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Fertilizer plan aims at education, prevention

KINGS BEACH — A plan recommended by Lake Tahoe Basin officials on Wednesday would require every large-scale user of fertilizer to submit information annually that tracks the amount of fertilizer they spread.

The fertilizer plan, recommended 15-to-1 by officials, would also require businesses in the basin which carry fertilizer to hand out educational brochures with each bag sold.

The plan is meant to help educate people and prevent chemicals used in fertilizers, such as nitrogen and phosphorous, from flowing into Lake Tahoe. The end result is algae and cloudy waters, according to Tahoe Regional Planning Agency staff.



A large-scale user can be anyone who owns or manages more than an acre of turf. This would include cemeteries, ball fields, nurseries and golf courses, which are already required to file fertilizer reports.

“We’re trying to do some things that make people think about fertilizer application before they do it. To make people think what fertilizer applied in more old-fashioned ways might be doing to our water quality,” said Pam Drum, TRPA spokeswoman.




The plan will be voted on by the agency’s Governing Board when it meets next week. If it passes, anyone affected by the plan would be asked to turn in their first fertilizer report in 2004.

The only no vote Wednesday came from Paul Sweeney, a member of the TRPA Advisory Planning Commission who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“It’s a good step,” said Sweeney, after the vote. “I think it should have gone farther — looking at banning use of phosphorous fertilizer on residential properties.”

At the November meeting of the Advisory Planning Commission, Sweeney said tests have indicated that soil at the basin contains more phosphorous than could ever be needed for plants or turf.

According to Larry Benoit, the TRPA water quality program manager, there is not enough science to support a phosphorous ban at the basin.

The chairwoman of the Advisory Planning Commission, Alice Baldrica, asked Benoit how the TRPA, already strapped for resources, will manage the extra work if the fertilizer plan is adopted. Benoit said the agency plans to develop a database to track the information.

As recommended by the TRPA 2001 Threshold Evaluation, and by the California Attorney General’s Office, improvements must be made in the agency’s fertilizer management plan before any new building rights are issued in 2003.

Regulations that would tie the number of permits released next year more closely to environmental work are also expected to be voted on by the Governing Board next week.

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


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