Best in Basin projects awarded for improving safety and environment on Lake Tahoe’s South Shore |

Best in Basin projects awarded for improving safety and environment on Lake Tahoe’s South Shore

Jack Barnwell
The Bijou Erosion Control Project, constructed by South Lake Tahoe and partner agencies, is an area-wide stormwater system to capture, treat, and infiltrate urban runoff from the 42-acre Bijou Commercial Core. Prior to its development, the area contributed to a lot of pollution in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Courtesy / Tahoe Regional Planning Agency |

Over the last 25 years, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has recognized projects that improve the Lake Tahoe Basin’s environment and quality of life.

Tom Lotshaw, TRPA’s public information officer, said the Best in the Basin program represents the best designed, planned and implemented projects in the region.

“We created this program 25 years ago as a way to recognize exceptional projects that are improving the community and environments,” Lotshaw said. “The projects not only improve our environment, but our communities.”

Six South Shore 2014 projects received recognition on Sept. 23, including Bijou Erosion Control Project, Caltrans’ water control project on Highway 50, and Nevada Department of Transportation’s Kingsbury Grade improvements. TRPA also recognized three projects from the North Shore and one from Truckee.

Lotshaw added that Best in the Basin recipients represent good examples of partnerships, like South Lake Tahoe’s Harrison Avenue Streetscape Improvement Project and Bijou Erosion Project.


According to TRPA, the Harrison Avenue project was on the books for 20 years, and it vastly improved the retail frontage along Lake Tahoe Boulevard. The city overhauled traffic, landscaping and stormwater management features, and improved sidewalks and bike paths for pedestrian safety. The city and the U.S. Forest Service made contributions and merchants formed a special district to pay for part of the improvements.

“Harrison Avenue has been in the planning [stage] for a while now, so that was great to see the city and private property owners sit down and make that project a reality,” Lotshaw said.


The Bijou Erosion Control Project involved multiple partners, and transformed a 42-acre commercial area that was once a major source of pollution in the Lake Tahoe Basin into a natural filtration system. Improvements now capture and filter urban water runoff, and property owners belong to a maintenance district to maintain the benefits.

“That is a great way to reduce stormwater pollution up to 96 percent, and it gives property owners a mechanism to get ‘Best Management Practice’ improvements and help maintain it,” Lotshaw said.


The Kingsbury Grade/State Route 207 reconstruction project on South Shore’s Nevada side and the Highway 50 Water Quality Improvement project between Lake Tahoe Airport and the “Y” in 2014 also exemplify efforts by state agencies, according to Lotshaw.

“The Kingsbury Grade Project is a really good project and a major improvement to one of the three roadways that lead into Lake Tahoe,” he said.

The $15 million Nevada Department of Transportation project reconstructed portions of the road; added 4,000 feet of storm drain pipe, 3,300 feet of sidewalk and 8,700 feet of curbs; plus it expanded shoulders and improved pedestrian safety. The project also added two water basins to control erosion and storm runoff.

Lotshaw said the project also accomplished a major milestone when it was completed two years ahead of schedule, achieved by closing it to all but local residents.

Meg Ragonese, Nevada Department of Transportation’s public information officer, said it couldn’t be accomplished without community support.

“Even prior to the project’s beginning we met one-on-one and in groups with stakeholders, including the casinos and other business owners, to discuss opportunities to shorten the project,” Ragonese said. “It was really because of that support that we were able to complete the project ahead of schedule.”

She said construction crews worked more efficiently because of the closures.

The two-mile Highway 50 project included water quality improvements, sidewalks, bike lanes and landscaping, according to Steve Nelson from Caltrans.

“We were able to widen the road a little to install bike paths and pedestrian improvements,” Nelson said. “It’s one of many improvement projects that we will have built by the time we are done in the basin.”


Recreation and bicycle connectivity also played a part in some of the projects.

El Dorado County took pedestrian safety and connectivity into mind when it built nearly two miles of dedicated bicycle paths along Lake Tahoe Boulevard from Viking Road to Sawmill Road.

The bike path connects residential areas to South Tahoe High School and the BlueGo Transit Center at the “Y.” El Dorado County completed a second phase in September.

“It actually connects Meyers via a dedicated bike path all the way to Sawmill Pond and to the high school,” Donaldo Palaroan said of the entire bike path. “It definitely makes for a safer route and improves the recreational activities in the area.”

Lotshaw, with TRPA, said all projects recognized in the Best in the Basin awards, on both the North and South Shores, are examples other projects can use for models.

For more information on the Best in the Basin award recipients, visit Applications are being accepted for next year’s awards through March 31, 2016.

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