Senate approves 23 million for Tahoe environmental projects |

Senate approves 23 million for Tahoe environmental projects

A key Senate committee Thursday approved nearly $23 million for environmental projects in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

The windfall in two sweeping appropriations bills represents a big step up from the $14 million President Bush allocated in his $1.35 trillion budget plan.

“I think what you’re looking at is a recognition by the U.S. Senate that Lake Tahoe is one of the gems in the nation and we’re going to do everything we can to preserve and protect it,” said Howard Gantman, spokesman for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved $20.4 million for restoration and preservation efforts in and around the Tahoe Basin. The panel also committed $2 million for wetlands development on the South Shore in a separate water resources bill.

The measures now go to a House-Senate conference committee to resolve any differences before sending the bills to Bush for his signature. Gantman said he wasn’t aware of any opposition and expected the final appropriations to be near the amounts approved Thursday.

Feinstein, who sits on an appropriations subcommittee, requested the Tahoe funding along with several other California projects. “These funds demonstrate the ongoing commitment of Congress to protect the natural treasure that is Lake Tahoe,” she said in a statement.

This week, South Lake Tahoe photographer J.T. Ravize and his poet wife, Linde, brought their photo exhibit to the nation’s capital to help illustrate the need to secure more funding for projects deemed necessary to save the lake. The couple held a reception Wednesday night in the Russell Rotunda of the U.S. Senate building.

“It gave Tahoe the picture that’s so impossible to ignore,” Ravize said Thursday from Washington, D.C.

Specifically, the appropriations bill calls for:

— $6.6 million for environmentally sensitive land acquisition.

— $5 million for erosion control.

— $3 million for road improvements.

— $5.85 million for vegetation and watershed management.

The funding comes as part of an ongoing partnership between federal, state and local agencies through the 10-year Lake Tahoe Restoration Act passed last year. The restoration act, which commits $300 million over a decade, pays for one-third of the projects outlined in the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s $908 million Environmental Improvement Program.

“I am very pleased we were able to secure funding to manage the basin’s natural resources and to ensure the long-term preservation of the lake’s inherent beauty,” said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. “The projects funded in this bill will help nature heal itself.”

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