Rock-solid change at quarry site
The wheels of time are rolling in reverse at Washoe Meadows State Park where an old quarry is returning to a more natural state.
More than 83,000 cubic yards of fill dug from a wetland restoration project last summer filled the quarry, a 4-acre, 30-foot-deep hole mined for gravel and sandy soil in the 1950s and 1960s. Now specialists are mixing compost and seed into the top 12 inches to enable revegetation.
Logs and pine needles are being spread across the land to keep soil in place and reduce erosion and runoff. Native grasses and small plants are expected to become established at the site by next spring.
“We’re mixing compost in because it’s very sterile soil, basically sand,” said Cyndie Walck, state parks associate engineering geologist. The compost used was made with wood chips left over from fuel reduction projects in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
The revegetation process, managed by California State Parks, is expected to cost about $100,000 and be completed this fall. The fill that went into the quarry came from a wetland restoration site west of the Upper Truckee River channel, a project lead by the California Tahoe Conservancy, an environmental restoration group.
The Conservancy is paying for work at the quarry because it saved money by being able to dump its fill at the park, only eight miles from the wetland project. If the quarry hadn’t been available, the Conservancy would have had to truck the fill out of the basin at a cost of about $500,000, Walck said.
“It shows good cooperation between state agencies” said Joe Pepi, a Conservancy analyst. “It’s pretty cool to put the landscape back. As the plants grow, it’s going to look great. In three to four years, a lot of people won’t know the pit was there. “
The quarry is in the middle of Washoe Meadows State Park, a 620-acre piece of land between Meyers and the Lake Tahoe Golf Course. Even when the old pit was still a pit, it was popular with residents.
“It’s something a lot of neighbors use. They walk or ride their bikes or horses there after work,” Walck said.
Signs and orange mesh construction fencing will be erected to protect the revegetation project after all the logs and pine needles are in place.
“The first couple of years, we don’t want to see horses or people walking on it. We don’t want any erosion until vegetation is established,” Walck said.
The 12-acre wetland restoration project is sandwiched between the Tahoe Keys Marina and the Upper Truckee River channel. The fill used at the quarry was piled on an existing wetland by contractors that built the Keys in the 1960s.
Restoration of the wetland began in May 2001. Thus far, the project, which involved spreading native soil from Trout Creek, revegetation and irrigation, has cost $5 million.
Construction began this week on a 12-foot-wide path that will run to Lake Tahoe down the west side of the new wetland. It will replace an existing path and is expected to be finished by early September.
Part of a dirt mound that separates the Upper Truckee channel from the wetland is being removed in sections as the path is built. When the path is in place, the Conservancy expects to have all the dirt replaced by water-filled bags or water berms. Over time, those will be removed and the Upper Truckee watershed will be reintroduced to the wetland.
— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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