Tahoe Fund active in raising money for better controls and innovative solutions

By Amy Berry/Tahoe Fund

Imagine it is a hot summer day and you are standing on the shoreline of Lake Tahoe with plans to cool off in the clear blue waters. But instead of crystal clear waters, you see a field of slimy weeds. Unfortunately, this is a reality now.

“The impact of aquatic invasive species is really changing the shorelines,“ said Katy Simon Holland, Tahoe Fund board chair. “As a nonprofit that is charged with working with the private community to improve the lake, this is one of our most important areas of focus.”

The Tahoe Fund has played a critical role in supporting projects to control and remove aquatic invasive species. Starting in 2014, the organization raised $50,000 to support an Asian clam project at the mouth of Emerald Bay. The next year, more than $60,000 was raised to treat aquatic invasive weeds from the mouth of the Tahoe City Dam and the Ski Run Channel. Also in 2015, the Tahoe Fund worked with a corporate donor, Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, to help fund a watercraft inspection station.

A diver inspects bottom barriers used to kill Asian clams. The Tahoe Fund has leveraged public investments by raising private money to purchase bottom barriers for treating aquatic invasive species. Photo: U.C. Davis

In addition, the organization recently completed a matching campaign to purchase the full inventory of bottom barriers to continue to treat weeds around the lake. Thanks in large part to donations from Tahoe Blue Vodka and the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation’s Queen of Hearts, the Tahoe Fund raised $26,000 to match a grant from the Tahoe Water Suppliers Association totaling $52,000. “More mats means fewer weeds and a clearer lake,” Queen of Hearts representative Nancy Gisko said when asked why they supported the project.

“Aquatic invasive species are a big threat to Lake Tahoe, so everybody should be taking it seriously,” said Madonna Dunbar, executive director of the Tahoe Water Suppliers Association. “Because Tahoe has some of the best drinking water in the world, we wanted to support ongoing field work using nonchemical control methods.”

Building on the success of these projects, the Tahoe Fund was approached by John Paoluccio, an inventor and Tahoe homeowner, with the idea of using UV light to control aquatic invasive weeds. UV light has long been used to disinfect water facilities, but it had never been used to kill Eurasian watermilfoil or curlyleaf pondweed.

“We are looking for new ideas and solutions to the challenges facing the lake,” said Kevin Marshall, Tahoe Fund board member and member of the Tahoe Fund’s Environmental Venture Trust Committee. “We jumped at the chance to try something new and innovative. If this solution works, it will transform how we treat invasive plants in Tahoe.”

The Tahoe Fund worked with the Tahoe Resource Conservation District to turn this idea into a pilot project last summer. The nonprofit provided the early stage funding to cover permitting fees so the Tahoe RCD could secure a $260,000 grant from the California Tahoe Conservancy for the project. The pilot project hit the water last summer and the early results were encouraging. Monitoring will continue this summer, with a final report due in early 2019.

“We will continue to focus on a mix of proven and innovation solutions,” Marshall said. “We want to support what works.”

“Invasive species have far-reaching consequences, from jeopardizing our water supplies to degrading the pristine natural beauty of our lake,” Simon Holland said. “So we are extremely grateful to the many private individuals and organizations that are helping us to succeed in combating this environmental threat.”

To learn how you can support projects to rid the lake of aquatic invasive species, visit www.tahoefund.org.

Amy Berry is the executive director of the Tahoe Fund.