Nevada environmental agency funds water projects in Tahoe
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection announced that $1 million in Clean Water Act grant funds provided by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency will be used to complete 11 projects, including two in Lake Tahoe, to reduce “nonpoint source pollution” and improve water quality across the state.
The EPA used to focus solely on point sources, i.e. chemicals being leached from pipes into the water as the water flowed through. They later realized nonpoint source water pollution was also a major issue.
Nonpoint source water pollution degrades Nevada’s water resources when rain, snowmelt and irrigation water flows over developed or disturbed land, carrying with it pollutants including oil, sediment, pesticides, bacteria and nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus which can contribute to excess algae growth. This polluted water makes its way into Nevada’s waterways either directly or through storm drains, and can impact overall water quality conditions.
Areas throughout the whole state experience different sources of water pollution, in Tahoe, the biggest issue is fine particle sediment.
Jason Kuchnicki, branch supervisor, Lake Tahoe Watershed Program for NDEP said fine sediment particles get into the lake and scatter light so that light can’t penetrate as far. When looking at lake clarity, fine sediment particles account for about two-thirds of what controls clarity, while nutrients that promote algal growth account for one-third.
“Urban stormwater runoff accounts for over 70% of fine sediment particles,” Kucknicki said.
Once the particles get into the lake, they are nearly impossible to remove. So when the NDEP looks at projects to fund, they look at projects that focus on prevention.
One of the projects funded this year in Tahoe is the Lower Wood Creek Phase I Water Quality Improvement Project in Incline Village.
Kucknicki said a lot of the major roads in Incline don’t have shoulders so the roads account for a lot of runoff. This project aims to do two things.
The first is direct water to depressions in the ground that can hold water and filter out particles and nutrients. The second is road improvements such as putting in curbs and gutters to direct and catch runoff.
Washoe County is the subgrantee but they have partnered with Nevada Division of State Lands, Nevada Department of Transportation, Incline Village General Improvement District, and Nevada Tahoe Conservation District. They received $153,000 for the project.
The second project funded by the EPA grant is the Best Management Practices Technical Assistance and Lower Kingsbury Area-Wide Treatment Implementation project.
Birgit Widegren, supervisor of NDEP’s Nonpoint Source Program said the aim of this project is to work with property owners in the Lower Kingsbury area to retrofit their properties to prevent excessive runoff.
Widegren added this is a unique project because it is an area-wide project that will collect stormwater from multiple parcels. She also added that the abandoned post office is a major focus of the project.
The subgrantee is Tahoe Regional Planning Agency with partnership from Nevada Tahoe Conservation District and Douglas County Stormwater Program. They received $100,000.
Widegren said they usually like to see implementation and reporting on the projects within two years, although this depends on weather conditions and water amount.
NDEP has been receiving EPA funding each year and they said they’ve seen a lot of measurable improvements from projects funded in previous years.
“The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection is excited to leverage Clean Water Act Section 319 grant funding to make important investments in community outreach and on-the-ground projects enhancing water quality for the benefit of all Nevadans,” said Widegren in a press release. “We look forward to engaging with communities to protect our precious water resources by reducing the amount of pollution that enters our waterways. Small steps can add up to big improvements to Nevada’s streams and rivers, and we thank the EPA for continuing to support NDEP’s Nonpoint Source Program with these critical annual grant funds to help ensure the long-term health and vibrancy of Nevada’s waterways.”
Other projects funded throughout the state include streambank stability restoration projects on the Carson River in the Carson Valley by the Carson Valley Conservation District and Washoe Tribe of California and Nevada, implementation of erosion control and stabilization measures by the City of Reno on Chalk Creek to improve the quality of stormwater conveyed to the Truckee River, implementation of education and outreach initiatives by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to help inform residents how to reduce nonpoint source pollution from entering their water sources and coordination and collaboration with the Virgin River Coalition to implement their restoration plan to improve water quality and wildlife habitat in the Virgin River.
NDEP’s 2020 Annual Report for the Nonpoint Source Management Program highlights the accomplishments of the program during the previous year. Twenty-four ongoing and completed water quality improvement projects resulted in significant reduction of pollutants entering Nevada’s waterways. Click here to view the report.
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