Leave Trout Creek alone | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Leave Trout Creek alone

Claire Fortier

Chalk up one for Ormsby Drive residents. They have halted the Trout Creek restoration project long enough to propose alternatives.

For many years, the California Tahoe Conservancy, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and other organizations with a mission to preserve the ecosystem of Lake Tahoe have espoused the power of puddles.

Basically, the theory is that many of the rivers or creeks that flow into Lake Tahoe – and there are 67, according to the U.S. Forest Service – have been diverted from their pre-Comstock era paths by humans. Man diverted the streams for many reasons – to water cattle, to raise crops, to move timber and to create housing developments. In most cases, the changes have moved meandering, slow-paced streams into deeper and faster water channels. Those bigger, faster rivers theoretically carry silt and pollutants into the lake much faster than the meandering waterways of yesteryear.

But there is just a couple of problems with the theory.

No scientific data quantifies the actual variance of lake pollutant from one century to the next. Yes, the lake has lost clarity at an alarming rate.

Theoretically, part of the problem has been faster, deeper streams that carry significant runoff into the lake. But how much is that a problem? How much is air pollution from the Bay area? How much is the fertilizer from Edgewood Golf Course?

In other words, has anyone ever been able to really quantify the actual causes of the lake’s loss of clarity?

That brings up problem No. 2: What proof have these river-movers that their experiment will actually work? Where is the scientific data to back up these assertions? Where is the quantifying information that says if one moves a river “X” number of feet, “Y” amount of runoff will be absorbed?

Scientific data is not nearly as powerful as the theorists suggest, and they make no guarantees it will work.

The rerouting of rivers on the South Shore is second only to the construction of the Tahoe Keys as the most significant ecological experiment (or disaster) at Lake Tahoe since the miners deforested the basin in the Comstock era.

There have been many plans to alter the Lake Tahoe Basin, either through building up or tearing down. Few have seemed as elusive as the rechanneling of rivers. While there is logic in the environmental argument to filter water before it hits the lake, there is no real evidence to support the theory.

The basin has had times of large water flow and times of prolonged drought.

It would seem silly to rely on drainage ditches during droughts. It also seems equally as ludicrous to think a river, rechanneled or not, wouldn’t find the quickest route to the lake during high water months.

The Conservancy and the TRPA rightfully must feel frustrated. They have been talking about plans to reroute rivers and creeks for many years. Now the time has come and once again people balk.

But the scope and extreme nature of the project along Trout Creek and long the Upper Truckee River should warrant people balking. These are massive undertakings that will, within themselves, alter ecosystems, possibly irrevocably. This is hardly something that should be entered into on an experimental basis.

Who needs more mosquitoes and dragonflies if the trout population is destroyed in the process?

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