Symposium Day 1: Recap |

Symposium Day 1: Recap

Andy Bourelle

Word for the day: Collaboration.

Scientists and local, state and federal officials converged Tuesday on Kings Beach to discuss environmental research and the preservation of the clarity of Lake Tahoe, focusing on the importance of working together in the effort.

More than 200 people attended Day 1 of the first Lake Tahoe Basin Research Symposium. The conference continues today.

“We will fail if we don’t adopt a team approach,” said Kevin Smith, vice chancellor for research of the University of California, Davis, in his opening remarks.

More than 15 researchers spoke briefly during the daylong symposium, updating other scientists on their progress.

Charles Goldman, UC Davis scientist who has researched Lake Tahoe for decades, said he felt everyone was committed to collaborating to save the lake’s clarity.

“Everybody is going to lose … if Tahoe’s decline continues well into the next century,” Goldman said. “I think it’s our joint responsibility to stop that.”

Resulting from the 1997 Presidential Summit at Lake Tahoe, the symposium was expected to be a basis for setting direction for further collaboration on research activities.

However, John Warwick, a researcher for the University of Nevada, Reno, said all the agencies need to increase collaboration efforts rather than talk about doing it.

“I love collaboration. I would love to see us move from the rhetoric of collaboration to the reality of collaboration … if we are going to do it, we need to start doing it now,” he said.

A way to measure whether the symposium was a success, Warwick said, is to see if those collaborative efforts are more apparent at future symposia.

“If that happens, we’ll have been successful here in really putting the reality in the rhetoric of collaboration,” Warwick said.

Some topics addressed at symposium included:

n Summer research has reinforced the belief that two-cycle, corroborated engines contribute significantly more gasoline to the water than other types of watercraft, according to UNR scientist Glenn Miller.

Miller reported that UNR, with the help of other agencies, tested two-stroke and other types of engines at the Tahoe Keys over the summer.

Two-stroke Jet Ski engines dumped “across the board” more pollutants, meaning all constituents of gasoline: MTBE, benzene, toluene and more.

“The two-stroke, corroborated, 15 hp engine was the absolute dirtiest,” he said.

About one-third of the gasoline in a two-stroke engine is not burned and is released, either into the water or into the air.

Studies also revealed that gasoline pollutants found in the lake also correlate with the summer boating months.

“It’s a seasonal phenomenon,” he said. “It goes up during boating season then goes down after Labor Day.”

Also, according to Miller, the past summer’s research on the pollution from two-stroke and other engines was a perfect example of collaboration.

In addition to UNR, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, UC Davis TRG, U.S. Geological Survey, Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, Nevada Division of State Parks, the California Air Resources Board and the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection were involved with research of watercraft engines at the Tahoe Keys.

n UC Davis Researcher Alan Hayvaert spoke on the topic of Reconstruction of Lake and Watershed History.

Using sediment cores from several sites in the lake, Hayvaert said, researchers have been able to determine what Lake Tahoe’s clarity was prior to monitoring that began about 40 years ago.

Based on the sediment samples, he said sedimentation of the lake “took off with a vengeance” during the Comstock period in the late 1800s. Around 1960, with rapid urbanization, sedimentation again accelerated.

However, between those periods, the clarity returned to almost what it had been pre-Comstock.

“The lake essentially recovered from the disturbance during the logging period,” he said.

n Alan Jassby, researcher for UC Davis, spoke about the Bio-statistical Evaluation of Long-term Lake Clarity Record.

Saying that all benefits from erosion-control efforts will have to be determined over a long period of time, many benefits will become apparent quickly.

“I think the measures we take to lower erosion rates will show up relatively quickly,” he said.

n Tom Cahill, UC Davis researcher, addressed Historical Trends, Sources and Current Status of Air Quality in the Tahoe Basin, explaining that pollution from California is the major problem in the summer. However, local pollution appears to be the major source in the winter.

Additionally, although the presence of most pollutants has decreased in the last 20 years, the presence of ozone has increased.

“It’s the only (place) in California, I can find, that had a rise in the concentration of ozone,” he said.

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