Marina channel needs dredging |

Marina channel needs dredging

Dan Thrift/Tahoe TribuneA power boat passes through the Tahoe Keys channel Monday, but low water levels and sand buildup have prompted the need for dredging.

Low water and sand buildup has left a Tahoe Keys Marina owner anxious to scoop fill from its boat channel before winter hits.

The work can’t happen until water and sediment testing is completed and a filing fee is paid, said water quality experts. Richard Horton, co-owner of the marina who is also an attorney, said he has been working with regulatory agencies since the end of May to come up with acceptable conditions.

“We had hoped to have started by now,” Horton said. “We anticipate the lake coming down more. If we have another 6 inches or foot drop, boats won’t be able to use the channel; it’s impossible for sailboats to go in or out now.”

Dredging to clear out the 1,500-foot channel would take about 3 weeks to complete, involve the extraction of 7,100 cubic yards of fill and cost about $250,000, Horton estimated.

The marina would pay half the tab, with the rest covered by by the Tahoe Keys Beach and Harbor Association and Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association, which manage 500 slips accessed by the channel, Horton said.

“The biggest difference is that in the past we’ve been able to allow water to settle in ponds that the marina owns; after most of the water settled, we’ve put that water in the lake,” said Horton, who believes the last large dredging project conducted by the marina occurred in 1992. “Lahontan does not want us to do that this year.”

Instead, the project may involve pumping water that drains from the dredged soil and sand into a meadow near Tahoe Keys Boulevard and Venice Drive, Horton said. Ideally, the meadow would filter pollutants from the water before it reached the lake.

Permits for the project, which also require approval from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, are drafted and will be ready to go once all the water and sediment test results are delivered, said Mary Fiore-Wagner, environmental scientist at Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board,

“We need to know the quality of the sediment they want to dredge and what the nutrient contents of the soils are,” Fiore-Wagner said. “We’re worried about the quality of the water discharged to the marsh. As soon as we get them, we’ll try to turn it around as quickly as possible.”

Because of the lengthy permitting process, Horton said he will likely have to request another permit to do dredging-related excavation work after Oct. 15, when all dirt moving at the basin is banned for the year. But the excavation work would be needed to enlarge ponds that would hold dredged material; it would not apply to digging out the channel.

The permitting process, in general, has left Horton concerned.

“It’s becoming more and more costly,” he said. “At some point, if conditions continue to be imposed, and there are apt to be more in the future, it may prevent dredging (altogether) and make it impossible for boat owners to get to the lake.”

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or at

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