Tahoe asks for more federal funding | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe asks for more federal funding

Gregory Crofton

A list recommending how $43 million from the federal government should be spent on the Lake Tahoe Basin’s environment provides $7 million to address wildfire danger, more than twice the amount approved last year.

The Lake Tahoe Basin Federal Advisory Committee – 20 members appointed to represent a variety of interests in the basin – will conduct a public hearing today at the North Shore to discuss its spending recommendations for 2006.

The federal government provides money to Tahoe by selling land outside of Las Vegas to developers. It has promised $300 million over eight years from those land sales to improve the basin’s environment and help restore the lake’s fading clarity.

The committee’s list of recommendations, which must be approved by the Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, calls for nearly $43 million, about $5 million more than the amount requested and approved last year.

The $7 million to address wildfire danger would be a $4 million increase over last year and include $485,000 for scientific research on fire behavior and its affect on water quality.

“We had been planning to fund a higher percent of forest projects but they weren’t there,” said Betsy Julian, an earth science teacher at Lake Tahoe Community College and chairwoman of the federal advisory committee. “It is considered one of our highest priorities.”

Forest projects typically require a lot of planning and environmental study before on-the-ground work can be done. And since this is only the second year Tahoe is eligible to receive funding for environmental improvement work from the South Nevada Public Lands Management Act, many forest thinning projects are still in the planning process.

“I think the whole community would feel better if there were more projects to do,” said Andrew Strain, a vice president at Heavenly Mountain Resort who serves on the federal advisory committee representing economic and recreation interests at South Shore. “But planning and environmental analysis, those two processes have to happen first, and (the Forest Service) had been squeezed frankly until they had this money.”

Strain added that completing scientific research projects related to fire and forest management is also key to speeding up the planning process.

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com

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