Money budgeted for Lake Tahoe |

Money budgeted for Lake Tahoe

Patrick McCartney

Federal lawmakers have set aside $1.8 million for a study of Lake Tahoe’s watersheds and to repair flood damage in Blackwood and Ward canyons.

The money was approved by a joint conference committee reconciling the House and Senate versions of the VA/HUD and Independent Agencies spending bill, and must still be approved by both houses.

At the same time, the Nevada and California delegation added language to the budget of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requiring it to support continued research on the impact of gasoline in Lake Tahoe.

In the past few weeks, researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno and the U.S. Geological Survey have found gasoline constituents, including fuel additives, throughout Lake Tahoe.

“While the initial scientific findings of gasoline contamination at the lake have been troubling, there is a real need for more data before we rush to action,” said U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, who was a key member of the conference committee that approved the provision. “It is critical that we begin those studies now, because if there is a problem, the longer we wait, the more we may damage the water. We cannot afford to risk the water quality of Lake Tahoe.”

Reid is the senior Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and was in a position to lobby for the Tahoe funding.

The $1.8 million in funding for the Corps will significantly increase the agency’s presence in the Tahoe Basin. The conference committee approved $810,000 for a study to assess the health of all the basin’s watersheds.

Eric Thaut, the manager of the Corps’ Tahoe Basin studies, credited the attention given the Tahoe Basin during the Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum in July for helping fund the study.

“Our involvement in the basin was first enlisted by Sen. Reid of Nevada, but the presidential forum gave some importance to the area that made the funding easier to get,” Thaut said.

Plans call for the Corps to divide the basin into four sections for the preliminary, or reconnaissance study – the Upper Truckee River and Trout Creek in the South Basin, Third and Incline creeks in the Northeast Basin, Edgewood Creek in the Southeast Basin, and the other California streams in the West Basin.

Following the direction of Washington supervisors, the Corps will evaluate each watershed and determine how its wetland, stream and aquatic habitats could be improved. The study will also determine what the federal interest would be in working on each watershed, and identify potential local partners to share the cost for additional studies and restoration work.

With the $1 million in “clearing and snagging” funds approved for Ward and Blackwood canyons, the Corps will remove sediment and debris out of the canyons, which were heavily damaged by the New Year’s Day flood of 1997.

The funds will also go toward stabilizing the stream banks in each canyon.

“We could get a significant amount of work done with that amount of money,” Thaut said.

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