Senate getting visit from Tahoe artists |

Senate getting visit from Tahoe artists

Susan Wood

Like the Earth itself, Lake Tahoe is dependent on its caring, responsible stewards.

Two of those stewards are taking their observations – in the form of a photography and narrative exhibition – to those who can provide the funds to ensure the lake’s preservation.

South Lake Tahoe photographer J.T. Ravize and poet Linde Ravize will hit the road again to bring the show and book titled “Hearts of Light, Impressions of Lake Tahoe” before the U.S. Senate next month, with the idea of securing and adding to the once-pledged $30 million a year under the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act.

The bill authored by U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Harry Reid – Democrats from California and Nevada, respectively – called for the 10-year funding plan amounting to $300 million to pay for one third of the projects outlined in the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s $908 million Environmental Improvement Program. Its aim revolves around remedying or eliminating those conditions that reduce the lake’s remarkable clarity.

When the bill was introduced, the Ravizes brought their images to Washington D.C. to illustrate the essence of a national treasure deemed worth protecting.

“The lake speaks for itself. We don’t need to hear thousands of hours of testimony. We just need to look at it to understand that its beauty is unique and deserves to be protected,” said Linde Ravize, who has agreed to read complementary poetry to accompany her husband’s astounding images.

The restoration act led to an environmental summit here in July 1997 that consequently prompted former President Bill Clinton to authorize the $30 million a year in funds to stop the water-quality clouding.

Studies have shown that Lake Tahoe has been losing its clarity at the rate of at least 1 foot each year for the last 30 years. Critics point to development that fills the lake with sediments as one of the likely reasons for its murky, algae-based appearance.

In his 1872 published work “Roughing It,” Mark Twain wrote in a boat on a camping trip that the clarity of the lake was so vivid, he seemed to be floating on air.

A massive lakewide effort to try to turn back the clock on whatever irreparable damage has occurred was supported by environmental interests as well as the business community that reveres the lake for its beauty and its direct tie to the economic livelihood of the region.

But only four of the 100 senators answer to constituents located around the lake, and President George W. Bush has gained a mixed reaction to his environmental record thus far, critics contend.

When the Bush administration released its $1.6 trillion budget proposal, the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act amount had shrunk from $30 million to $14 million. This line-item figure will serve as a base for the four California and Nevada senators to argue for additional monies during the 2002 budget appropriations process this summer. Feinstein serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Culminating an appropriations process in full swing, a round-2 Lake Tahoe environmental summit is being planned for some time in August, Reid said recently.

The Ravize couple will address senators in committees while their exhibition is on display in the U.S. Senate Russell Rotunda from July 9-13.

To the Tahoe resident, the at least 14 works of art committed for the exhibit encapsulate living near the jewel of the Sierra Nevada. The names show that every picture tells a story – “A Blaze of Glory,” “Echo Falls,” “Indigo Dawn,” “Willowed Dawn” and “Winter Pagoda.”

“Reverence of Sunrise” hangs in Feinstein’s office.

The artists will be on hand for a special reception slated for July 11, which Lake Tahoe’s four U.S. senators will host. U.S. Sen. John Ensign is trying to urge Bush to attend.

“They need to look good on environmental issues,” J.T. said.

He’s optimistic about the chances his images will provide an emotional hook, if the senators realize how many of their constituents frequent Lake Tahoe.

The 20-year resident and photographer requested $10,000-$40,000 from the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority last week to help fund the trip, but the Ravizes said they’re planning to go regardless – with the help of the American Land Conservancy, Addario Family Trust and the Munson Foundation.

“We felt a compelling need. Nobody else would step up to the plate, and I’ve been through this whole process before,” he said, referring to his environmental advocacy projects.

“Photography should teach you to see the world in a different way,” he added.

The couple hopes those with Lake Tahoe’s future in their hands will see it as timeless.

In Linde’s words behind the photo “Timeless Tahoe” – “Vivid turquoise, emerald green, polished with a diamond sheen…since ancient times it has been seen as a mirror of the sky. … The past is gone, today is here, to keep the waters blue and clear we must agree, this place is dear, raise up a hue and cry!”

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