Upper Truckee recomended for federal status | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Upper Truckee recomended for federal status

There are still several layers of government to go through before it happens, but officials have recommended seven miles of the Upper Truckee River for inclusion into the National Wild and Scenic River System.

The U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and Tahoe National Forest last week announced the completion of a joint Record of Decision, which recommends two eastern Sierra rivers for inclusion.

Officials are asking for a wild classification for the upper half of the 14-mile Upper Truckee River on Lake Tahoe’s south shore. The Forest Service also is proposing eight miles of Sagehen Creek, near Truckee, for a scenic designation.

“We are very pleased to recommend these rivers as part of the National Wild and Scenic River System,” said Steve Eubanks, forest supervisor of the Tahoe National Forest. “Both rivers provide unique waterways not traditionally associated with a wild or scenic river.”

The process to identify these rivers started in the early 1990s, when officials assessed more than 30 Sierra rivers to determine if they had the characteristics necessary for eligibility as wild, scenic or recreation rivers. Out of the original rivers studied, eight were determined to be eligible, and a final Environmental Impact Statement was issued last year.

The Record of Decision stated that, based on the analysis of the final EIS, the other six rivers were not eligible for inclusion.

The river recommendations now will be forwarded to the chief of the Forest Service, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and then to Congress. Formal wild and scenic status requires Congressional designation.

The eligible part of the South Shore river is a segment from Carson Pass to south of Upper Truckee Road.

“The Upper Truckee River has a special mix of recreation, scenic and historic values that are all considered Outstandingly Remarkable,” states the Record of Decision. “The largest watershed feeding Lake Tahoe, it has scenic land forms, attractive meadows and easy access, attracting various backcountry users.”

The area to be designated has not been developed. It includes the Meiss cabin, built in 1878, which is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The cabin is preserved and currently used, and cattle graze the area.

“The cabin is unique in that it has been maintained over the years so one can see an intact working-ranch cabin instead of remnants of an old historic cabin,” the document states. “In addition to these values, self-sustaining populations of Lahontan cutthroat trout and highly valued early summer deer fawning habitat provide for special natural values which are also identified as (Outstandingly Remarkable) values.”

Recreational designations can be logged and have major highways nearby. Scenic designations can have some low-key roads, campgrounds and logging nearby. A wild designation will stop any new road development and cannot be in an area currently having many roads, logging projects or campgrounds.

Designations – wild, scenic or recreational – will not affect property rights along the river because the area is within National Forest land. The cattle grazing could continue with the wild designation.

The Forest Service currently is looking at amending its grazing rules, and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency recently adopted a grazing ordinance. Parts of the area may later have to be fenced to comply with new regulations. However, that action is consistent with wild river management.

Sagehen Creek includes unique plants, special geologic formations, unique water chemistry that supports two types of endangered species, a natural assemblage of native fisheries, unique wildlife values and historic logging values eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

“The stream clearly is the best candidate as a representative stream for the eastside Sierra Nevada,” the report states.

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