Erosion-prevention work at Sierra Tract gives neighborhood a new look; some don’t like it |

Erosion-prevention work at Sierra Tract gives neighborhood a new look; some don’t like it

Susan Wood

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Boulders line the edge of O'Malley Avenue.

Environmental agencies using rocks to control erosion want residents to roll with the punches for the greater good of Lake Tahoe. But some residents are unhappy about it.

Two- to 3-foot-wide rocks have been dumped in the Sierra Tract area to accommodate a $1.7-million erosion control project funded by the California Tahoe Conservancy for South Lake Tahoe.

But the state-administered project is aimed at satisfying the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s mandated erosion control policies, also known as best management practices, by the Oct. 15, 2006, deadline. But they have mixed reviews from residents who quickly learn it’s difficult to park or maneuver around the rocks. And that’s part of the idea.

An environmental fact of life at the lake, BMPs are landscaping principles imposed by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to trap and filtrate stormwater runoff. The city – which gets curbs and gutters out of the deal – must meet the requirements just like any private property owner.

A few weeks ago, the boulders were placed in the public right-of-way in the area south of Trout Creek as a means of keeping vehicles off the dirt – especially since the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board’s permit issued to the city requires vegetation to be planted on the road sides. The state has found that parked cars often kill the plants, defeating the purpose of the project and ultimately wasting taxpayer money.

This project – which includes the setting of boulders, planting of native grasses, installing of retention ponds and a stormwater drainage line – involves O’Malley and Charles drives, Martin, Marjorie, William and Young streets as well as Elwood, Armstrong and Blue Lake avenues.

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Warren Cecil, who ironically holds his own BMP certificate approving his Blue Lake property, thinks the project up to this point is an eyesore and may cause more crashes because of parked vehicles sticking out in the roadway. He insists human behavior will prompt motorists and homeowners with guests to use the side of the road anyway.

“The erosion control project is good in itself, I like the retention ponds, but look at that. This is terrible. I think it’s ugly,” Cecil said. “And little kids could run into these with their bikes.”

He also mentioned snow removal concerns. However, vehicles are prohibited from parking on the street during the snow-removal period anyway.

With measuring tape in hand, Cecil pointed out how some of the roads span only 20 feet across. Parked and speeding vehicles may present a lethal combination.

He’s not alone.

Sarah Sullivan, who lives on Marjorie Street, was forced to park her second car on the street. She has only one parking space at her rental home and two vehicles. One’s in the spot, and the other stuck out in the road.

“It’s dangerous, especially on this street,” she said of the popular shortcut.

Sullivan said she struggled to get her toddler out of her car seat in the parked car because there’s a boulder by the door.

TRPA spokeswoman Julie Regan said projects like these bring on a “certain amount of pain” but in the long run they’re worth the effort. CTC watershed restoration specialist Kim Carr agreed.

“The No. 1 pollutant of the lake are these barren dirt parking spaces,” she said.

Despite complaints about having little notice of the major disruption, acting Public Works Director Bill Williamson and Carr said the community received a heads up long before. Two years in the works, the project had the state out placing notices on doors. The agencies realizes that information sometimes gets missed.

The second phase of four is scheduled for next summer.