Washington, DC - Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a bipartisan measure, co-sponsored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, to advance the restoration of Lake Tahoe. The measure authorizes projects aimed at addressing several of the issues facing the Lake today, including invasive species, wildfires, and the restoration of Lake Tahoe's water clarity. S. 2724, the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2010 was introduced by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) with Senator Boxer, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Senator John Ensign (R-NV). The measure now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
Senator Boxer said: "I am pleased that this bipartisan bill to protect one of our most magnificent treasures, Lake Tahoe, has passed today through my committee. The Lake is emblematic of the beauty of California, and is also a major tourist attraction important to both California and Nevada. We need to do all we can to protect its famous crystal clear waters for our children and grandchildren. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move this legislation through the full Senate."
S. 2724, the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2010 is aimed at advancing the environmental restoration and forest management activities of the Lake Tahoe Basin. It helps ensure Lake Tahoe will continue to provide economic, recreational and ecological benefits for generations to come by authorizing projects to address several issues, including invasive species, wildfires, and restoring and maintaining the Lake's water clarity. The measure would continue and strengthen efforts begun under the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2000.
The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2010 authorizes $415 million over eight years. It is supported by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the California Tahoe Conservancy, the League to Save Lake Tahoe, the Tahoe area fire chiefs, and the Governors of California and Nevada.
Summary of S. 2724:
Restoring Water Quality and Clarity. The legislation authorizes $136 million for the highest priority restoration projects that are selected based on the best available science and the contribution to achievement of water quality, forest health, air quality and fish and wildlife habitat around Lake Tahoe. The bill also authorizes at least $72 million for storm water management and watershed restoration projects that are crucial to improving water clarity.
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, including up to $10 million for projects that have multiple environmental benefits, with an emphasis on restoring stream environment zones. The bill would also create incentives for local communities to adopt practices to reduce wildfire risk.
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.
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.
Scientific Research. The legislation authorizes $30 million over eight years for scientific programs and research to produce information on the health of the Tahoe Basin.
Prohibiting mining operations in the Tahoe Basin. The legislation would prevent mining operations in the Basin, which could pollute the fragile watershed and threaten Lake Tahoe's water clarity.
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.
Public outreach and education. The bill promotes directs the Federal agencies to coordinate with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency on public outreach and education that encourage Basin residents and visitors to implement fire risk reduction practices, best management practices for water quality, and efforts to prevent the introduction and proliferation of invasive species.
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.