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Everyone’s goal for Tahoe is clear

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Lake Tahoe is still losing a foot of clarity per year, but Dr. Charles Goldman, who began studying the lake nearly 50 years ago, said he is impressed with the teamwork and information sharing going on to combat the problem.

“In a real sense we’ve moved beyond major conflict in the Tahoe Basin,” he said at Lake Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition conference Tuesday on the North Shore. “When I arrived in the 1950s, there was a tremendous amount of polarization. I think slowly but surely there has been a recognition by everybody that Tahoe continues to decline.”

Goldman said recent lake measurements have not showed clarity loss, but those numbers probably are misleading because there has been no deep mixing of the lake due to an absence of large storms.

“The truth of the matter is that long-term regression is still showing,” Goldman said. “For the moment, we’ve only got a decade or two, really, to turn this thing around.”

From 1959 to 2001, the lake has lost about a third of its transparency. Goldman said clear water was found at 100 feet, today that number hovers around 65.

He said the basin needs to take a holistic approach to nutrient loading into the lake. Scientists believe soil runoff and pollution sends nutrients into the lake and contributes to its clouding. Increasingly, Goldman said, fine sediments such as particles of clay and dust are suspected to be a key contributor to the problem. The small particles reflect a great deal of sunlight.

Goldman, founder of the Tahoe Research Group, at University of California, Davis, has been collecting data on the lake since 1959. On Tuesday, Goldman, other scientists and policymakers met at the Lake Tahoe Research & Outreach Symposium, a conference that is expected to be an annual event.

“Where will the Tahoe Basin be 2030?” was the question posed to a panel of basin experts. All responses to the question were optimistic. Several on the panel said they hoped the basin would be working in a “maintenance mode” to ensure control measures in place are intact.

Getting scientists and policy makers to collaborate was also a topic of discussion. Panel members cited the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s ban on two-stroke engines as an example of how science can support policy and achieve a positive result.

“I think this is really unique time here where decision makers are being really supportive of researchers,” said Dr. John Reuter, member of the Tahoe Research Group. “We’ve never been there before — it’s our ball not to drop.”

The three-day symposium, sponsored by the LTEEC, included 15-minute presentations by scientists and researchers on Monday and Tuesday. The conference concluded Wednesday with a boat ride on the lake.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com.


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