Fertilizer concerns may start at home | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Fertilizer concerns may start at home

Golf courses aren’t the problem when it comes to fertilizer use, said a member of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club.

It’s residential users and large turf managers who need to be educated, said Michael Donahoe, conservation co-chair of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club, who spoke Wednesday at a basin Advisory Planning Commission meeting.

Fertilizer use at the Lake Tahoe Basin has long been a concern of environmentalists because it contains phosphorous and nitrogen, which fuel algae growth in Lake Tahoe.

“We thought, ‘Aha! Golf courses — they are the enemy.’ We found out in many cases just the opposite is true. They have come up with sophisticated ways of fertilizer use and water use.”

Staff of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is working on a fertilizer management program that’s expected to be presented to its Governing Board for approval next month.

Gary Midkiff, a consultant who represents Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course and turf managers at Incline, has been meeting with TRPA staff over the last eight months to express concerns of the groups he represents.

“We feel the regulations drafted are substantially better,” Midkiff said. “We share a common goal: nobody wants to negatively impact groundwater or surface water.”

Based on the results of soil sampling he’s seen, he thinks fertilizer that contains any phosphorous should be banned from the basin, said Paul Sweeney, a member of the planning commission.

Sweeney said the results indicate soil at the basin already contains enough phosphorous to enhance the growth of any plant.

“If we know we shouldn’t put it on lawns, why do it?” Sweeney asked.

TRPA staff took notes as commission members expressed concerns. At the end of the discussion, a list of questions yet to be answered was read off by Carl Hasty, TRPA deputy director.

Those questions include:

n What resources can be committed to the fertilizer program?

n How can we make sure TRPA regulations are not redundant with other agencies at the basin, such as the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board?

n How can we make distinctions between large-scale users of fertilizers and residential users?

Work to create a fertilizer management program came as a recommendation in the 2001 Threshold Evaluation, an environmental progress report issued by the agency every five years. It recommends that fertilizer management be improved at the basin before building rights are issued for 2003.

Representatives from the California Attorney General’s Office have said at past Governing Board meetings that the attorney general wants to see a fertilizer management program instituted.

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

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