Tahoe’s largest wetland restoration wraps up construction after 3 years | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe’s largest wetland restoration wraps up construction after 3 years

Submitted to the Tribune
The N. Upper Truckee marsh in Dec. 2021.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Major construction is complete for the multi-year Upper Truckee Marsh Restoration project, Lake Tahoe’s largest ever wetland restoration, the California Tahoe Conservancy announced Monday. 

The Conservancy has completed steps to repair damage caused by 20th century development, restoring and enhancing hundreds of acres of wetland habitat. A new trail offers improved access for all to experience and enjoy the lake’s shoreline. 

“As the largest wetland restoration project in the Lake Tahoe Basin, this is a remarkable accomplishment,” said California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot. “Restoring this wetland will help keep Tahoe waters clean, provide great habitat for fish and wildlife, and be one more beautiful place we can all visit.”

The Upper Truckee marsh in May 2022.

Begun in June 2020, key features of the project include:

  • New stream channels in the center of the marsh will divert some of the Upper Truckee River’s water when river levels are high. The channels spread water across more than 200 acres of wetland that had been left dry when developers straightened the river decades ago. 
  • 12 acres of new wetlands replace an area that developers dredged and filled in the 1950s and 60s for a never-completed condominium complex. During high flows, the river will spread out over 70,000 new wetland plants. These new wetlands will provide critical wildlife habitat and filter pollutants before entering Lake Tahoe. 
  • A new trail to Lake Tahoe that skirts around the 12 acres of new wetlands, with a hardened, unpaved surface. The fully accessible shared-use trail runs approximately a half mile from the east end of Venice Drive to a beach at the Lake. 
The N. Upper Truckee marsh in Aug. 2022.

“It’s so exciting to see this project completed, despite the disruptions of the pandemic and wildfire evacuations, along with the challenges any project this size would face,” said El Dorado County Supervisor and Conservancy Board Chair Sue Novasel. “I’m grateful to our partners who helped us keep this project on track, and look forward to seeing the benefits of the restoration for years to come.” 

The Conservancy designed the restoration to produce multiple benefits for wildlife, climate resilience, and equitable public access. The restoration makes the wetland habitat more resilient to droughts and extreme storms that are increasingly common under climate change. Functioning wetlands act as a natural filter for water, trapping fine sediments that would otherwise flow into Lake Tahoe. Healthy wetlands also store more carbon than impaired wetlands. 

The Conservancy will monitor the project to track how the restoration acts as a nature-based solution to climate change. Returning river flows to the Marsh enriches native fish and bird habitat, fostering biodiversity. The new trail’s hardened surface, composed of native decomposed granite, makes it easier for people using wheelchairs, strollers, and bicycles to access the marsh and shoreline.

No restoration project ever truly ends. The Conservancy will continue work in the coming years to establish new wetland plants, monitor the project area, and maintain the restoration elements and new trail. In addition, the Conservancy expects to return in the future for further restoration across the 560 acres of wetlands that make up the marsh. The Conservancy and its partners also continue to advance complementary restoration projects upstream along the Upper Truckee River, which is the largest tributary to Lake Tahoe. 

Funders and project partners included the California Wildlife Conservation Board, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the U.S. Geologic Survey. Other key partners include the California Department of General Services, Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, Meyers Earthwork Inc., Northwest Hydraulic Consultants Inc., Western Botanical Services Inc., Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, and Tahoe Resource Conservation District.

Source: Tahoe Conservancy

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