Lake Tahoe improvements will see bond money funds
LAKE TAHOE – The 2009 Nevada Legislature and Gov. Jim Gibbons approved a new law that requires issuance of up to $100 million in general-obligation bonds to pay for environmental improvement projects at Lake Tahoe over the next 10 years.
Lake Tahoe’s famed clarity has been declining and the bonds issued under AB18 will pay for projects to help stop that trend, said Allen Biaggi, director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The bonds also will help water quality, forest management, air quality, transportation, recreation and maintenance projects.
“In general terms, the focus of the money and the projects is Lake Tahoe’s water quality,” Biaggi said. “The reason Lake Tahoe is so special is because of its water clarity and how far down you can see into it.”
Biaggi said recent projects have slowed the decline in Tahoe’s clarity, which currently averages about 70 feet, and the goal is to increase that to 80 feet by 2028. Tahoe has lost an average of one foot of clarity per year since the 1960s.
“The loss of clarity is slowing because water quality projects are working and making a difference,” Biaggi said, adding that the eventual goal is to increase clarity to 100 feet.
The clarity is hurt by sediments from urban areas and nutrients from fertilizers in gardens and lawns, which appear in runoff to the lake. Sediments deflect light on Tahoe’s surface, causing the water to appear muddy, and nutrients can cause algae overbloom.
The environmental projects also will focus on forest health of the Lake Tahoe Basin. Biaggi called forest health important, adding that the June 2007 Angora fire showed that Tahoe Basin forests are in bad shape.
Lake Tahoe forests are overgrown because of fire suppression efforts, Biaggi said. Project money will be used to lower the occurrence and intensity of fires by removing brush and thinning trees.
The $100 million in bonding money funds Nevada’s involvement in Tahoe’s Environmental Improvement Program over the next decade. President Clinton launched the program in 1997.
Nevada and California state and local agencies participate in the program, along with federal agencies, homeowners and businesses. Over half a billion dollars have been spent on water quality and environment improvement projects so far.
Besides the bonding money, lawmakers approved Gibbons’ cuts to Nevada’s share of funding for the bistate Tahoe Regional Planning agency. That cuts this state’s nearly $3.8 million share of TRPA costs over the next two fiscal years by about $1.1 million.
TRPA has already completed budget cuts, Biaggi said, adding, “Nevada has pretty much always met its obligation and there have been times when California hasn’t, so this is not unprecedented.”
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