By Joanne S. Marchetta
Fall is a natural time for transitions. They can be beautiful and fleeting, like the golden leaves near Fallen Leaf Lake, or the time change transition, or they can happen over decades as we’re seeing with the challenges of climate change. And this week, Congress gave a big boost to the transition to coordinated climate action.
The passage last week of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill bodes well for Lake Tahoe and the nation to increase our resiliency to climate change. The needs of the Tahoe Basin are directly addressed in the bill through a $17 million appropriation under the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species and to control existing infestations.
This funding, championed by California’s Senator Dianne Feinstein and supported by the full Tahoe Senate delegation, is the largest single appropriation to date under the 2016 law. Lake Tahoe watercraft inspectors intercepted a record number of boats harboring invasive mussels in 2021, and this funding will help Tahoe prevent further environmental and economic damage from these species. We’re grateful to our congressional delegation for their steadfast support in the fight against invasive species.
The infrastructure bill also includes provisions that Nevada’s Senator Catherine Cortez Masto authored to provide $3.4 billion for wildfire prevention activities, and an additional $10 million for wildfire detection equipment, like Lake Tahoe’s successful ALERT Wildfire camera network. The wildfire funding in the bill totals $8 billion for prevention, risk reduction, detection, and restoration. The bill is headed to President Biden’s desk and couldn’t be coming at a better time.
The world’s attention is more and more attuned to the effects of climate change. The 2021 United Nations Climate Conference, known as COP26 (Conference of Parties), now puts those issues of our interrelatedness front and center. Key Nevada Tahoe representatives are in attendance, like U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen and Bradley Crowell, Director of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, along with California officials like Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis and Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot. So far, the summit has resulted in significant pledges by global officials, and it’s clear that the transition to a more sustainable and resilient planet calls for unprecedented collaboration at every level.
On a local level, we’ve practiced regional cooperation for more than 25 years through the Environmental Improvement Program (EIP). Local, state, federal, nonprofit, and private sector partners have completed 750 EIP projects to remove hazardous fuels from forests; restore streams, wetlands, and marshes; protect the lake from invasive species; upgrade hundreds of miles of roads to reduce stormwater pollution; and build bike and pedestrian trails. In the face of growing climate effects, the urgency to do more for climate resilience in Tahoe is profound.
A recent advance came this week when the California Tahoe Conservancy board approved a proposal to pursue the purchase of Motel 6, the old Carrows restaurant, and nearby property in South Shore on what used to be a natural, pollutant filtering wetland. TRPA and EIP teams have long desired this key sensitive land acquisition on the Upper Truckee River. The possibility shines like a beacon of good news in the suddenly longer nights.
Even TRPA will be seeing some transitions as Governor Newsom announced last week that he’s filled two open seats on our Governing Board. We welcome Ashley Conrad-Saydah of Sacramento and Vincent Hoenigman of San Francisco to Team Tahoe. Both new members bring a wealth of experience to the Board’s commitment to restore Lake Tahoe’s environment and revitalize our communities.
As we transition into a post-Caldor Fire recovery phase, many in the community are wondering what they can do as individuals. TRPA collaborated with the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team to produce a special issue of Tahoe In Depth, Lake Tahoe’s environmental newspaper, to answer that question. The issue covers the Caldor Fire, what we know now, and what megafires like it may mean for the future of Tahoe’s forests. Look for the issue online at tahoeindepth.org, or in print at the blue Tahoe In Depth newspaper kiosks and at businesses around town.
We may be falling back with the time change, but to address Tahoe’s inevitable transitions, TRPA is powering forward in collaboration with our partners for the good of our communities and the lake.
–Joanne S. Marchetta is the Executive Director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency