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Reid reports on presidential progress

Andy Bourelle

Restoration and conservation work on Lake Tahoe stemming from the 1997 Presidential Forum received a passing grade Saturday.

State, local and federal officials said significant progress has been made but also agreed much more work still needed to be done.

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid hosted a one-year anniversary workshop Saturday at Heavenly Ski Resort to celebrate the anniversary of President Bill Clinton’s visit to Lake Tahoe.

“I’m satisfied we’ve done a lot, but, of course, I’m not satisfied we’ve accomplished everything,” Reid said after the conference. “There’s still a lot we have to do.”

More than 50 people attended the two-hour progress report of the 1997 presidential summit, which focused on preserving the clarity of Lake Tahoe.

More than 20 attendees – including Reid, Nevada’s Sen. Richard Bryan, Rep. Jim Gibbons, Gov. Bob Miller, Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Jim Lyons, Chairman of the Washoe Tribe of California and Nevada Brian Wallace and many other federal, state and local officials – spoke and listened, under the two-hour time constraints, about the progress.

“I think it says a lot when people have more to say than what they have time for,” Reid said afterward. “Each person could have spoken for two hours.”

Major accomplishments addressed were the increased environmental awareness and willingness of different agencies to work together. Unprecedented partnerships, officials agreed, could be used as models for the rest of the country.

“I think the last 12 months definitely show that the federal government has learned something very important, and that is that it doesn’t know how to solve every problem by itself,” Gibbons said after the conference. “So many times decisions are made in Washington, D.C., which is 3,000 miles away. We’re seeing that it’s important to work with local agencies to solve local problems, especially on something as important as Lake Tahoe.”

During the president’s visit in July 1997, he signed an executive order, committing federal actions to be implemented in the region. Clinton agreed, during a two-year period, to double federal spending on preservation and restoration of Lake Tahoe, committing $50 million.

Since the 1997 forum, several agencies have started various projects: the Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $135,000 to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to help monitor the Lake Tahoe Basin; the Department of Transportation has conducted an environmental assessment and traffic study of the North Shore’s proposed transit system; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the TRPA are studying environmental restoration, for which their findings are due in September; and scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey are scheduled to begin mapping the floor of the Lake in August.

Additionally, Clinton recognized the Washoe Tribe’s stewardship of the Lake at the 1997 summit, and in October 1997, the Washoe Tribe was able to acquire 300 acres of land near Meeks Bay.

While the clarity of Lake Tahoe, the main issue behind the 1997 forum, certainly could not be fixed over one year, officials agreed the right steps were being made.

John Reuter, acting director of the Institute of Ecology for the University of California, Davis Lake Tahoe Research Group, addressed the attendees about the Lake’s clarity.

Reuter said Lake Tahoe is estimated to have lost one-third of its clarity in the past 30 years, and the Lake could be green instead of blue by 2030.

However, he said environmental research in all areas has improved and partnerships between research institutes has been beneficial, just as public involvement has helped. Overall, restoration projects are progressing successfully.

Rochelle Nason, executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, said after the meeting that the current progress is “tremendous.”

“There’s still quite a lot to do, but we all feel the momentum is gathering at all levels,” she said.

Sen. Bryan said the restoration and conservation should receive a passing grade.

“This year is kind of a follow-up, a report card,” he said. “It seems to me things are going well.”

Neither the president nor vice president attended the one year follow-up forum. However, a videotaped message from Vice President Al Gore was played at the beginning of the ceremony.

“In working together, I know we are going to achieve our goals,” Gore said. “We’re going to keep Tahoe blue.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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