Straight Trout Creek gets new kinks put in it |

Straight Trout Creek gets new kinks put in it

An almost two-mile section of Trout Creek, which was straightened in the 1890s to make way for a logging railway, is getting its kinks back.

Work was completed Monday on phase 2 of the Trout Creek Restoration Project – a $3.5 million effort to restore the 70-acre wetland between Martin Avenue and Pioneer Trail to its natural state.

The city of South Lake Tahoe, as owner of the meadow, is the lead agency in the project, which has taken years to complete.

“That section was straightened for logging and grazing operations and it’s probably been like that for more than 100 years,” said Steve Kooyman, the city’s associate civil engineer. “We’re realigning the creek, recovering about 10,000 linear feet, to put it in a more geomorphic state for that watershed.”

The streambed reconstruction started last year with Phase 1. The work ceased for the winter and was resumed in July, when bulldozers started burrowing anew, twisting the channel.

Phase 3, set to happen next August, will be the introduction water into the reconstructed creek bed.

Resuming a meandering course, the creek will be better able to filter out sediment before it reaches Lake Tahoe about two miles downstream. Sifting silt from the creek is an important factor in preserving Lake Tahoe’s clarity, which has been declining at the rate of about 1 foot each year.

The project will count as part of the city’s commitment to the Environmental Improvement Program, a $908 million effort by local, state and federal governments to save Lake Tahoe from impending environmental doom by 2007.

“I think this is the largest creek restoration project in the Lake Tahoe Basin as far as linear feet,” Kooyman said.

The Bureau of Reclamation, the California Tahoe Conservancy, Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency are also involved in the project plans and payment.

Most of the Trout Creek project is being paid for with Lahontan’s Tahoe Keys’ mitigation fund. The fund has been collecting a $4,000 fee from each new residential home built in the Keys since 1982. In 1998, when the money was allocated to various projects, the fund balance exceeded more than $2 million.

“The purpose of the mitigation fund was to try to provide a net reduction of nutrients equivalent to the destruction of the Tahoe Keys development,” said Lauri Kemper, Lahontan’s chief of the Lake Tahoe watershed. “The board initially approved about $1.2 million to the Trout Creek project, plus the interest over time.”

Kemper said, although the Trout Creek project will only restore a fraction of the wetlands that were lost when the Tahoe Keys was built in the 1960s, curving the banks of Trout Creek will also make for better fish, waterfowl and amphibian habitat.

Other projects slated under Tahoe Keys mitigation funds include a restoration effort on Angora Creek and Truckee River and erosion control projects along Pioneer Trail.

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