Sierra Nevada growing fast |

Sierra Nevada growing fast

Susan Wood, Tahoe Daily Tribune

An interim Census report reveals significant growth in the counties surrounding Lake Tahoe.

El Dorado County experienced a 4 percent increase in population in one year, with 162,586 residents recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau last July. That placed it seventh among the state’s fastest growing counties. Placer County ranked first.

In the same period between April 2000 and July 2001, California grew 1.9 percent with 34.5 million people.

According to the 2000 Census, South Lake Tahoe grew 9.4 percent in a decade to 23,609 residents. El Dorado’s population surged 24.1 percent, with most of the growth on the west slope bordering Sacramento.

One potential impact of the increased population is more traffic in the Tahoe Basin, along with more tourist dollars.

“Certainly we’d expect that, with more people in a radius of 50 to 75 miles moving to the area each year, more people would take advantage of visiting Lake Tahoe,” Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Executive Director Bill Chernock said.

South Lake Tahoe marketer Carl Ribaudo agreed, but he questioned the impact additional visitors will have on the local economy.

“We pick up some of that traffic. But the real question is what kind of traffic is it? Is it a day visitor or is it a visitor that stays and creates an economic impact?” he said. There’s no hard, comprehensive data linking visitor count with traffic patterns in the basin, he said.

According to a recent transportation report issued by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, vehicle trips in the Lake Tahoe Basin are estimated to increase by at least 35 percent by 2025. The added traffic presents challenges to environmental officials.

“The answer, in my mind, is we need to continue to lengthen our stride to provide a transportation system,” Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Executive Director Juan Palma said Monday.

He cited setting up park-and-ride locations like the one at Kingsbury Grade and Foothill Road outside Genoa, waterborne transit, and bus and rail options.

It’s one thing to offer the options. Educating the visitor should be another part of the equation, Palma added.

“A lot of times the visitor doesn’t know where to go,” he said.

— Susan Wood can be reached at 530-542-8009 or at

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