Grading deadline one week away |

Grading deadline one week away

All dozers and backhoes at Lake Tahoe Basin must stop moving dirt by the end of Oct. 15.

The early fall deadline to complete excavation projects is meant to decrease the chance of loose dirt being pulled into the lake by a rain or snowstorm, which water quality experts say could lead to an increase in algae growth and loss of water clarity.

Some excavators at the basin feel the date is too strict. They say it ought to be tied to the forecast instead of a set date.

“Say next week it’s in the 70s,” said Casey Hall, treasurer at Hall’s Excavating and Trucking based at Truckee since 1978.

“Work could go on instead of shutting everything down on the 15th. During most falls, you can work until Nov. 1 and still protect the lake and erosion control.”

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board disagree.

“The key isn’t to work until the precipitation starts, the key is to be winterized before it starts,” said Brian Judge, a senior staff member for TRPA Compliance Division. “We could wait every year until it snows, but it’s hard to winterize buried in a couple feet of snow.”

To winterize a construction site could mean: covering a pile of dirt with a tarp, containing bare soil with mulch and protecting plants and shrubs with fencing.

Sites that host aboveground construction through the winter may require that driveways, parking lots and storage areas be paved as part of the winterizing process.

The TRPA and Lahontan permit digging after Oct. 15 only if a construction project involves issues of public safety or water quality.

“We do it on a project-by-project basis,” Judge said. “Most (permits) are issued in one- or two-week increments until the weather changes.”

Nevada Department of Transportation is being allowed to continue its road work on Highway 50 south of Cave Rock because the work is tied to safety and water.

The project, which involves building new support walls along the lakeside of the highway, requires drilling 18-inch holes underneath the road. The new wall will ensure a safe road and help control erosion, Judge said.

The construction work is also limiting the flow of traffic to one lane each way instead of two.

“Safety is always an issue on the roadways,” Judge said. “This way they can get the road open to two lanes more quickly.”

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

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