By Cindy Gustafson 

The slow march toward winter at Lake Tahoe this year is starting to make last winter seem like a distant memory. However, reflecting back on a year of both challenges and wins for the lake and our communities, it would be impossible to leave out the 70-year record snowfall Tahoe received last winter. The crushing series of atmospheric rivers brought emergency conditions that tested the basin, but when it came down to it, we saw people and agencies digging in to help one another dig out.  

The lake itself also experienced rare events. Not only did Emerald Bay freeze completely over for the first time in 30 years, in February researchers working with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) witnessed a full depth mix of the lake that briefly produced some of the clearest surface water imaginable. The natural process of the lake “flipping” helps clarity, but as climate change continues affecting the ecosystem, it is happening less often. Fortunately, for the last 26 years the Lake Tahoe Environmental Improvement Program (EIP) has brought together over 80 partners to increase our region’s resilience to climate change. EIP partners have completed hundreds of forest health, transportation, and water quality projects like the California Tahoe Conservancy’s Upper Truckee River Marsh restoration project that restored the stream channel and flood plain in Lake Tahoe’s largest marsh ecosystem. 

Progress in fire and fuels management can be seen in the acres of powerline resilience corridor projects around the basin, which are building upon the more than 500 acres of powerline corridor work completed in 2022. Also, more than 36,000 logs from the Caldor Fire have been delivered to a new sawmill just 10 miles from the Tahoe Basin in Carson City, Nev. The mill is a partnership between Tahoe Forest Products, LLC and an affiliate of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California that will help make Tahoe communities safer by providing a viable location to deliver excess forest fuels from forest resilience projects in the region. The TRPA Governing Board this year also opened a process for a small-scale biomass facility pilot project at South Tahoe Refuse that could be an important start to unlocking renewable energy in Tahoe’s forests.  

More progress on lake clarity is coming from environmental redevelopment projects every year. In March, the Governing Board approved a reduced Waldorf Astoria project in Crystal Bay that will result in a 90 percent reduction in sediment runoff into Lake Tahoe from the site. On the South Shore in June, the free Lake Link microtransit service launched ahead of the much-celebrated opening of the Tahoe Blue Event Center. Along with TART Connect service across North Lake Tahoe, since 2021 more than 760,000 free microtransit rides have significantly reduced vehicle miles traveled in the basin.  

This year also saw the culmination of several years of public input and partnership building around outdoor recreation and tourism and transportation improvements. TRPA helped launch the first-ever Lake Tahoe Destination Stewardship Plan in June that brought together 18 public land management, non-profit, and destination management organizations. The group has already established a destination stewardship council to help foster a tourism economy that gives back through more than 30 actions that benefit our lake and communities. TRPA also approved a critical parking lot improvement project by the USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit on Tahoe’s popular East Shore recreation corridor that will improve safety and reduce roadside parking. Major ski resorts, including Palisades Tahoe and Vail’s Tahoe resorts, are launching parking management programs this winter to reduce roadway backups and get more people using transit and microtransit to get to the resorts.  

Finally, TRPA and partners made important progress tackling the affordable housing crisis deeply affecting the entire region. The agency approved a 100-bed student housing project on the Lake Tahoe Community College campus earlier this year, and construction is well underway on the 248-unit Sugar Pine Village workforce housing project in South Lake Tahoe.  

Next Wednesday, December 13, the TRPA Governing Board will consider targeted policy changes that could remove barriers to workforce housing in the region. TRPA has guided a public process for more than two years to review these policies and they have received both concern and letters of support. The policies are only one solution needed to lower costs to construct housing for local workers and families. I encourage everyone to learn more about the policy changes and get involved in the process at 

May our incredible progress continue in 2024 and many years to come! 

Cindy Gustafson is Placer County District 5 Supervisor and Chair of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board.