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Keep Tahoe Blue Advocacy Updates
As this unusual summer rolls along, the League's advocacy work continues uninterrupted.

Important Tahoe projects and plans are advancing, and our policy and science experts are involved every step of the way. This e-newsletter will catch you up on several crucial plans the League is engaged with, including proposals to:

  • Address the infestation of aquatic weeds in the Tahoe Keys
  • Improve traffic and parking on the west shore
  • Restore critical habitat at Meeks Bay

Our work, including multi-faceted efforts to tackle invasive species and advance restoration of the Tahoe ecosystem , would not be possible without the support of people like you.

Please give today and help us Keep Tahoe Blue for generations to come. Thank you.
Tahoe Keys Aquatic Weed Control Methods Test
What is it? The Tahoe Keys are ground zero for the largest infestation of aquatic weeds in Lake Tahoe. These aquatic invaders are a threat to the Lake’s delicate ecology, including its native plants and animals, and its water quality and clarity. Current methods for controlling aquatic weeds are not adequate to address the decades-old problem in the Tahoe Keys lagoons, which are 90% full of weeds. This animated story map provides a glimpse into the scope and severity of the problem in the Keys.

The League to Save Lake Tahoe has been at the forefront of efforts to tackle the invasive species threat for over a decade, and since 2013 we have worked alongside the Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association to control the spread of aquatic weeds to the rest of the Lake. That includes working closely with other stakeholders through several committees (formal and informal) to arrive at the current iteration of the Tahoe Keys Lagoons Aquatic Weed Control Methods Test ( CMT). The CMT is a coordinated effort to identify, assess then test a combination of treatments in specific sites within the Tahoe Keys. 
Where is it in the process? A thorough analysis that evaluates the potential environmental impacts of the CMT has just been released. The result of this extensive process is the Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Review (DEIS/DEIR). This document is currently available for public review and comment.
What's next? During the 60-day public comment period, any member of the public can send in their comments on the DEIS/DEIR to the project's lead agencies, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and Lahontan Water Quality Control Board, via email: tahoekeysweeds@trpa.org . We strongly encourage the public to read the study and provide substantive comments. Click here and here for tips on how to provide meaningful feedback.

There will be a series of presentations and workshops where the public can hear from the agencies and subject matter experts who prepared the reports, and get their questions answered. Due to COVID-19, these public sessions will be conducted via webinar.
Release of DEIS/DEIR and begin 60-day Public Comment Period
July 6, 2020
Public Webinar: TRPA Board Meeting
July 22, 2020
Time TBA
Public Webinar: Project Overview, Q&A
August 11, 2020
10AM -12PM
Public Webinar: TRPA Advisory Planning Commission Meeting
August 12, 2020
Time TBA
End of 60-day Public Comment Period
September 3, 2020
What is the League’s position? IN PROGRESS
The League to Save Lake Tahoe are strong advocates for treating the aquatic weed problem where it is most severe, in the Tahoe Keys. A shift to ecological conditions that favor the proliferation of aquatic weeds, driven in large part by climate change, make addressing the problem now more important than ever. However, any and all treatments used to control this threat must not do more harm than good to the Lake, or to those of us who enjoy it.

The League’s science and policy experts are currently reviewing the recently released Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Review (DEIS/DEIR) and are discussing the initial findings with the lead agencies and other project stakeholders. We are hopeful that we can begin to test a larger range of methods to control aquatic weeds in the Keys soon in order to protect Lake Tahoe in the long term.
Tahoe South Events Center
Photo: Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority
What is it? In previous e-newsletters ( here and here and here ), we introduced the Events Center plan and outlined our concerns with the project, a 6,000-seat multi-purpose meeting and events venue to be built on the existing parking lot at the Montbleu casino in Stateline. While this project holds great economic and recreational promise for Tahoe, the League insisted that it be designed to prevent harm to the Lake Tahoe environment, creating a sustainable balance for the future. As a result of our advocacy, the project plan was updated with numerous improvements, which are listed below and outlined in more detail here .
  • A fully coordinated parking management plan for the Stateline casino core.
  • A free microtransit shuttle program serving the South Shore from Stateline to Al Tahoe.
  • Robust monitoring and adaptive management mechanisms to ensure traffic-reduction targets are being met.
  • A dedicated funding source that can be tapped to beef up the project's traffic mitigations.

Where is it in the process? On March 25, 2020 the Events Center was approved by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) Governing Board. While the project proponents were not able to sell bonds to raise the full $100 million needed for construction, they were able to obtain short term funding to start construction in 2020. A groundbreaking ceremony , attended by League leadership, took place on July 9, 2020 to kick off initial work, which includes utility relocation and parking lot improvements. This initial phase of work is scheduled to take place through October 2020.  

What is the League’s position? SUPPORT with caveats
The League is confident that the project, in its improved state, will provide the necessary protections to not only prevent increased traffic impacts but also provide a foundation for future transportation improvements for the entire south shore. This outcome was only possible because of direct and vigilant engagement from the League and the California Attorney General's Office, as well as a very unique set of circumstances. The League will ensure that future projects follow a more robust and open process that better incorporates public input and coordinates with other plans and projects sooner.

What’s next? The League will stay engaged as the project develops to ensure it is achieving performance targets as promised.

More Information
Meeks Bay Restoration Project
Image: United States Forest Service - Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
What is it? As currently proposed, the Meeks Bay Restoration Project will restore degraded habitat in the Meeks Lagoon and Meeks Creek, and remove the shuttered marina, replacing it with a boat pier and boat launch just south of the lagoon. 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 (Lahontan), US Forest Service - Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) and Washoe Tribe partnered to begin work on a full restoration of the Meeks Creek watershed. 

Where is it in the process? Initial work to outline the scope of an environmental study of the Meeks Bay Restoration Project concluded on October 26, 2018. The LTBMU reviewed comments received during this “scoping” period and hired a consultant team to develop a Draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement (DEIR/DEIS) for the project. This environmental document will assess the potential impacts of the project. The League was interviewed by the consultant team and selected as one of the stakeholders to help guide the development of the DEIR/DEIS and final restoration plan. A separate project to control a population of aquatic invasive species in Meeks Lagoon and Meeks Creek is currently underway.

What is the League’s position? IN PROGRESS supportive
The League supports the project to date as a rare opportunity for landscape-scale restoration in Tahoe, subject to a few suggested modifications. The League is especially supportive of the proposed plans to remove aquatic invasive species, remove the existing marina infrastructure, restore Meeks Lagoon, restore Meeks Creek and implement best management practices for stormwater management. We also support upgrading the sewer line that crosses Meeks Creek, installing natural fencing to protect Tahoe yellow cress, installing wildlife enhancement structures and installing pedestrian routes and associated interpretative signage.

The League has some concerns regarding the construction of a new pier and boat launch; reconstruction of trailer parking, new vehicle routes, the campground and day-use parking areas; and implementation of shoreline stabilization measures at the north end of Meeks Bay.

What's next? The League will continue to be deeply involved as a Project stakeholder, guiding the development of the environmental study to ensure the impacts assessment is thorough. The public is encouraged to participate through workshops planned for August 19, 2020, October 14, 2020 and August 11, 2021. A final decision on the Project is anticipated from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in early 2022. 

More Information
State Route 89 Recreation Corridor Management Plan
Image: Tahoe Regional Planning Agency
What is it? The State Route 89 (SR 89) corridor stretches from the county line at Tahoma to South Lake Tahoe and includes some of the Lake’s most trafficked visitor sites, including Emerald Bay and D.L. Bliss State Park. The combination of heavy recreation travel demand, a lack of non-car travel options and limited parking results in traffic, safety challenges and environmental degradation. The State Route 89 Recreation Corridor Management Plan aims to improve the visitor experience, reduce traffic congestion, enhance safety and protect the environment. Some of the tools and strategies being considered include transit and shuttle service, parking management and enforcement, and construction of a paved, multi-use path - the “Tahoe Trail.”

Where is it in the process? The project officially kicked off in January 2018 with Project Development Team meetings, involving more than 20 agencies and organizations. In May 2019, the Existing Conditions Report was released which described the problems and laid the groundwork for identifying solutions. Throughout 2019, the project team looked in more detail at potential alignments and funding for the multi-use path, considered desired visitation levels and visitor experience, and conducted a mode share and transit feasibility analysis. In early 2020, the project team held another round of stakeholder meetings and workshops followed by public workshops culminating in an online webinar on April 2.

What is the League’s position? SUPPORT project objectives
The League supports the objectives of the plan. Our team has been advocating for this very planning effort, and an on-the-ground pilot project to implement these strategies, since early 2017. With the success of the League’s transportation pilot projects (bike share in 2017 and microtransit in 2018) it became even more apparent that these strategies could work at heavily congested and impacted areas like Emerald Bay.

As a stakeholder in this effort, we will continue working to see our goals for the project achieved, including: reducing environmental degradation throughout the corridor by eliminating roadside parking, and reducing the number of private vehicles that use the corridor by providing transportation alternatives such as shuttles, public transit and options for biking and walking. Among our short-term objectives for the plan, we are advocating for the creation of a transit pilot project to shuttle visitors from Camp Richardson to Emerald Bay to relieve traffic and parking congestion.

What's next? The draft plan is expected to be released at a Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board meeting in July 2020. The public will have the opportunity to review and comment on the plan during a 30-day review period, which will include a public meeting. A final plan, which takes into account comments received during the summer, is expected in September. The first step planned toward implementation is a feasibility analysis for the Tahoe Trail, which will include engineering work and community outreach. 

More Information
Lake Tahoe West Restoration / Forest and Fuels Management
Caption. AFP/Flickr Creative Commons
What are they? There are two large scale forest health projects currently in the planning stages on the California side of the Basin. Both projects include forest management and restoration activities that will reduce fine sediment pollution that is flushed into Lake Tahoe by rains and snowmelt. Fine sediment is the number one threat to Lake Tahoe’s clarity.

The Lake Tahoe West Restoration Project (Lake Tahoe West) is a collaborative effort led by the US Forest Service - Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU), California Tahoe Conservancy (CTC), and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA). The project will restore forests, meadows, streams, and wildlife habitat across 59,000 acres of the west shore of the Lake Tahoe Basin. This project applies forest management activities comprehensively across the entire landscape, as opposed to a series of less efficient individual projects.

The Tahoe Program Timberland Environmental Impact Report (Tahoe PTEIR) evaluates the environmental impacts of a proposed program to increase the pace and scale of forest management activities through a long-term wildfire risk reduction project for private, local jurisdiction, and CTC lands in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) on the California side of Lake Tahoe. The project team, led by the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team, has successfully treated thousands of acres to reduce wildfire risk in the WUI surrounding Tahoe’s communities. However, significant portions of the WUI and nearby forested lands still require fuel reduction treatments, and long term management is necessary to maintain fire resiliency throughout the WUI.

Where are these projects in the process? The Lake Tahoe West project team is currently conducting the environmental analysis for the project. The draft environmental documents are expected to be completed and released publicly in early 2021.

The scoping period for the PTEIR was held in the summer of 2019, for which the League provided comments. Informed by comments and public feedback gathered during the scoping period, the draft EIR was released on May 22, 2020 with a public comment period that concluded on July 6. The League weighed in during the comment period in support of the environmental analysis.

What is the League’s position? SUPPORT with few concerns  
The League is greatly supportive of increasing the pace and scale of restoration efforts at Tahoe, an objective shared by both of these projects. A landscape-scale approach to forest management is more effective and efficient than the project-by-project method commonly used today. Additionally, the League is particularly supportive of these two projects’ goals of protecting and restoring meadow and riparian ecosystem processes and creating a Tahoe ecosystem resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Regarding Lake Tahoe West, the League has concerns about new permanent road construction in Backcountry Management Areas and a proposed rule change that would allow mechanical forestry equipment on steeper slopes than currently allowed.

Concerning the Tahoe PTEIR, certain forest treatment methods could pose localized risks to surface water quality in some highly erodible watersheds that produce large sediment loads under current conditions. The League believes that careful analysis, design, and monitoring specific to site conditions will help to offset risks and reduce the uncertainty associated with these treatments.

The League also identified that the project will likely result in an increase in vehicle miles traveled. VMT is way to track total automobile use in the Basin. It is an important metric to monitor as the effects of traffic are a major driver of clarity loss in the Lake. Because this project will result in overall benefits to the environment - including to air quality, greenhouse gas emissions and climate resiliency - we agree that a potential increase in VMT, is “potentially significant and unavoidable,” as identified in the draft EIR.

What's next?
Public workshops and a formal comment period for the Lake Tahoe West project will be held in late 2020.
 
The PTEIR project team is currently reviewing comments on the draft EIR. The environmental document is on track to be certified in the coming months, with treatments beginning as early as the winter of 2020.

More Information
Upper Truckee Marsh Restoration Project
Image: California Tahoe Conservancy
What is it? The Upper Truckee Marsh, located where the Upper Truckee River enters Lake Tahoe on the south shore, was once part of the largest wetland complex in the entire Sierra Nevada. Construction of the Tahoe Keys and Lake Tahoe Airport in the 1950s and 60s destroyed half of the marsh, which had acted as Lake Tahoe’s largest natural pollution filter. It also disconnected the Upper Truckee River from the floodplain, allowing the River to dump sediment and pollution directly into Lake Tahoe. State and federal agencies, led by the California Tahoe Conservancy (CTC), are just beginning the largest restoration effort in Lake Tahoe, restoring the remaining marsh so it can once again protect Lake Tahoe from upland pollution while providing improved habitat for wildlife and better recreation for the community.

Where is it in the process? Construction on the project began this month and will take three to four years to complete. It took more than a decade of planning, collaboration, scientific research and design to arrive at the final plan for restoring the marsh and reconnecting the Upper Truckee River to the floodplain. The League supports this type of robust, inclusive and science-based approach to environmental planning and restoration, and applauds CTC’s efforts.

In June 2018, California voters passed Proposition 68 (supported by the League) and designated $3.2 million to this project. As part of the preparation, volunteers with the League’s Eyes on the Lake program have surveyed the Upper Truckee River from Lake Tahoe eight miles upstream to map infestations of aquatic invasive plants so land managers can prevent them from spreading into the rest of the marsh during the restoration.

What is the League’s position? SUPPORT
The League strongly supports the restoration of the Upper Truckee Marsh. Because it will restore the ecological functions of the vast wetland area, the project will provide pollution filtration for the largest tributary and watershed draining into Lake Tahoe. The project has the potential to be Tahoe’s most beneficial restoration project to date.  

What's next? As construction progresses, the CTC will temporarily close an arm of the Tahoe Keys Marina, called the “sailing lagoon,” at the Cove East side of the marsh, to the public starting in July. View the Cove East access restriction map for more detail . The Conservancy plans to create new wetlands in this area. Once restoration construction begins, most of the land west of the Cove East trail will be an active construction zone with restricted access. Access to the Cove East trail itself will remain open. From August until mid-October, public access to the marsh will be closed at Sunset Avenue and Silverwood Court while the Conservancy constructs a series of pilot channels in the meadow surface to redirect flows into a network of historic stream channels in a nearby portion of the marsh. See the CTC map of mid-marsh access restrictions for details . West of the Upper Truckee River, adjacent to State Street neighborhood, pedestrians will be able access the river by crossing an access road via trail gates.
 
More Information 
In Case You Missed It
Interview for July 5th beach cleanup
Our annual July 5th Keep Tahoe Red, White and Blue cleanup was a huge success!

Our heartfelt thanks go out to all the mask-wearing, socially distanced volunteers and #TahoeBlueGooders who took part.

Here is a sampling of news coverage from the event.
Support Our Work
Our efforts to Keep Tahoe Blue depend entirely on the generosity of our members and supporters. Thank you for donating to protect Lake Tahoe.
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