Tahoe Summit could bring good news | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe Summit could bring good news

Amanda Fehd

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / U.S. Sen. Harry Reid addresses the crowd at the Lake Tahoe Basin Restoration Forum in 2003 at Sand Harbor.

Senators from California and Nevada will meet in Tahoe on Sunday for the 2005 Lake Tahoe Summit to discuss environmental successes in the basin, as well as review what protections the lake still needs.

Water quality, fire prevention and planning will be the main topics discussed at the event, which will take place at Commons Beach in Tahoe City.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who is hosting the event this year, will make an “important announcement,” according to her press secretary, Scott Gerber. The event is often the occasion for announcing new funding opportunities for Tahoe.

Also expected to attend are Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., John Ensign, R-Nev., California Assemblyman Tim Leslie and Stephen Johnson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The yearly forum began in 1997 with the Presidential Summit, attended by President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. It kick-started Lake Tahoe’s Environmental Improvement Program, which called for more than 700 restoration projects, at the time expected to cost $908 million.

Reid, Ensign and Feinstein helped bring together the first summit.

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“Sen. Reid is hoping to get a good assessment on where we are at now,” said Tessa Hafen, Reid’s press secretary. “The summit is a good opportunity to check in on the progress that’s been made and what more still needs to be done. Sen. Reid’s biggest concern is making sure we are doing everything we possibly can for Lake Tahoe.”

Environment education center

Feinstein will also lay the cornerstone Saturday for the $24 million Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village. The long-awaited center will give a new home to scientists at UC Davis who have studied Lake Tahoe for 40 years using an old fish hatchery in Tahoe City.

The structure will be a model for green building technologies, said Geoff Schladow, director of the Tahoe Environment Research Center, formerly the Tahoe Research Group.

The center will be powered by solar energy, feeding energy back to the grid when it doesn’t use all it makes. It will be designed using passive solar design concepts, which decrease the need for lights and heat. Low-water native plants will adorn the exterior, while recycled rain and snowmelt from the roof will run its toilets. Trees removed during construction will be used for trim. Carpools and recycling will be implemented once the building is complete sometime in fall 2006.

Organizers are aiming for an elite status from the Green Building Council, hoping to receive a platinum rating, the highest, for green building design.

Schladow is looking forward to leaving the dingy labs at the fish hatchery behind and being able to expand education opportunities for students at Tahoe

“The labs that we’ll have there will be something we’ve really never had before in the Tahoe basin – we’ll have five times as much space,” Schladow said.

Feinstein supported Reid in appropriating $750,000 in federal dollars for the center. Other money came from private donors.