Trout creek project postponed |

Trout creek project postponed

Ormsby Drive residents convinced the South Lake Tahoe City Council to postpone the final phase of the Trout Creek Restoration Project.

The City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to evaluate a design alternative to keep water flowing in the existing creek channel within view of the Ormsby homes.

“We are hopeful,” said resident Pat Dinapoli. “We won a battle, but we certainly haven’t won the war.”

About 15 angry residents turned out to protest plans to move a 1,000-foot segment of the creek 300 feet away, behind bushes and out of sight.

The creek was diverted into a fairly straight channel more than 100 years ago. The restoration project, which is 90 percent complete, would redirect Trout Creek into a meandering channel designed to slow water flow and deposit sediments in a large meadow. Reducing sediment flow into Lake Tahoe is major goal of scientists working to preserve the lake’s clarity.

Residents were pleased with the city’s decision to evaluate alternative plans, including the removal of 18 pools of standing water intended to provide habitat for mosquitoes, dragonflies and other wildlife.

“We feel our city officials have finally given us the chance that we have asked for all along to come to a resolution that we can all live with without compromising the objectives of the project,” said resident Cathy Gonsalves.

City staff pointed out that the water pools are intrinsic to the project’s design. Removing them, they said, would delay construction at least a year, require new bids and potentially increase the cost of the project.

But council members were not swayed by those arguments, and questioned whether residents were fully informed about the project’s design.

“We all recognize the benefits of water quality, but I think most of us felt the residents’ concerns had not been addressed in a timely manner,” said City Councilwoman Judy Brown.

“When people come forward, and they talk about staff and the lack of trust, I think the city has a problem,” said Councilman Bill Crawford.

Homeowners said they were promised alternatives to provide some water flow in front of their houses. Project engineers and consultants determined those alternatives would compromise the project.

“I haven’t changed my feelings,” Jim Haen, president of Haen Engineering, said Tuesday night. “The design as proposed is what I recommended, and that is still the best project that meets the project objectives.”

The council directed staff to examine the cost of changing the project and identify possible sources of funding. Regulatory agencies will also be asked for input.

The City Council is set to meet again July 17. City Manager David Childs said a special meeting may be needed to resolve the Trout Creek issue because of time constraints on construction and funding.

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