Lake Tahoe, Stateline, NV – The City of South Lake Tahoe unveiled its nearly completed Bijou Erosion Control Project on Thursday, joined by representatives from partner agencies including the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, California Tahoe Conservancy, Caltrans, and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

“The Bijou project represents an area-wide approach to treating stormwater through a regional system. It benefits lake clarity by treating urban runoff before it reaches Lake Tahoe,” South Lake Tahoe Mayor Pro Tem Brooke Laine said at Thursday’s ribbon cutting.

The project will significantly improve the quality of stormwater runoff in the 42-acre Bijou Commercial Core, a heavily urbanized area that has long been recognized to have some of the highest pollutant loads in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Designing the project for the commercial core posed major challenges because of the area’s mixed property ownership, high groundwater levels, and extensive impervious coverage, with a lack of space for traditional stormwater treatment facilities.

The underground system captures stormwater in the Bijou Commercial Core, collects it in pre-treatment chambers, and then pumps it uphill to a series of infiltration basins that have been developed on U.S. Forest Service property.

The project reduces by 96 percent the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and fine sediment washing into Lake Tahoe from the commercial core. That amounts to a reduction of more than 20,360 pounds of fine sediment each year.

The project completely replaced the conveyance system for Bijou Creek throughout the commercial core, so water from the 1,300-acre watershed will flow through the area without commingling with stormwater runoff. That will improve water quality and reduce localized flooding that occurred during storm events in parts of the commercial core.

South Lake Tahoe has created a community facilities district to pay for ongoing maintenance of the new system. Through that district, property owners in the Bijou Commercial Core can voluntarily opt to pay an annual assessment to help cover maintenance costs and, in exchange, get a Best Management Practices certificate for their property.

Joanne S. Marchetta, Executive Director of TRPA, said the Bijou Erosion Control Project is a poster child for the type of collaborative, area-wide water quality improvement projects that are needed to protect and restore the environment at Lake Tahoe.

“Multiple property owners and agencies came together to develop this unique area-wide solution that allows everyone to make a contribution to saving Lake Tahoe,” Marchetta said.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency leads the cooperative effort to preserve, restore, and enhance the unique natural and human environment of the Lake Tahoe Region, while improving local communities, and people’s interactions with our irreplaceable environment. For additional information, call Tom Lotshaw, Public Information Officer, at 775-589-5278.