Bill extends commitment to Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Basin
November 3, 2009
Washington, DC – Nevada Senator Harry Reid, along with Senators Dianne Feinstein, John Ensign and Barbara Boxer today introduced sweeping legislation to protect Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Basin from a variety of serious threats. Congressman Dean Heller introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives today along with support from Congresswomen Shelley Berkley and Dina Titus and Congressman Tom McClintock.
The legislation would authorize projects to combat invasive species, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, restore Lake Tahoe’s water clarity, and protect threatened species and wildlands. It would continue and strengthen the work begun under the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2000, ensuring that the work of protecting Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Basin continues without interruption.
“This bill is a testament to the incredible level of commitment that people in and around Lake Tahoe have to this spectacular resource,” Reid said. “When I brought President Clinton and Vice President Gore to Lake Tahoe in 1997 we set some ambitious goals for restoring the health of Lake Tahoe and the Lake Tahoe Basin. Since that time, we have made great progress. And today, with this Act, we are making it clear that we will continue our nation’s commitment to protecting and restoring this jewel of the Sierras.”
“Lake Tahoe is a national treasure, but we could easily lose it -- and lose it quickly -- if we don’t take robust action,” Senator Feinstein said. “Invasive species, such as the quagga mussel, could literally devastate Lake Tahoe and deliver a body blow to the regional economy. Wildfires could easily spiral out of control and destroy the Basin. One-quarter of the forest in the Basin is dead, downed and dying trees, and removing these hazardous fuels must be a top priority. And we must redouble efforts to block sedimentation and pollution from degrading Lake Tahoe’s fabled water clarity. With today’s legislation, we can rise to these challenges and ensure the survival of the ‘Jewel of the Sierra,’ now and for future generations.”
“Words fail to describe the beauty that is Lake Tahoe,” said Ensign. “The crisp blue water and cool clear air make Lake Tahoe a truly one-of-a-kind national jewel that lures people from all over the world to its waters. Unfortunately, the beauty of the lake faces a number of environmental threats that risk diluting its famous clarity. Invasive species and sediment in the lake have the potential to ruin the very beauty that makes it unique, but catastrophic wildfires remain its biggest threat.
“The efforts that we have introduced to protect the clarity and beauty of Lake Tahoe have made noticeable improvements over the years. This new legislation will continue those efforts so that we can limit threats to the lake and ensure that its clarity remains a hallmark of Lake Tahoe for future generations to come.”
Senator Boxer said, “California is defined by its environment and Lake Tahoe is one of our most magnificent treasures. This legislation builds on a decade of work to restore Lake Tahoe and will further improve water clarity, reduce the threat of wildfires, and stop harmful invasive species.”
“Anyone who has been to Lake Tahoe understands why it is important we protect the natural beauty of the lake for future generations. Preventing catastrophic wildfires, increasing lake clarity, and investing in critical infrastructure is vital to the long-term ecological health of the Tahoe Basin. I am honored to join members of the California and Nevada delegation in our continued efforts to protect Lake Tahoe,” said Heller.
“I am proud to cosponsor this comprehensive bill that renews and enhances our investment in protecting Lake Tahoe for future generations. As a member of Nevada’s Congressional delegation, I have worked over the past decade to secure needed resources and added protections for this magnificent natural wonder that is known around the world for its stunning beauty. These efforts are a model of what can be done when federal, state, and local governments work together with members of the community and native tribes to protect Lake Tahoe’s environment and to preserve its rich and unique history,” said Berkley.
“Lake Tahoe is a majestic treasure that is a source of pride for all Nevadans,” Congresswoman Dina Titus said. “As such, its protection is critical as are efforts to restore the pristine environment that attracts visitors from around the world to its shore. This legislation will build on past efforts to preserve Lake Tahoe for generations to come.”
“The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2009 makes important strides towards fire protection and pest control of the quagga mussel – goals that are vital to protecting the people, the economy and the environment of this region,” said McClintock.
The legislation introduced today is the successor to the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2000, which was introduced by Senators Feinstein, Reid, Boxer and then-Senator Richard Bryan (D-NV). That legislation led to major investments in the environmental health of the Tahoe Basin, including $424 million by the federal government, $612 million by the state of California, $87 million by the state of Nevada, $59 million by local governments, and $249 million in in-kind contributions from the private sector.
These investments made these, and many other, efforts possible:
- Fuels reduction treatment of 33,549 acres, including 12,256 acres treated since 2006;
- Wildlife habitat improvements on 13,927 acres of land, including 477 acres treated since 2006; and
- Acquisition of 3,092 acres of sensitive land; improvements to 416 miles of roadways to prevent sediment from entering the lake; and restoration of 800 acres of stream environment zones.
Summary of the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act Reauthorization Act of 2009
The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2009 authorizes $415 million over eight years to combat invasive species, improve water clarity, reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire, and restore the environment. It is supported by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce, the California Tahoe Conservancy, the League to Save Lake Tahoe, the Tahoe Area Sierra Club, Trout Unlimited, the Trust for Public Lands and the Tahoe area fire chiefs.
Key components include:
- Authorizing $248 million over eight years for the highest priority restoration projects, according to scientific data. The legislation authorizes at least $72 million for storm water management and watershed restoration projects that are crucial to improving water clarity. This legislation also requires a prioritized ranking of environmental restoration projects, and authorizes $136 million for Lake Tahoe stakeholders to implement these priority projects. Priority projects will improve water quality, forest health, air quality and fish and wildlife habitat around Lake Tahoe.
- Reducing the threat of wildfire in the Tahoe Basin. The legislation authorizes $136 million over eight years for hazardous fuels reduction projects to be conducted by the U.S. Forest Service and local fire agencies. Also, it would authorize up to $10 million for U.S. Forest Service fuels projects that have multiple environmental benefits, with an emphasis on restoring stream environment zones. Finally, it would create incentives for local communities to adopt more fire-resistant building codes, and to have dedicated funding for defensible space inspections and enforcement.
- Protecting Lake Tahoe from the threat of quagga mussels and other invasive species. The bill authorizes $20.5 million for watercraft inspections and removal of existing invasive species. It would also prohibit watercraft that have had contact with quagga or zebra mussel-infested waters from entering waters in the Tahoe Basin. One quagga or zebra mussel can lay 1 million eggs in a year. This means that a single boat carrying quagga could devastate local recreation, infrastructure, and ecosystems. The damage that could be inflicted at Lake Tahoe by a quagga infestation has been estimated in the tens of millions of dollars annually. Only about 1.5 percent of boats that have been inspected in Lake Tahoe would be prohibited from entering the lake, according to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. The bill would require that all other watercraft be inspected and decontaminated to prevent the introduction of invasive aquatic species. Boats that can show they have not launched elsewhere since their last launch at Lake Tahoe can be exempted from decontamination requirements.
- Supporting the reintroduction of the Lahontan cutthroat trout. The legislation authorizes $20 million over eight years for the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout Recovery Plan. The Lahontan cutthroat trout is an iconic native species with an important historic legacy in Lake Tahoe. These fish have been known to grow to 40 pounds or more. Recovery efforts at Lake Tahoe are critical to the full recovery of the species.
- Funding Scientific Research. The legislation authorizes $30 million over eight years for scientific programs and research to produce information on long-term trends in the Tahoe Basin.
- Withdrawing Lake Tahoe from Mineral Entry. Under the legislation, the Lake Tahoe basin is withdrawn from mineral entry, thereby preserving the area’s existing ecosystem values.
- Increasing accountability and oversight. All projects funded by this legislation will have monitoring and assessment built into the project design. This will make it possible over time to select the most effective projects and best management practices for the Basin. The legislation also requires annual reports to Congress detailing the status of all projects undertaken, including scope, budget, justification and overall expenditures and accomplishments.
- Providing for public outreach and education. The legislation requires signage on federally financed projects to improve public awareness of restoration efforts. In addition, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency will conduct a public outreach and education program to encourage Basin residents and visitors to implement defensible space, best management practices for water quality, and to prevent the introduction and proliferation of invasive species.
- Allowing for increased efficiency in the management of public land. Under this legislation, the Forest Service will have increased flexibility to exchange land with Nevada and California in order to allow for more cost-effective management of public lands found scattered throughout the Basin’s residential communities. Currently, the Forest Service manages more than 3,280 urban parcels. Nevada and California own and manage an additional 5,150 urban forested lots.