River plan chips away at golf course | TahoeDailyTribune.com

River plan chips away at golf course

Susan Wood
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Lake Tahoe Golf Course General Manager Jeff Stange describes a brush box, seen behind him, a technique used to help prevent river- bank and soil erosion.

MEYERS – Recreational and environmental interests hang in the balance at the gateway to the South Shore, with federal and state agencies evaluating how to restore the Upper Truckee River and maintain the Lake Tahoe Golf Course.

The 18-hole course, which accommodates an average of 35,000 golfing visits a year of which about half consists of locals, may need to be relocated to follow through with the restoration plan that spans 250 acres.

The Upper Truckee River meanders over the golf course, which is situated over state park land and generates about $800,000 annually for the department.

State parks’ Sierra District, the lead agency, intends to expand the Lake Valley Recreation Area into the adjacent Washoe Meadows State Park located between Highway 50, Sawmill Road and Upper Truckee Road.

The state parks department, in conjunction with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and U.S. Department of the Interior, is gathering responses to the environmental impact report of such a venture. A few public sessions have been scheduled in the year-long process, and the concepts were discussed at the TRPA Governing Board meeting Wednesday.

A decision on the four draft alternatives to analyze may come as early as Oct. 6, but that date could be extended a few weeks.

“Our main reason for this is to restore the river,” said Cyndie Walck, a state parks coordinator handling the project.

One option involves doing nothing unless something drastic happens environmentally. Another would amount to full restoration while re-routing those holes to the other side of the river southwest of the site.

“I’m opposed to moving the holes. I’m 80 and have a couple more years of golf left,” regular Bill Bryan said, wrapping up his game. The Carmichael man plays five times a week. “The question will become whether I come to Tahoe or go to Lincoln.”

A third dictates eliminating nine of the holes to scale the golf course in half. The fourth would propose no change to the golf course except stabilizing the banks – not a preferred option to Sierra District officials.

“We want to maintain the 18 holes. Reducing the revenue would have a huge impact on us,” Sierra District Superintendent Hayden Sohm said Wednesday. State parks receives 60 percent of its revenue base in the district’s $7 million budget from its concessionaires.

The district is also open to exploring other public recreation in the area.

Sohm said he’s sympathetic to the neighbors in the area who have expressed apprehension about the proposal.

“I’m afraid the golf course will move closer,” said Pat Snyder, who lives on Normuck Street. The road empties into state park land.

“We’re not talking about houses on the fairway,” Sohm responded. He pledged a forest buffer of at least 100 feet.

Either way, golf course General Manager Jeff Stange – who works for the American Golf Corporation – believes there’s a way to protect the environment and golf course.

Stange’s company has leased the land for 15 years, so it has a lot of catching up to do in terms of environmental restoration. At the same time, the jobs of 90 employees are at stake – thus highlighting the reoccurring dilemma communities face all over the nation.

While touring the grounds, Stange pointed out how the company has spent about $45,000 for “brush boxes,” a mesh fence that traps the debris and sediment running along the river at the sixth hole. Golf course management also stocks a pond with 500 rainbow trout for bird life to have a sanctuary.

“What’s happening in the last 80 years is the river is trying to get back to its natural state,” he said, pointing to where the river has cut away at the bank on the sixth hole near a bridge. “We want to do what’s right for the river and environment.”

He stressed how the beauty of the river has long become the experience of golfing at the 50-year-old course.

“We’ll see people out here taking pictures of the river. I think we have the unique opportunity to restore a river of this size that would create a model for the rest of the world to follow,” Stange said.

With millions of dollars being spent on lake clarity, TRPA’s involvement revolves around the Upper Truckee River depositing more sediment into Lake Tahoe than any of the 63 tributaries that flow into the lake. The river has lost 30 feet of its banks.

“This is one of the worst regions of the river,” TRPA spokeswoman Julie Regan said.

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