natural environment of Lake Tahoe can appreciate the need to protect it. We have the opportunity with this bill to establish a public-private partnership to protect the region and produce clean-burning fuels.”

The bill still has a long way to go before it becomes legislation. Currently, the hope is to get the bill added to a tax bill, which is currently being “hammered out,” Finn said. In September, the final bill should be ready to go before Congress for a vote.

“This bill, without mandating a big government program, will help preserve one of the most beautiful regions in the world and a source of pride for all Nevadans,” Ensign added.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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