Return of the natives to Highway 50 |

Return of the natives to Highway 50

Patrick McCartney

A little bit of the Tahoe Basin went into the reconstruction of U.S. Highway 50.

South Shore recyclers have supplied 45 tons of native plant mulch and pine needles to the highway project.

The California Department of Transportation decided to use native materials for slope protection as part of an environmentally sensitive policy.

“It’s a good use of natural resources,” said Karen Terrill, information officer for Tahoe Re-Green, which supplied much of the wood waste that was recycled. “Using pine needles instead of hay or straw, and using native mulch prevents the importation of non-native plants and seeds.”

The mulch was largely furnished by Tahoe Re-Green from its forest-thinning projects. The green waste was consolidated and ground at the wood site operated by South Tahoe Refuse. Working with the refuse company, the Tahoe Resource Conservation District and Clean Tahoe orchestrated the delivery of the ecologically benign materials to Caltrans.

In past years, Clean Tahoe had problems collecting pine needles that were free enough of debris to be baled. So, needing 25 tons, the project participants went to the mother lode of pine needles, Edgewood Golf Course, which had accumulated a large amount of needles free of rocks, branches or other contaminants.

“Caltrans is happy as a clam with the needles,” said Jeanne Lear of South Tahoe Refuse.

Carefree Greens of Newcastle, Calif. used the mulch and needles to help stabilize slopes in the American River gorge, where landslides last winter buried Highway 50 and marooned South Lake Tahoe.

South Tahoe Refuse split the cost of transportation with the contractor.

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