Off the straight and on the narrow
About a year and a half ago, hydrologists dug up Washoe Meadow State Park so they could move Angora Creek a couple hundred yards to the south.
The goal of the restoration project was to make the creek’s straight, deep channel into a shallower, more narrow and winding one that flows over its banks in spring.
The flooding would raise the water table of the meadow and help trap sediment and nutrients to keep them from flowing into Lake Tahoe and clouding its water.
The meadow – located off Sawmill Road between South Lake Tahoe and Meyers – is so much more lush and wet that it requires tall rubber boots to navigate through.
The area now provides a healthier mix of vegetation that helps capture silt and sediment, which can be seen on banks and on raised islands within the creek. Trapping sediment in Angora Creek is important because it empties into the Upper Truckee River, the largest tributary to Lake Tahoe.
“In fall before the restoration, the grasses were ankle high, dry and crunchy,” said Cynthia Walck, a hydrologist who managed the project for California State Parks. “Now if you walk out there in August you may still find damp spots and the vegetation is knee-to-waist high. It’s a direct response to restoring the water table.”
The creek changed course in the late 1960s after a sewer line was installed in the meadow. The meandering creek was transformed into a straight channel as it slowly moved to follow the sewer line.
“There’s good (sediment) deposition out there, it’s clearly working as planned,” said Robert Larsen, an environmental scientist at the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board. “And it will protect water quality by getting the stream off the sewer line.”
Planning and construction for the creek restoration cost $500,000 and involved three quarters of a mile of land. The California Tahoe Conservancy covered about 80 percent of the cost, the rest was paid for by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board and California State Parks.
Overall, Walck has overseen the restoration of 1.5 miles of Angora Creek. The first phase of restoration was completed in 1997. It also cost about $500,000 and involved rerouting the creek through Lake Tahoe Golf Course.
“It really did enhance the appearance of an area that was fairly nondescript before the project began,” said John Stanowski, superintendent of Lake Tahoe Golf Course. “It has also actually improved drainage in that vicinity by capturing spring runoff; before it flooded across the 10th fairway.”
– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at email@example.com