Continued partnerships, funding key to progress at Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe, Stateline, NV — At the 18th annual Lake Tahoe Summit on August 19, California and Nevada officials and members of the two states’ federal delegation touted the success of efforts to restore and protect the Jewel of the Sierra Nevada.

But they also emphasized the need for continued collaboration among more than 50 local, state and federal partner agencies and the nonprofit and private sectors, as well as a need for funding to keep momentum going.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) hosted the summit at the U.S. Forest Service’s Tallac Historic Site.

Feinstein called on Congress to adopt a $415 million reauthorization of the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act, legislation she and other speakers at summithave introduced and cosponsored in the Senate and House of Representatives, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senator Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) and John Garamendi (D-Calif.).

“There’s nothing more important to the long-term health of Northern California and Northern Nevada than the pristine nature of this lake,” Heller said during his remarks at the summit.

Reauthorization of the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act would pay for “projects focused on water quality, stormwater management, invasive species protection, hazardous fuels mitigation and wildfire prevention projects, and for research to ensure we implement only the smartest, most cost-effective projects,” Feinstein said.

Following the first Lake Tahoe Summit in 1997, approximately $1.7 billion in federal, state, local and private sector money has been spent on efforts to restore and protect Lake Tahoe through the Environmental Improvement Program. The total includes $576 million in federal funding, $655 million in California funding, $113 million in Nevada funding, $74 million in local funding, and $323 million in private sector funding.

“That last figure is very important. We know government money is in short supply. Having the private sector step up and lead the way helps us achieve government dollars and provides a unique sense of power and achievement in what we are trying to do,” Feinstein said.

The Lake Tahoe Environmental Improvement Program has helped stabilize mid-lake clarity, installed erosion control measures on 674 miles of roadways, treated more than 55,690 acres of hazardous fuels, restored 20,000 acres of wildlife habitat, improved public shoreline access, and built 137 miles of new bicycle and pedestrian routes.

“Our public-private partnership has made a difference,” Feinstein said.

While progress has been made, Lake Tahoe continues to face a number of threats. They include nearshore water quality degradation, the introduction and spread of invasive species, wildfire, drought, climate change, and looming funding shortfalls for programs trying to tackle those and other issues, speakers at the Lake Tahoe Summit said.

“The summit keeps us focused on what we’ve been able to do, on our progress and accomplishments we’ve been able to achieve through collaboration. But at the same time, we have to face a stark reality that the progress we’ve seen can’t be assumed in the future without securing new money, new sources of funding to keep our momentum going,” said Joanne Marchetta, Executive Directorof Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

“The hard work of the partnership of the last year and into the future is going to be coming together around imagining and securing new sources of funding to keep progress going. We can’t assume the activities we see today will continue without it.”

The summit’s keynote speaker, California Governor Jerry Brown, discussed the challenge of crafting a new state water bond. He touted stakeholders’ ability to overcome their differences and find common ground for the $7.5 billion measure that will appear on the November ballot.

“A break down can pave the way for a break through. That’s true of the water bond and true of Lake Tahoe,” Brown said. “We have to understand through science what’s going on, and through collaboration, how to manage it.”

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval said he’s confident California and Nevada and dozens of partner agencies are “more engaged than ever” to work together to restore and protect Lake Tahoe. “I want to make sure we leave a legacy so future generations look back and see what we did. Because what we do today, these decisions we make, are going to be the ones that are the foundation for what happens to this lake in the future,” he said.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency leads the cooperative effort to preserve, restore, and enhance the unique natural and human environment of the Lake Tahoe Region, while improving local communities, and people’s interactions with our irreplaceable environment. For additional information, call Tom Lotshaw, Public Information Officer, at 775-589-5278.

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