Secretary Glickman delivers the goods |

Secretary Glickman delivers the goods

Patrick McCartney

Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman signed an agreement at Lake Tahoe Wednesday that commits the federal government to spend $28.8 million over the next two years to help restore the lake’s troubled environment.

In a ceremony aboard the M.S. Dixie II in Zephyr Cove, with a panoramic view of Lake Tahoe as a backdrop, Glickman signed two agreements that formalize the government’s role in achieving nine environmental goals over the next 10 years.

The ceremony served as a coda to the Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum of July, when President Clinton promised to deliver federal aid to the effort by Tahoe Basin residents to address the area’s environmental problems.

“We are also here today not just … to sign an agreement among governments, but to make a pact between humanity and this sacred place that we hope will survive in perpetuity,” Glickman said.

Jim Baetge, the executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, said the agreements, and commitment of federal spending, made his heart feel better.

“Part of the reason we can come together is because we know where we are headed, and what we need to do,” Baetge said as he brandished a thick copy of the Environmental Improvement Program.

Nevada Gov. Bob Miller said the priorities established by the TRPA’s improvement program were critical in identifying what needs to be done during the next decade.

“The EIP takes us a giant step from planning to implementation,” said Miller, who signed an agreement in July with California Gov. Pete Wilson to support the improvement plan.

Glickman signed two agreements Wednesday.

The Federal Interagency Partnership Agreement commits the six federal agencies active in the basin to a coordinated plan to enhance Lake Tahoe’s environment, economy and cultural history.

Besides calling for continued meetings by federal officials at all levels, the agreement extends the involvement of a local advisory committee of private and public interests, which was first formed to help plan the presidential forum.

The other agreement, the Intergovernmental Memorandum of Agreement, reaffirms the support for Lake Tahoe by the federal government, states of California and Nevada, the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

But the day’s biggest announcement was the unveiling of the “Presidential Forum Deliverables,” a detailed plan of the programs the federal government will launch during the next two years. The package also identified $34 million in restoration projects for an additional four years.

Some of the short-term projects were either already under way or are not central to the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Of the $28.8 million, $6 million is for improvements to the Reno/Tahoe International Airport, and $7.15 million is targeted for the replacement of the South Tahoe Public Utility District’s wastewater export line.

Yet, among the detailed list are dozens of projects that will break new ground in the effort to identify the causes of Lake Tahoe’s declining water quality, and help restore the lake and the basin’s ailing forests.

Among the deliverables are $2.6 million for a comprehensive Forest Service study of the basin’s watersheds, an additional $3 million a year for the Forest Service to use prescribed fire and mechanical means to improve forest health and $1.25 million for a new transit center in South Lake Tahoe.

Other items include $2.6 million for the Forest Service to close, revegetate and obliterate 58 miles of old logging roads over the next two years, and an additional $1.3 million a year to treat 41 more miles a year.

Afterward, Glickman said congressional approval for spending beyond the next two years will determine the success of the restoration project.

“The follow-up will determine how successful we are,” Glickman said.

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