Legislators pursue money for Lake Tahoe

RENO — U.S. lawmakers from California and Nevada plan to introduce legislation authorizing $390 million over the next eight years for environmental restoration efforts at Lake Tahoe.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said at the 2009 Lake Tahoe Forum last month that the money is needed for efforts to protect the lake’s clarity.

“We look out, and we see a lake that is still magnificent but a lake that is really troubled,” Feinstein said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., also are backing the effort.

Republican Reps. Dean Heller of Nevada and Tom McClintock of California are expected to back the legislation in the House.

The first Tahoe summit was held by President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore in 1997.

Money has gone to control erosion, restore streams and wetlands, and treat forests that could fuel fires.

“One major, catastrophic fire could wipe out all the work that we’ve done,” Ensign said, arguing that more thinning of overgrown stands of timber must occur, with controlled burning to follow.

Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons said fires could determine “whether future generations will enjoy this lake.”

Officials at last month’s summit also approved a management plan to control invading clams and other non-native species they said are posing a new and serious threat to Tahoe in part by spurring growth of algae that reduce’s the lake’s famed clarity.

The rate of loss of the clarity has slowed significantly since 2001.

University of California, Davis, researchers said in a report in March that the lake was clear to an average depth of nearly 70 feet in 2008, about what it has been for the past eight years.

In 1968, the lake was clear to an average depth of 102.4 feet.

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