Forest Service removes South Lake Tahoe pond
MEYERS — Long a watering hole for locals, what used to be Seneca Pond has been plowed over and turned into a mudflat by U.S. Forest Service crews.
Bulldozers and dump trucks moved dirt Friday afternoon, Aug. 21, as part of a wetlands restoration project that began this summer.
By the time U.S. Forest Service crews are finished, two acres of streams and a more natural environment will be restored, according to U.S Forest Service project manager Stephanie Heller.
Heller said in a few years’ time people won’t be able to tell the pond was removed.
The area has a lot of history attached to it.
“This was a ranch and a homestead in the late 1800s and early 1900s,” Heller said.
The site west of Upper Truckee River Road is a popular area used by hikers and bicyclists for decades. Trail networks crisscross the area, many of them created by locals.
Seneca Pond was once about a half-ace in size, created in 1964 by private landowners. At one time the area served as home to a hippie commune .
The U.S. Forest Service acquired the property in the mid 1970s. It continued to maintain the area for recreational use.
When the U.S. Forest Service took over in the 1970s, the roads were soon opened to motorized access.
“People would just drive back here and create an ecological mess,” Heller said.
In the early 1990s, the U.S. Forest Service reduced the pond’s size and created a way to supply it with water.
The 2007 Angora Fire changed everything. Seneca Pond has the reputation for being the flashpoint for the fire that destroyed 254 homes. The backdrop around the Seneca Pond area is still a stark reminder, with charred, dead trees standing and barren spots where brush had grown before.
The area has begun to recover, with undergrowth and replanting helping to restore ecological balance.
Seneca Pond was one factor the U.S Forest Service considered closely.
Heller said it considered all factors, from environmental to recreational concerns. Environmental concerns won out.
Seneca Pond harbored American bullfrogs, a non-native species in the Lake Tahoe Basin that outcompetes other local amphibian wildlife.
“We wanted to remove this bullfrog population, so the best solution was the removal of the pond and wetland restoration,” Heller said.
Heller acknowledged the pond’s removal was somewhat controversial, but it was addressed by the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Forest Supervisor at the time in environmental documents.
“People have a very strong attachment to this place,” Heller said. “But because of the environmental concerns, the decision outweighs the emotional attachment.”
Heller said the U.S. Forest Service “hopes the community has a different recreation experience” with the new wetlands in a few years.