State and Tahoe Partners Celebrate to Remove Development from Environmentally Sensitive Land to Protect Water Quality and Restore River


South Lake Tahoe, Calif.—The California Tahoe Conservancy joins with its funding partners—the California Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB), Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Tahoe Fund, and League to Save Lake Tahoe—to announce the Conservancy is acquiring 31 acres of environmentally sensitive land along the Upper Truckee River in South Lake Tahoe.

“This environmental acquisition may be the most important in a generation to protect Lake Tahoe,” said California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot. “By reconnecting the most important wetland that filters water flowing into the Lake, this investment protects the Lake’s precious water quality and also provides an important corridor for local wildlife. This project demonstrates the great value of the California Tahoe Conservancy, to work diligently over years—sometimes decades—to see important environmental improvements to fruition.”

“We are grateful to our funding partners for making this possible,” said Conservancy Board Chair Adam Acosta. “This historic acquisition of the Knox Johnson and Motel 6 property achieves a decades-old goal and brings one of the last privately held sections of the river corridor under public ownership.”

About the land acquisition

  • 25 acres of mountain meadow and wetlands.
  • 4 acres of former floodplain.
  • One-third of the Lake Tahoe Basin drains into the Upper Truckee River.
  • 96 percent of the lower section of the Upper Truckee River is in public ownership after this purchase.
  • 6 funding sources including nonprofit donations and permit mitigation fees.
  • Connects hundreds of acres of public marsh and meadow lands.

This Conservancy acquisition includes 25 acres of mountain meadow and wetlands, a two-acre single-family homesite, and four acres of former floodplain. Lake Tahoe lost nearly 30 feet of its famed water clarity following the development boom of the 1950s and 60s and damage to the Lake’s natural water filters. The four acres of floodplain is now occupied by Motel 6, a vacant restaurant building, and a paved parking area. The property also abuts the Conservancy’s 560-acre Upper Truckee Marsh property to the north. Tahoe Resource Conservation District’s (Tahoe RCD) 206-acre Johnson Meadow property lies across U.S. Highway 50 to the south.

The Conservancy will remove the 1970s-era motel and vacant restaurant and retire or transfer the property’s development rights and coverage for future use on town center redevelopment. The Conservancy will preserve the surrounding mountain meadow and wetlands. The acquisition presents opportunities to restore wetland habitat on the newly acquired property itself as well as future restoration at the Upper Truckee Marsh.

“This landmark acquisition shows the incredible progress coming from collaborative partnerships we have been building for more than 50 years,” said Julie Regan, executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. “Today, the Lake Tahoe Region is taking a giant step forward in improving lake clarity and increasing public access for all.”

Healthy functioning wetlands act as a natural pollution filter for Lake Tahoe, preserving its famed clarity. In the Upper Truckee watershed, EIP partners have completed many projects over decades to restore streams, rivers, wetlands, floodplains, and wildlife habitat. This acquisition amplifies the value of past restoration projects, while allowing the Conservancy and the adjacent public landowner partners, such as Tahoe RCD and the USDA Forest Service, to closely coordinate future ecosystem restoration and management efforts. TRPA provided nearly $3.5 million in water quality and land coverage mitigation fees for the acquisition. These development mitigation fees collected through the TRPA permit process represent thousands of private property owners who are aiding the initiative to restore sensitive land and limit development under the Regional Plan.

The land protected by this acquisition is part of the homeland of the waší∙šiw (Washoe people—the people from here). The waší∙šiw are the aboriginal stewards of the land in and around the Lake Tahoe Basin. As a sovereign nation, the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, as it is known today, continues to advocate for the protection and preservation of waší∙šiw ɁítdeɁ (the Washoe people’s homelands).

“The Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California is supportive of the incredible work being done by the Conservancy,” said Washoe Tribe Chairman Serrell Smokey. “The Conservancy has been a great partner and their work to protect, preserve, and re-establish healthy ecosystems within the Tahoe Basin should be celebrated. Addressing decades of overdevelopment in very delicate and fragile ecosystems, such the Upper Truckee, is not something that happens overnight. While we celebrate this as a huge victory for the Tahoe Basin, it is also important to acknowledge that this will have profound and far-reaching impacts as we continue to imagine a healthy future for the Tahoe Basin with Washoe Culture and Peoples at the center.”

Acquiring the property protects its critical wetland and meadow habitat, while presenting future opportunities to improve climate resilience and public access and to restore the river corridor for Lake Tahoe’s largest tributary.

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