The League's largest community cleanup of the year is days away, and we'd love to see you there! Join our staff, partners and the #TahoeBlueGooder family for our Keep Tahoe Red, White and Blue Beach Cleanup, from 8 - 11:30am on July 5th at locations around the Lake.
Introducing Lake Link –Microtransit for the South Shore
What is it? Starting July 22, residents and visitors on Tahoe’s south shore will be able to get free, shared rides through a new, app-based, on-demand microtransit service called Lake Link, which is similar to TART Connect on the north shore. ADA-accessible vans will take you (and your bike and cooler, if you’ve got them) door-to-door in an area stretching from the casino corridor at Stateline, Nevada to the Lake Tahoe Community College/Al Tahoe neighborhood in South Lake Tahoe, along both US 50 and Pioneer Trail. The service will run 7am - 9pm, 365 days per year.
Where is it in the process? The debut of Lake Link is the culmination of a multi-year effort by the League to bring microtransit to the south shore, which started with the launch of Tahoe's first such service in 2018. Beginning in 2019, our policy experts were heavily involved in the planning stages for the Tahoe South Event Center. Through our advocacy, the Event Center is providing significant funding for Lake Link in order to minimize new traffic, parking strain and pollution that the new attraction may have generated.
In the time since, our team has stuck with it. We’ve worked through the South Shore Transportation Management Association to recruit funding from numerous private partners, create an administrative structure to get the program up and running, coordinate with the shuttle operator, secure the necessary government approvals, identify a program manager, and we made a significant financial contribution to support the service.
Today, we’re happy to share that this Lake-friendly transportation option is being delivered as the result of collaboration between nearly two dozen partners, administered by the South Shore Transportation Management Association.
What’s next?With Lake Link’s foundation in place, we’re now working to secure new funding to expand the service area, add more vans, and electrify the fleet so it’s emissions-free.
What is the League’s position?SUPPORT
Alternative transportation options allow people to get around without their personal cars, and fewer cars on Tahoe’s roads means less traffic, tailpipe emissions and pollution from overused roads harming the Lake’s water quality and clarity. Microtransit is one tool that can help alleviate Tahoe’s transportation challenges.
Climate connection:One of the League’s transportation goals is an emissions-free system for getting to and around the Basin. Our plan to electrify Lake Link is a first step to achieving that mission and minimizing the local contribution to the climate crisis.
What is it? With the goal of ensuring a safe summer on the water at Lake Tahoe, the League to Save Lake Tahoe, Clean Up The Lake and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) co-produced a video that delivers tips and resources for boaters and paddlers planning time on Big Blue.
In recent years, and even early in this summer season, Tahoe has experienced a rash of tragic, on-water accidents. Clean Up The Lake’s dive teams and TRPA’s boat crew have firsthand experience with many of Tahoe’s boating dangers. The three partners created the video to raise awareness of the Lake’s unique environmental conditions and boating rules, and promote good boating behavior – so this year is the safest yet.
Where is it in the process? The video was released to the public early this summer and has been shared with Tahoe’s marinas, rental businesses, concessionaires, and the media.
What’s next?The League and our partners are focused on sharing the video as widely as possible. For anyone planning time on Lake Tahoe this summer, we encourage you to watch the video and download the free Tahoe Boating App.
TRPA and the League developed the app to inform boaters about Lake Tahoe, the location of marinas and gas stations, area attractions, and how to enjoy the Lake safely and responsibly – including no-wake zones that are unique to this body of water. Boating at Tahoe can be daunting for first-timers and renters. Using the app is a simple way to get prepared.
What is the League’s position?SUPPORT
The app and video grew out of the 2018 Tahoe Shoreline Plan, which was developed to protect the Lake ecosystem so all recreators can enjoy it, and so they can do so without endangering themselves or others.
Climate connection:The Sierra is in the midst of a prolonged drought driven in part by climate change. As a result, Lake Tahoe’s water level this summer is low, leading to broad beaches, sandbars, and hazards in the shallows just below the surface. Being alert and prepared can help prevent accidents on the water.
An example of construction debris found by Below the Blue divers.
What is it? Waste from shoreline construction projects is a persistent but preventable source of the pollution found below Tahoe’s waterline. The nonprofit Below the Blue has removed tens of thousands of pounds of such waste during countless SCUBA dives over the past decade. The organization also tabulates data on the types, amounts and locations of debris it removes, which it then shared with the League. Our policy experts used that data to flag the issue for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), urging them to intervene and stop the illicit practice of using Lake Tahoe as a construction site dumpster.
Where is it in the process? Upon hearing the case from the League and Below the Blue, TRPA acted quickly. As of January 1, 2022, the process for securing a shoreline construction permit from TRPA requires the applicant to provide underwater visual documentation of the site prior to construction and once the project is complete.
Prior to the recent change in permit language, TRPA code prohibited the disposal of construction material in the Lake, yet the permits lacked accountability measures to ensure construction debris wasn’t discarded. Now, with a visual before and after record to reference, construction project applicants won’t be allowed to shift the blame, and trash will be kept out of Tahoe’s blue waters.
What’s next?The League, Below the Blue and TRPA will remain vigilant of shoreline projects to ensure the new permit conditions are followed, and dumping doesn’t occur. Additionally, Below the Blue is working with TRPA to identify problem areas from past and ongoing construction projects, so that pollution can also be addressed.
What is the League’s position?SUPPORT
Preserving Tahoe’s water quality and clarity demands that pollution is kept out of the Lake. The League applauds Below the Blue’s initiative and dedication to the Lake, as well as TRPA’s swift action in updating its code. The preventative action that resulted from this team effort is a recipe for the type of collaboration needed to Keep Tahoe Blue.
Climate connection:Underwater debris from construction projects is more than an eyesore. Plastic building materials can break down into microplastics that damage the Lake’s delicate ecology, threaten its wildlife, and further exacerbate other impacts from a changing climate.
Project map of the Tahoe Keys Control Methods Test.
What is it? The Tahoe Keys is ground zero for the aquatic invasive weed infestation at Tahoe, which threatens Lake Tahoe’s water quality and clarity. The Control Methods Test (CMT) is a science-based program to test a suite of treatment methods, alone and in combination, in targeted areas within the Keys. The results will provide essential information for developing a long-term strategy to address the weed infestation and stop its spread to Lake Tahoe.
Where is it in the process? In January, the CMT received unanimous approval from regulators, including water quality managers. This spring, the project began in earnest with the collection of baseline monitoring data, installation of barriers to protect water quality, and cautionary closures in test sites within the Tahoe Keys lagoons.
In early June, targeted herbicides were applied below EPA-approved label limits in dead end lagoons as part of the CMT. Initial monitoring results show they have been successful in targeting aquatic weeds as intended, without negatively impacting native plants or fish.
Other aquatic weed control tests are ongoing including UV light, as well as laminar flow aeration, for which the League is helping lead the monitoring effort.
What’s next?For the remainder of 2022 the focus of the test will be scientific monitoring to ensure all testing has been and will continue to be conducted safely and with water quality at the forefront. The project’s implementation and monitoring team will review the data collected and the process thus far to compile lessons learned. A report sharing preliminary results will be released near the end of summer.
What is the League’s position?SUPPORT
Aquatic invasive species are the single largest ecological threat to Lake Tahoe and must be put in check. The League is a supporter of the CMT because the status quo will not work for an infestation of the size and complexity as in the Keys' lagoons; because the test will help inform a long-term invasive weed control strategy; and because the test's design is firmly founded in the best available science.
Like all challenges to Tahoe’s long-term health and beauty, tackling the invasive species threat requires strong partnerships. Thus far, the CMT has shown exactly that sort of collaboration between the Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Lahontan Water Quality Control Board, and the League.
Climate connection: Climate change is creating more hospitable habitat for aquatic invasive species in Lake Tahoe. Prolonged drought lowers Tahoe’s water level, expanding areas of shallow water that warm easily and allow invasive weeds to flourish. This nutrient-rich environment may allow for the additional growth of hazardous algal blooms, which can make the water dangerous for people or pets.
A vintage postcard showing Meeks Bay and Meeks Lagoon.
What is it? The Meeks Bay Restoration Project will restore degraded habitat in Meeks Lagoon and Meeks Creek, and remove the shuttered marina, while maintaining recreation access. The overall goal of the project is to restore a functioning stream and lagoon ecosystem.
The Meeks Creek watershed, located on Lake Tahoe’s west shore, includes approximately 68 acres of severely impacted habitat. The Meeks Creek and Meeks Lagoon system once provided important habitat for native fish as well as ecosystem functions that kept fine sediment pollution out of Lake Tahoe.
In 2016, the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, US Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, and the Washoe Tribe partnered to begin work on a full restoration of the Meeks Creek watershed.
Where is it in the process? In 2018, initial work to outline the scope of an environmental study for the project was completed. In 2020, the project team shared design alternatives for the project with the public – including various options for pedestrian paths and watercraft access. Now, a Draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement (DEIR/DEIS) that evaluates the potential impacts of the project has been released for public review and comment through August 9. The DEIR/DEIS includes a designated "Preferred Alternative" for the project design. The League has helped guide the development of the DEIR/DEIS and final restoration as a member of the project’s stakeholder committee.
A separate project to control a population of aquatic invasive species in Meeks Lagoon and Meeks Creek is currently underway.
What’s next?The League will continue to be deeply involved as a project stakeholder as the DEIR/DEIS moves through the comment and review phase.
What is the League’s position?IN PROGRESS supportive
The League supports the project with the Preferred Alternative, which entails a complete ecosystem restoration and no pier. We further support the project to date as a rare opportunity for landscape-scale restoration in Tahoe, provided the final design does not include construction of a new pier or boat launch and supports aquatic invasive species prevention and control, restoration, and interpretive elements.
We are particularly supportive of removing the existing marina infrastructure, restoring Meeks Lagoon and Meeks Creek, and implementing best management practices for stormwater management.
Climate connection:Landscape-scale restoration projects, which seek to revitalize entire functioning ecosystems, build Tahoe’s resilience, allowing it to better withstand environmental shocks from climate change, such as drought and wildfire. This project is an unparalleled opportunity for restoration of an aquatic ecosystem that would help to build climate change resilience.
View from the proposed site of the Martis Valley West project onto Lake Tahoe and Northstar.
Photo: Jonathan Cook-Fisher, Flickr CC
What is it? In February of this year, California’s Third District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the League, Mountain Area Preservation and Sierra Watch (co-petitioners) in the groups' long-running effort to rein in oversized and inappropriate development in north Lake Tahoe. This major legal victory and the precedent it set will help prevent environmental impacts by developers who attempt to sidestep the Basin's regulations by placing projects just beyond the Basin's boundaries.
However, with its decision the Court weakened a requirement that developers analyze and mitigate their projects’ impacts on public safety during a wildfire evacuation. In hopes of maintaining strong wildfire safety protections, the co-petitioners asked the California Supreme Court to depublish the wildfire evacuation element of the Court of Appeal’s decision, so that developers would not be able to exploit that legal precedent as a loophole in the future.
Where is it in the process? In May, the California Supreme Court rejected the co-petitioners' request without any further justification. The League and our partners knew this was a longshot, but this crucial issue warranted the effort and expense.
What’s next? The League will continue to act as Lake Tahoe’s environmental watchdog, engaging with developers and decision makers to ensure that any proposed project, whether inside or outside the Tahoe Basin, properly mitigates any impacts it could have on Tahoe’s environmental health, clarity and quality of life.
The would-be developers of the Martis project could still appeal their court defeat to the California Supreme Court. Ideally, a land purchase agreement will be reached with the owner, so the property will be permanently protected from development.
What is the League’s position?OPPOSE
The Court of Appeals decision is now published law, meaning it can be cited in future legal actions. While the wildfire evacuation element is very disappointing, the Court’s decision as a whole is a big win for Tahoe. It will help deter developers from trying to skirt Tahoe’s strict environmental regulations by placing projects outside of the Basin.
Climate connection: The Martis Valley West Project would have generated a substantial amount of new traffic, triggering erosion and tailpipe emissions that are known to impact Lake Tahoe’s water clarity and accelerate climate change. The League focuses on combating pollution by preventing new sources of traffic and creating Lake-friendly transportation alternatives to get to and around the Tahoe Basin.
A set of alternative alignments for the Cascade to Meeks section of the trail have been released to the public. TRPA's final alignment recommendations will be made at the end of summer based on the feedback received.
Plans to redevelop this brownfield site (land previously built upon but since demolished) are likely to move through review and approval processes with the City of South Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency this summer.
A debt of gratitude
In a few days, Joanne Marchetta will step down from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency after 13 years as its Executive Director. In that time, she brought on a talented team of expert staff; reengaged TRPA in the community; worked with a wide range of private, public and nonprofit groups; and rolled out long-term strategies that are helping preserve everything Tahoe is known and loved for.
The League’s staff worked extremely closely with Joanne and TRPA during her tenure. Between our shared successes and achievements for the Basin, we have certainly had our disagreements. Yet that’s inevitable when two organizations care so deeply about this special place. We are proud that the League, TRPA, and the Tahoe community have become stronger and more resilient through working together.
Joanne, thank you for your passionate dedication, tireless service and unquestioned love for Tahoe. We know that you’ll always work to Keep Tahoe Blue.
Since the League was founded in 1957, our efforts to Keep Tahoe Blue have depended on the generosity of our members and supporters. They still do. Help us celebrate our 65th anniversary by making a donation. Thank you.