Environment top concern at NDOT construciton meeting | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Environment top concern at NDOT construciton meeting

Michael Schneider

The direction from the public was clear at Wednesday’s Nevada transportation meeting – the top concern regarding road improvements is the Lake Tahoe environment.

“There’s really only one choice,” said Douglas Commissioner Don Miner, who attended the Nevada Department of Transportation’s public meeting at the Zephyr Cove public library Wednesday.

Miner joined most of the others in identifying the Lake Tahoe environment as the foremost concern for upcoming NDOT road projects.

The meeting was the first in a series NDOT has planned in an attempt to involve the public in the planning of its ambitious master plan for improving both U.S. Highway 50 and State Route 28 in Nevada.

Meeting attendees, about 15 in total, were asked to rate the most pressing aspects of road projects in order of importance. The pubic was given a list of four choices – environment and erosion control, access during construction/traffic control, aesthetics and safety – and was told to rate their top three concerns in order of importance.

The only other area which secured first-place votes, other than environmental concerns, was safety.

Those who listed safety as a top concern identified child safety, traffic lights at various intersections and separate turning lanes for busy streets as needed improvements.

Environmental concerns mentioned by the attending public included highway drainage into Zephyr Cove, drainage at Lincoln Creek and Lakeridge drainage.

Amir M. Soltani, NDOT’s chief hydraulic engineer, told the group the department’s main goals in planning the improvements are to build an effective storm drain system to collect water runoff from the roadways and construct adequate retention ponds to treat the affluent before it hits the lake.

Lake clarity has been on the decline in recent years due to human encroachment in the Tahoe Basin. Because of pollution and construction that has negatively impacted many natural water retention areas, water full of nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, is flowing directly into the lake.

These elements have increased algae growth in Lake Tahoe which has decreased lake clarity.

Soltani said a unique challenge was to build the systems to help the environment without damaging it further in the construction process.

“To do any work up here it’s going to have some major environmental impacts,” Soltani said. “But the main problem is an aging road system. In some places, it’s falling apart.”

Other goals for the department in planning the improvements are increased parking on State Route 28, a popular beach stop on the East Shore, and catching deicing salts and sand before they find their way to the lake.

Deteriorating binwalls along the highway have also been identified by engineers as needing speedy action.

Estimated costs for all the improvements outlined in the preliminary master plan run at about $74 million. This doesn’t include the costs of maintaining and replacing the improvements.

NDOT, and its private contractors, will design most of the U.S. Highway 50 improvements and begin work on Spooner Summit, should funds become available next year.

Also, if funds are available, parking improvements on State Route 28 will begin next year.

“I think there’s a good chance (the funds) will be available,” Soltani said.

Binwall repairs will begin in 2000, according to the master plan. The firm M.K. Centennial, from the Denver area, will improve the binwalls.

Etty Mercurio, of MKC, identified binwalls in the Cave Rock area as those most in need of attention.

Ron Hill, also from MKC, said binwalls in the Zephyr Cove and Marla Bay areas also are in states of disrepair.

Renee Hoekstra, who ran the meeting, said she was thrilled at the public turnout.

She said, in her travels across the country as a planning consultant, she sees similar haggling between various local agencies as is seen in the basin.

“But do you know what the one difference here is; the one thing that binds everyone together?” she asked. “The desire to save Lake Tahoe.”

Hoekstra, whose firm, R.H. Associates, is based in Arizona and California, said the group of NDOT personnel and private engineers will take public input from the meeting and incorporate it into their continuing planning process.

Another public meeting will be held the last week of December, according to Hoekstra, to inform the public of revisions to the plan based on its input.

Tentative meetings are scheduled for April and July 1999.

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

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