Wet winter may not be good news for lake clarity, scientists say | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Wet winter may not be good news for lake clarity, scientists say

Amanda Fehd

One thing bad storms bring to Tahoe is soil erosion. And that’s a dirty word here because it means the lake won’t be so blue for a little while.

It may take a little more than a year to know the overall impacts to Lake Tahoe’s clarity from the series of New Year’s storms that pummeled the region with 11 inches of rain. Many believe it won’t be good.

“Almost certainly it will have a negative impact, (but) it’s going to be hard to tell how much of an impact,” said Michael Hogan, a soil scientist with Integrated Environmental Restoration. His firm focuses on restoring areas with disturbed soils, like ski resorts and road cuts, in order to prevent future erosion.

Yearly weather patterns have always had an affect on lake clarity. Rain and snowmelt can cause soil erosion, but it also washes pollution out of the air and into the lake, a process scientists call “atmospheric deposition.”

“When it rains, more particulates are getting washed from the air,” said Geoff Schladow, a scientist with UC Davis who measures the lake’s clarity throughout the year. “In the past, the effect of wet winters has been to decrease the clarity.”

Much of the $600 million spent so far on environmental improvements in the Lake Tahoe Basin have gone to erosion control projects along roads and public lands.

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