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Grading season begins

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Shovels around the Tahoe Basin have been craving dirt all winter. Today they can dig in — weather permitting.

The dirt moving, or grading, season runs from May 1 to Oct. 15. With a wet April drawing to a close, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency staff are asking people to postpone digging if soil is muddy or covered in snow.

“If it’s May and you have a permit you can start,” said Brian Judge, senior environmental specialist at TRPA. “But permits still have conditions.”

One of the highest priorities at the TRPA is erosion control. Moving wet soil creates a greater opportunity for dirt, and the nutrients it contains, to run into Lake Tahoe. Nutrients feed algae and algae means a decrease in water clarity.

“Our main goal is to educate people,” Judge said. “Before construction begins we have a pregrade meeting. We meet with the contractor or homeowner and make sure erosion controls, vegetation protection and conditions of (permit) approval are met. This time of year, we’re doing pregrade meetings every day.”

The dirt-moving season never changes. It is set spring to fall because that’s when the region gets the least amount of precipitation. The TRPA and Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board can make exceptions but only for public health and safety or water quality reasons.

Slopes facing south will be the driest areas this time of year. North-facing slopes and sites on the West Shore often retain snow and moisture longer, Judge said.

Danny Lukins, president of Lukins Brothers Water Co., said his projects that involve digging are still a few weeks away. Most important, he said, is to have erosion control measures in place before the TRPA or Lahontan does an inspection.

“As long as you have BMPs (Best Management Practices) or erosion control measures in place, go ahead and excavate. The key issue is to ensure you don’t have any runoff problems.”

Lukins said the BMPs his company have installed in the past include silt fencing, weighted straw bales and gravel pack.


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