House approves bill with $415 million for Lake Tahoe projects
The fate of a federal bill authorizing $415 million for restoration and preservation projects in the Lake Tahoe Basin will likely be decided in the next several days, following passage of the broader, wide-ranging bill by the House of Representatives Thursday.
The bill, titled the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), includes language known as the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, which advocates have been working to pass dating back to before 2010, when the initial Lake Tahoe Restoration Act expired.
Although some legislators have taken issue with other items within the overall package — which addresses the lead issue in Flint, Michigan and other water-related matters — there appears to be no visible opposition to the Tahoe provisions, said Darcie Goodman Collins, executive director of The League to Save Lake Tahoe.
That combined with passage in the House sends a strong signal.
“This is by far the furthest we have made it on progressing the bill the last five years. … It’s been a lot of work to renew that original commitment to Tahoe,” Goodman Collins said on Thursday.
However, the positive news only goes so far.
The bill, which was approved by a vote of 360-61 in the House, could face a tougher road in the Senate. While the package has bipartisan support, outgoing Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., opposes the bill due to drought provisions that were made public Monday in a negotiated deal between House and Senate members.
That same day, Boxer called the drought provision a “poison pill” that would result in the loss of “thousands of fishery jobs,” while damaging the Endangered Species Act. She vowed to fight the provision.
“This bill won’t go anywhere in the Senate if I have anything to do with it, because it will result in the loss of thousands of fishery jobs, it will roll back the Endangered Species Act which was signed by President Nixon, and it will also take away power from Congress to approve new dams all over the country,” Boxer said in a statement Monday. “The bill also fails to include strong Buy America requirements. I will use every tool at my disposal to stop this last minute poison pill rider.”
Her stance has put Boxer at odds with her colleague Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who helped negotiate with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
“This bill isn’t perfect but I do believe it will help California and it has bipartisan support including Republicans and Democrats in the House, and that’s why I’m supporting it,” Feinstein said Monday in a statement largely focused on the drought provision and absent of any mention of Lake Tahoe.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., hailed Monday’s news of the brokered deal, which was necessary due to different versions being passed earlier this year in the House and Senate.
“After fighting for years to refocus federal policy on the twenty-first century threats to the Lake, we have ensured important work that preserves the Jewel of the Sierra for future generations will advance,” Heller said in a press release. “This was a total team effort by both the Nevada and California delegations which required bicameral and bipartisan support. I urge my colleagues to quickly take up and pass this measure sending Nevadans a clear message that Lake Tahoe is once again a national priority.”
The League to Save Lake Tahoe does not have a position on items outside the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, Goodman Collins clarified. But because of the inclusion of the Lake Tahoe funding, the league is closely watching the water bill’s progress. It will likely be taken up by the Senate sometime this weekend.
Whether or not it will pass is uncertain.
If it does, it would signal one of the most significant developments toward continued preservation of Lake Tahoe. The $415 would go toward projects already underway and projects that have been planned and are essentially shovel ready, said Goodman Collins.
Additionally, the infusion of federal funding will prim stakeholders for obtaining state and private funds for more work around the lake.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.