California Tahoe Conservancy awards $7 million in grants for lakewide projects |

California Tahoe Conservancy awards $7 million in grants for lakewide projects

Sebastian Foltz

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — The Tahoe Basin took a significant step toward ongoing watershed restoration, forest health and lake water quality projects last week. California Tahoe Conservancy awarded $7 million in grant money from the state's Proposition 1 funds for seven separate initiatives.

"These awards demonstrate California's continuing commitment to Tahoe's Environmental Improvement Program," Tahoe Conservancy executive director Patrick Wright said in a statement. "They will help improve the clarity of the lake, the health of our watersheds and the quality and resiliency of our forest."

The funds are part of $15 million earmarked for the Tahoe region through the state proposition — passed in 2014 and dedicated to a wide range of projects related to water resource conservation and management.

"It's significant," conservancy associate environmental planner Chris Mertens said of funding for the diverse array of projects selected from around 30 proposals. "It's the first time we've had a chunk of funding to give out in grants in a while."

Beyond the initial distribution, Mertens said the money could be key to acquiring funding from other organizations.

"It helps those projects be more competitive for other sources of funding," he explained. "It's definitely a good opportunity to leverage other funding."

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Of the total allotments, just over $4.2 million will go toward the acquisition of Johnson Meadow — a key segment of Tahoe Conservancy's Upper Truckee River restoration effort. The funds allotted cover roughly half of the expected cost to acquire the land just south of Highway 50 in South Lake Tahoe.

Last December, the conservancy approved plans to restore substantial marshlands on the north side of the highway where the Truckee feeds into the lake.

Together the projects are expected to significantly improve sediment filtration, which aids in lake clarity. The efforts will also help restore wildlife habitat.

"The Upper Truckee restoration is going to be a great project for Lake Tahoe," Tahoe Regional Planning Agency spokesman Tom Lotshaw said. "The Upper Truckee River is one of the largest sources of fine sediment pollution into the lake."

"It's a key spot to bring into public ownership," Mertens added, describing the property as the largest privately owned meadow in the Tahoe Basin.

An additional $700,000 from the funds will go to invasive plant removal projects at several sites along the South Shore.

The Washoe Tribe received $228,530 to support planning related to restoration work at Meeks Meadow near Meeks Bay.

"That's a pretty exciting grant," Mertens said, describing a new partnership with the tribe. "There's some ecosystem restoration that needs to happen there."

Close to $900,000 will go to collaboration between public agencies to develop an interagency plan to restore and protect forest health and key watersheds along Tahoe's western shore — between Emerald Bay and Tahoe City.

"It will formalize the cooperation between federal, state and local agencies," Mertens said.

Another $850,000 will go toward plans to streamline permitting for forest health projects to protect urban areas from wildfires.

The remaining $300,000 will be split between water quality and runoff management planning and the efforts to remove Antone Meadow Dam at Burton Creek State Park.

"This is an exciting opportunity for the conservancy to provide funding for a variety of important projects," Mertens said of the funds.

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