First Keys’ dredging in a decade under way |

First Keys’ dredging in a decade under way

For the first time in 10 years, a major dredging project began this week to remove thousands of cubic yards of sandy fill from a channel leading to the Tahoe Keys.

The low level of Lake Tahoe, it’s about an inch above its natural rim, and years of sand buildup have made it impossible for larger boats to enter the Keys.

If this winter turns out to be as dry as the last two, and the lake keeps dropping, the Keys dredging project will likely be the first in a wave of digging projects needed around Lake Tahoe Basin.

The project under way will cost $500,000 and involves a suction dredger. It is a relatively new technology meant to be less harsh on aquatic environments than other dredging methods.

More than 7,000 cubic yards of fill will be sucked from the 1,500-foot channel and from areas of the lake in front of the channel. The watery material sucked from the channel will be transported to holding ponds on land owned by the marina near Venice Drive and Tahoe Keys Boulevard.

The ponds are expected to separate water from polluted sediment and nutrients. The water will be tested for quality before it is pumped into a meadow owned by the California Tahoe Conservancy.

“It will only be discharged to the meadow provided its of suitable water quality,” said Mary Fiore-Wagner, a scientist at the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board. “If it’s not, it will be shut down or slowed down by changing the pump rates.”

The process of applying for dredging permits to do the work started early this summer. Sediment tests and other application requirements delayed approval for months.

“You can’t spit up there without a permit, especially at the marina,” said Richard Horton, an owner of the Tahoe Keys Marina and an attorney in Reno.

The Tahoe Keys Marina will pay $250,000 to have the channel dredged, with Tahoe Beach and Harbor Association and the Tahoe Key Property Owners Association splitting the rest of the cost, Horton said.

The associations manage about 500 slips accessed by the channel. The marina operates about 200 slips as well as a public boat ramp.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or at

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