Keys dredging project starts in August |

Keys dredging project starts in August

Gregory Crofton
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune A Rain for Rent worker takes a partially treated water sample Tuesday from the filtration system used in the Tahoe Keys dredging project, which will be completed next month.

Most projects take longer to get done at Tahoe because the environment comes first, especially when you plan on digging a large amount of sand out of the lake.

The Tahoe Keys Property Owners’ Association wanted to dredge 6,000 cubic yards, enough to remove 3 to 8 feet of sand from the west boat channel and its entrance, before Memorial Day. Now the goal is to get the dredging done before the end of August.

“I’d like it done sooner rather than later,” said Cheryl Caplan, a resident of the Keys for five years who owns an antique motorboat that can be difficult to maneuver in the channel. “People often get stuck in there when they are not paying attention.”

What delayed the project is the issue of where the sand that’s dug from the channel will end up. It was to go to an asphalt company, but things changed and that required time-consuming permit changes.

Right now the plan is to unload the sand for use in Gardnerville, said Dominic Meo, of Geotechnical Support Services, a consultant firm hired by the property owners’ association.

“How come the sand can’t just be put on the beach?” is a question Meo said he hears a lot from homeowners. Because, he said, the sand to be dug out of the channel is fine-grained and laden with natural nutrients that could wash into the lake and fuel algae growth.

Water sucked from the channel along with the sand will be cleaned using sand/water separating machines stationed in the parking lot of the property owner’s association. Several pieces of large equipment have been set up in the lot behind an enclosed chain-link fence.

“We will be treating it to the point that it will be cleaner than the lake water,” Meo said. “You get a deeper channel and there will be no environmental impact. All of this, you can imagine, is expensive, but the property owners are dedicated to doing it right.”

The work will cost about $470,000, but the more than 1,500 property owners in the Tahoe Keys association will not have to pay a special fee to finance it. The money will be drawn from a common reserve fund, said Jill Southerland, administrator of the property owners’ association.

The dredging will take 10 to 14 days to complete and start around Aug. 11. Between now and then, extensive water testing required by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board will be conducted, Southerland said.

A boat equipped with a special sand vacuum will dig out the channel. A powerful pump on the boat will force the sand and water mixture through 1,500 feet of 6-inch pipe that runs from the channel along the beach to the front parking lot of the property owners’ association. The sand will be hauled out of the basin and the water will flow through a pipe bridged over Ala Wai Boulevard into the lagoon, Southerland said.

The west channel was last dredged in 1991. Typically a dredging project lasts 10 years before it needs to be done again. Right now the channel can only accommodate one boat at a time. It is designed to be wide enough to handle two-way traffic.

Meo said dredging of the channels leading into the Tahoe Keys has to be done about every 10 years because of the regular influx of sand into the lake from the Upper Truckee River, just east of the channel that leads to the Tahoe Keys Marina. That channel was last dredged in 2002.

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at

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