INCLINE VILLAGE — The progress made in improving water clarity and the environment at Lake Tahoe should be “the symbol” for the rest of the world in the effort to reduce the effects of global warming, former Vice President Al Gore said Monday.
Gore told a crowd of about 800 gathered at the Sand Harbor State Park for the 17th annual Lake Tahoe Summit that the alpine lake has improved since he and President Clinton were here in 1997, and said that there is a feeling of hope rather than despair about the lake’s future.
While he praised those efforts, Gore was also on the attack, blaming global warming for increased floods and wild fires and blasting nations that pollute the atmosphere, treating it like an “open sewer.”
Almost as if scripted, smoke blown Monday over the lake from the 14,000-acre “American Fire” about 30 miles west of Lake Tahoe prevented Gore and others from catching a clear view of the lake and sky. From the state park, a popular beach area, the south end of the lake was not visible because of the haze and gloomy weather that included patches of rain.
At times during his half-hour speech, the passionate Gore seemed almost to shout about global warming, citing statistics about its increase. He showed that he has lost none of the zeal he displayed in “An Inconvenient Truth,” his 2006 documentary that won an Academy Award.
“How long will it take us to say we should do something?” he asked.
While Gore and others noted that the clarity of Lake Tahoe is improving, he said that may be due to two years of drought that has meant a reduced amount of sediments have been washed into the water. Once the rains return, Gore said, the clarity could drop unless other steps are taken to improve the environment.
The annual Tahoe summit looks at the state of the lake’s environment. Since the presidential summit 16 years ago, about $1.7 billion has been spent by the states of California and Nevada, the federal government and private business to improve the lake and surrounding areas.
This year’s summit was coordinated by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and attendees included California Gov. Jerry Brown, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. and Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nevada.
Sandoval and Brown announced that they have agreed on a plan to continue to work cooperatively in fighting wildfires in the Tahoe region.
Sandoval also pledged his support for continuing the improvements to the environment: “We understand what we have and what is needed for the future.”
During the forum, Brown said the states have a moral obligation to leave Lake Tahoe in better shape for future generations. He noted it was two Republican governors, Nevada’s Paul Laxalt and California’s Ronald Reagan, who approved the first bi-state agreements in 1969 to bring order to growth around the lake.
Reid, Feinstein and other senators have announced plans to introduce a new Lake Tahoe Restoration Act to provide $415 million in funds over the next 10 years. The money would be used to reduce invasive species, improve water clarity, mitigate the threat of fires and restore the environment.
About $300 million of the funds to carry out Lake Tahoe improvement projects have come from the sale of public lands in the Las Vegas Valley.
Feinstein noted Monday that while Senate Majority Leader Reid can gain the support to pass the bill through the Democrat Senate, backers will “need help” to win approval in the Republican House of Representatives.
In a brief news conference following two hours of speeches, Reid said the bill has a “wide range” of support and that improving the environment at Lake Tahoe is not a partisan issue.