Ski Run Phase 2 approval slated tonight |

Ski Run Phase 2 approval slated tonight

by Michael Schneider

Phase 2 of the Ski Run Water Quality Improvement Project, a $2 million overhaul consisting of 88 individual improvements to the project area, is slated for South Lake Tahoe City Council approval tonight.

The city’s engineering staff has recommended White Rock Construction of Gardnerville undertake the project, scheduled to be complete by Oct. 15. Construction will begin this spring.

Associate Civil Engineer Chuck Taylor said the project has been criticized for being ineffective but, when completed and working this fall, clear water from the 175-acre watershed above the Ski Run area will have a positive effect on lake clarity.

Taylor said most of the improvements will be underground, such as piping, but residents will be able to see some portions of the project.

Visible improvements include two more retention ponds to be constructed on the lake side of U.S. Highway 50, wetlands plants to adorn the ponds, a pedestrian and biking trail along U.S. Highway 50 with a bridge over a pond, and the repaving of one lane of the highway.

When complete, the system will catch water flowing from the mountains around Heavenly Ski Resort and hold it in the retention ponds, allowing filtration to occur.

“The wetland plants in there will do their job like a meadow would,” Taylor said.

Before the project, water from the mountains would flow to the Ski Run area and collect along the highway, picking up pollutants before entering the lake.

Taylor said the funding for the project will come primarily from the 2 percent Transient Occupancy Tax funds collected in redevelopment areas.

The California/Tahoe Conservancy, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, California Department of Transportation, and South Tahoe Public Utilities District will also contribute to the project.

A research team has been hired to study the effect of the project, when complete, over a three-year period.

Taylor said this project will benefit lake clarity, but warned there are several other watersheds in the Tahoe Basin which need similar improvements to more greatly improve lake clarity.

Lake Tahoe, long renowned for its clear waters, has suffered from a decline in clarity over the last 30 years. Visibility has decreased from 102 feet to just over 70 feet.

Chief among the causes for the decline is the growth of algae in the lake, which has exploded because of a flood of nutrients, including phosphorus and nitrogen.

The Ski Run retention ponds will filter out these elements before they have a chance to flow into the lake.

Environmental experts studying the lake believe lake clarity may diminish beyond the point of return in 10 years if nothing is done to arrest the flow of nutrients into the lake.

The item is scheduled as part of the consent agenda. Unless a council member or a member of the audience pulls it forward for discussion, the item will be approved along with the rest of the consent calendar at the beginning of the 6 p.m. council meeting.

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