Residents help stall wetlands restoration
Opposition, primarily from Tahoe Keys residents, has prompted the California Tahoe Conservancy to delay the first phase of its Upper Truckee River restoration project until at least 2001.
The work on a 36-acre piece of land next to the straightened channel near the Tahoe Keys was supposed to start next year to help restore the ecosystem there. The Conservancy’s board had been set to hear the proposal Dec. 10, but that will not happen now.
“Because the schedule is so tight to get all the permits, if we miss Dec. 10 we miss the year 2000 construction season,” said Steve Goldman of the Conservancy. “I’m disappointed because a lot of the public doesn’t seem to understand the value of what we’re doing. What we’re doing is very significant, but people seem to focus on the impacts to them – the short-term impacts, the noise.
“They don’t seem to see the big picture.”
Because of past development, including the construction of the Tahoe Keys, the lower 2,000 feet of the meandering Upper Truckee River have essentially been straightened. The large wetlands at the mouth of the river no longer work as effectively as it naturally did to filter out sediment flowing down the Upper Truckee. With the current channel, Mother Nature has no way to stop sediment and nutrients – which are largely blamed for the decline in Tahoe’s clarity – in the last 2,000 feet of the river.
The Conservancy, a California agency that buys and preserves environmentally sensitive parcels in the basin, purchased the 200 acres surrounding the disturbed river in 1988. After years of planning, the Conservancy planned to start work on the Upper Truckee River and Wetland Restoration Project next year.
A series of public workshops have been held in recent months, and opposition to the project grew, primarily because the work would require 7,000 dump truck trips in the Keys-area neighborhoods.
Goldman said some of the residents’ concerns were legitimate; however, he believed those could have been worked out before summer without delaying the project.
He said he hopes to spend the extra year to work out the details of the project and to better educate residents about the project’s benefits.
“I think the public needs to understand the value of the project better,” Goldman said. “When they wake up in the morning and the trucks go by, I don’t want them to curse the Conservancy. I want them to think this is a nuisance, but it will be worth it.”
While it will take years before all the planned work is implemented, the first phase – on what is called Parcel 4 – was to take two summers. Goldman said he hoped that enough planning could happen that all the work may be completed in the summer of 2001.
However, opposition has plans for that one-year delay, too.
Earl Brothers, a Tahoe Keys resident fighting the project, said he plans to try to educate more people that the project won’t be a significant benefit.
The truck trips will be noisy and tear up the Keys’ roads, and the Conservancy can use the money in better ways, he said.
“There’s so little benefit from it,” Brothers said. “It would be worth the pain if there was really a benefit from it, but there isn’t. I hope to educate the public. I hope to educate the city of South Lake Tahoe as to the lack of value in what they’re proposing.
“We’ll use the delay as an educational process for the public – and try to get the Conservancy to wake up and have them do something worthwhile.”
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