February 24, 2010
Washington, DC – Nevada Senator Harry Reid today testified at a hearing held by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in support of the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2009. Reid is the lead sponsor of the legislation. Nevada Senator John Ensign, and California Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are original cosponsors. The 2009 Restoration Act is designed to continue the ongoing effort to protect Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Basin from invasive species and devastating wildfires, while restoring Lake Tahoe’s water clarity and protecting threatened species and wildlands. Reid organized the first Lake Tahoe Summit in 1997, helped pass the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2000, and has led efforts to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars to the Lake Tahoe Basin for restoration and forest work. Reid’s prepared remarks for the record are included below.
“Chairman Boxer, Chairman Cardin, Ranking Member Inhofe, and Ranking Member Crapo, thank you for having us here today to talk about Lake Tahoe, one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
“I also want to thank Senator Feinstein and Senator Ensign for their dedication to the Lake Tahoe Basin. We are all here today, Chairman Boxer, because Lake Tahoe is both a natural wonder and a critical part of our states’ economies. According to a study published in 2008, more than 23,000 people living in the Lake Tahoe region are employed by the tourism industry there. Those same people earn more than $1.8 billion in income from tourism and tourism-supported jobs.
“Since 1997, when we held the first Lake Tahoe Summit, incredible strides have been made in restoring the health of the Lake Tahoe Basin. I am so proud of what we have been able to accomplish: major forest restoration is underway, fuel breaks have been developed around many neighborhoods, marshes and wetlands have been re-established, and the mighty Lahontan cutthroat trout will soon return to the lake. Over the last 13 years we have made Lake Tahoe a model for how to bring together local, state and federal resources in the interest of protecting and restoring a real national treasure.
“Today we ask for your partnership in continuing this work in and around Lake Tahoe. When the first Lake Tahoe Restoration Act passed in 2000 we had two primary goals in mind. First, we sought to put a stop to and reverse the severe decline in the lake’s water clarity. Second, we wanted to get high priority hazardous fuels and watershed restoration efforts underway. We have made progress in both of these areas but still have more work to do. The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2009 makes sure that this critical work will continue.
“But this legislation does much more than carry existing programs forward. This legislation makes science a priority, calls for better management of public lands in the Lake Tahoe Basin and takes aggressive action against threats that were simply unthinkable ten years ago. Most notably, quagga and zebra mussels pose a grave danger to the Lake Tahoe ecosystem. If these invasive mollusks make their way into Lake Tahoe’s water network, much of work will be for naught. As the residents of the Great Lakes region know all too well, when quagga and zebra mussels invade, beaches get coated with a sharp crust of shells, native fish and plant populations get outcompeted for basic nutrients, and almost anything that comes into contact with the water gets covered with or clogged by mussel shells.
“Let me share one small anecdote with you that demonstrates the size of the threat to Lake Tahoe and the economies of Nevada and California. Quagga mussels were first discovered in Lake Mead, in southern Nevada, in January 2007. Now, just a few years later, scientists estimate that more than 3 trillion – yes, TRILLION - quagga mussels are in the lake.
“In order to keep Lake Tahoe from suffering a similar fate, this legislation includes $20 million to support an unprecedented watercraft inspection program. The new inspection regime will take some getting used to, but it is absolutely necessary if we want Lake Tahoe, and Lake Tahoe’s economy, to remain vibrant and healthy.
“Before I conclude my remarks I would like to take a moment to applaud the federal employees, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the counties, the towns, the businesses and the non-profit organizations that come together to protect this majestic corner of the West. We have a partnership at Lake Tahoe that works. We have demonstrated over the past decade that we know how to pair federal funding with state and private resources to achieve results. What we are asking now is a renewed commitment to Lake Tahoe and for the resources to restore and protect this national treasure for decades to come.
“Thank you again for holding this hearing. I hope that the Committee will be able to pass the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act expeditiously, and I look forward to working with you to enact the bill in the near future.”
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