Environmental work at future Whole Foods site progresses
For five months last winter, Christina Borsos’ 10,000-square-foot property on Woodbine Road was covered in water.
Borsos home sits near Bijou Park Creek, which once naturally flowed into Lake Tahoe unimpeded. Over time houses, businesses, roads and parking lots were developed in the creek’s path and surrounding stream environment zone (SEZ).
Though the creek was eventually diverted into a 30-inch pipe crossing under U.S. 50 and into the lake, its natural ability to filter sediment and other pollutants was lost and upstream properties like Borsos’ began experiencing flooding due to the pipe’s limited flow capacity.
“From January until mid-June I was surrounded by water,” said Borsos. “It is not just a stream; it is a lake.”
Now Borsos’ home is one of the properties being acquired by the city of South Lake Tahoe for a watershed restoration project that will daylight the creek, create stormwater treatment basins, and restore a portion of the 850-acre watershed that extends up to Heavenly Mountain Resort and down through Ski Run Marina.
The environmental restoration is paving the way for a commercial development project known as the Bijou Marketplace, which kicked off in 2017 with the acquisition and demolition of the former Knights Inn. The shopping center, anchored by Whole Foods 365, will be constructed once the environmental improvements on the parcel are finished.
According to Jason Burke, stormwater program coordinator for the city, construction of the stormwater treatment basins on the future Bijou Marketplace site is on schedule and slated for completion in 2018.
In addition to the environmental work at the marketplace, the city hopes to acquire around 12 homes like Borsos’ along the creek — and upstream of the shopping center — to knock down and restore the land. On Feb. 6 City Council authorized $572,250 in grant money from the California Tahoe Conservancy (CTC) for the purchase of Borsos’ Woodbine Road home, along with other costs associated with her relocation and the restoration of the property.
“We hope to proceed with two other properties further down into the watershed that are more adjacent to the Bill and Shirley [avenues] area,” explained Burke.
All properties would be purchased using CTC grant funds.
Burke said they picked out properties they would like to acquire by following the creek’s natural path and tying in contiguous properties already owned by the city, CTC and U.S. Forest Service. They have encountered some unwilling sellers, however.
In the next few months the city will begin searching for a consultant team to study the watershed upstream of the Bijou Marketplace while attempting to acquire additional properties along the creek’s path.
By the city’s estimates, restoration of a portion of the Bijou Park Creek Watershed could eliminate around 30,000-40,000 pounds of fine sediment headed into the lake every year and reducing its famous clarity.