Guest column: Yes on Prop. 3 to Keep Tahoe Blue (opinion)
Lake Tahoe, famous for its cobalt blue waters, received some alarming news this year.
Scientists with the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center reported that Lake Tahoe’s clarity reached an all time low in 2017 — a discouraging 59.7 feet — surpassing the previous low of 64.1 feet recorded in 1997. In 2017, heavy rains flushed sediment that had been accumulating in our towns and streambeds during the previous five-year drought straight into the lake, clouding its waters.
These findings highlight the need to continue to aggressively reduce sediment reaching the lake by stopping it at the source and restoring our meadows and marshes that filter stormwater and capture sediment. These efforts are becoming increasingly urgent as Tahoe faces a rapidly warming climate that is predicted to result in more frequent conditions similar to those that caused this record low clarity.
There are solutions planned for improving lake clarity but we do not have time to wait for money to trickle in to restore our environment, treat stormwater and reduce fire risk. Over the last few years, California has slowly been investing in real solutions to these problems statewide with the passage of Propositions 1 and 68.
However, Tahoe and the Sierra have only received enough bond funds to lay the foundational groundwork for these important efforts. Previous bonds and Proposition 3 have different purposes for the state, but for Tahoe the combination of funding gives us a chance to make real progress. It is time to follow up on the down payments made with previous bond measures.
California’s Proposition 3, on this November’s ballot, brings more funding for conservation and natural resource protection in Lake Tahoe than any previous water bond measure: over twice the amount from Proposition 1 and Proposition 68, combined.
Its passage would provide over $100 million directly to Tahoe, another $250 million for pre-fire mitigation and restoration of Sierra Nevada watersheds, and an access to an additional $3.4 billion through statewide competitive grant programs.
No funds are included for the controversial Delta tunnels project or dams that could damage our wild and scenic rivers. This funding commitment ensures that important work in Tahoe is seen to completion, particularly stormwater pollution management, wildfire prevention and large restoration projects.
One such project is the restoration of the Upper Truckee Marsh in South Lake Tahoe — the largest remaining wetland in the Tahoe Basin — which serves as the largest natural sediment filter in the Basin. It is located next to the Tahoe Keys Marina on the South Shore where the Upper Truckee River meets the lake, delivering more fine sediment to Lake Tahoe than any other tributary in the Basin.
The marsh’s restoration is one of the final pieces to a larger restoration strategy for the entire Upper Truckee River watershed. If completed, it would enhance over 500 acres of meadow and marsh land to improve water quality, restore wildlife habitat and improve public access.
If we are to ensure that Lake Tahoe is resilient to the threats of a changing climate and remains as beautiful and blue as it is today, then we must support Proposition 3.
Learn more about Proposition 3 at http://www.waterbond.org and join us in supporting Tahoe by voting Yes on Proposition 3 on Nov. 6.
Mail-in ballots will start arriving the week of Oct. 8. You can register to vote online until Oct. 22 and in-person up until Election Day.
Make sure you are registered, update your information, or register to vote here: voterstatus.sos.ca.gov.
Darcie Goodman Collins, Ph.D., is executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe.