Wetland project moving along | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Wetland project moving along

Bulldozers leveled land Thursday along the Upper Truckee River to connect its watershed to a wetland being created.

The 11-acre area, east of the Tahoe Keys Marina, began to look like the open wetland it will become as machinery excavated dirt and plucked willows and grasses from the west bank of the river.

The restoration project is part of the Environmental Improvement Program, a 1997 initiative meant to preserve the clarity of Lake Tahoe. The project so far has cost the California Tahoe Conservancy $5.5 million.

The majority of the construction will be completed by October, but the wetland will take several years to establish. It takes time because the Upper Truckee watershed has to be introduced slowly to restored area.

On Thursday, and earlier in the week, three sections of a dirt berm that separates the wetland from the Upper Truckee River were excavated. Contractors dug out about 800 linear feet of soil from sections of the berm closest to the river.

Large water-filled plastic bags will be placed near the river so it doesn’t flood the wetland. A damming-effect provided by the bags is expected to allow seeds and vegetation planted in the excavated area to take root.

Most of that vegetation will come from berm, where contractors pulled plants with care so they could transplanted. Water trucks will spray the vegetation until it goes back into the ground.

To ensure all the dirt moving for the project doesn’t impact the lake, the contractor installed silt fencing along the river bank and floated turbidity curtains in the river.

“It’s a double line of defense,” said Carol Schupbach, construction coordinator at Entrix, a firm overseeing work at the site. “Actually, it’s a triple line of defense because the contractors are being extra careful.”

Work is also nearly complete on a 2,000-foot path that replaces a dirt trail along the west side of the Upper Truckee, known as Cove East, popular with walkers and bicyclists. The old path closed Monday. The new path will open Saturday. Where it ends, the old trail, which leads to the lake, resumes.

The new path, 12-feet wide, was scheduled to open Wednesday, but a bonding agent used to stabilize it took longer to dry than expected, said Brian Wilkinson, project manager for the Conservancy.

“For a while it was kind of spongy so we didn’t want to allow bicycle or foot traffic,” Wilkinson said. “Everybody has been really cooperative and understanding.”

The restored wetland is part of more than 500 acres of land east of the marina owned and managed by the state of California, Tahoe Conservancy. The 500-acre area, along with the Tahoe Keys, were once part of a wetland that ran from Pope Beach to Al Tahoe Boulevard.

In addition to recreating the wetland, the Conservancy is also starting to look at restoring part of the Upper Truckee in the same area.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com

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