Environment, future go together in Lake Tahoe
August 5, 2004
Lake Tahoe may look like a pristine environment to the weekend visitor: The water is blue and clear, lakeshore development has been highly regulated, and population growth in the basin has remained low since a 1970s building moratorium. But under the surface, the lake’s fragile ecosystem is constantly challenged by the heavy hand of man – the lake has been negatively affected by our presence, and things finally look to be improving.
Lake clarity is the goal of many intense local regulations. And, after years of declining clarity in the lake – along with the moratorium, sediment control and tightened emissions standards for motorized watercraft designed to reverse the problem – clarity is on an upswing (Seven years ago clarity was measured at 64 feet. Today, clarity is at 71 feet).
The improvement can be attributed largely to the efforts of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, which enforces environmental regulation around the lake. The group, criticized over the last three decades for its heavy-handedness has nonetheless had a noticeable presence here, making headway toward its goal. Also, the lake has benefited from the efforts of local and national government officials who fight for funding to keep the ball rolling – to ensure Tahoe is a national model for environmental progress.
Many of the players meet once a year at the Lake Tahoe Forum, an event started when then-president Clinton made his way here to propose increased funding for environment improvement efforts. The forum met this week at the Ponderosa Ranch in Incline Village, with more good news for the Tahoe environment: The paperwork sending $37 million to Tahoe for environmental improvement projects was finally inked (after it was promised last year), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Wayne Nastri announced Thursday a $1.1 million grant to fund pollution studies for Lake Tahoe, another boon for the lake’s future.
Ultimately this money – added to the millions already dedicated to the lake ecosystem – will benefit our residents and visitors. As long as Tahoe remains the “Jewel of the Sierra” we can count on its longevity as an attraction. Like few other areas around the country, the environment is our economy. It is our future, and we are thankful to those whose interest is to protect it.