Tahoe organizations whose collaborative work over the past 15 years has been a driving force for advancing Lake Tahoe restoration efforts applauded congressional leaders Thursday for introducing a $415 million reauthorization of the federal Lake Tahoe Restoration Act.

The legislation sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, and cosponsored by Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, and Senator Barbara Boxer of California, spells out 10 years of federal government investment in the Tahoe Environmental Improvement Program. The EIP targets improving water quality and restoring lake clarity, reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire, and preventing the introduction of aquatic invasive species at the Lake, along with other environmental restoration efforts. The EIP is to be funded jointly by federal, state, local, and private sector partners.

“The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act would build upon the ongoing efforts of California and Nevada and our successful update of the Regional Plan last year,” said John Laird, California’s secretary for natural resources. “This bill would complement the commitments made by our two states to ensure Lake Tahoe’s environmental restoration and economic health.”

The private sector commitment is provided through environmental upgrades to private properties called for in the Lake Tahoe Regional Plan that include water quality erosion control measures and fire safety defensible space on private property.

“This federal legislation will help sustain our strong federal, state and private sector partnerships at Lake Tahoe,” said Leo Drozdoff, director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act and the federal government’s commitment are vital to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.”

The legislation authorizes $243 million over 10 years for the highest-priority restoration projects based on scientific data. The legislation authorizes at least $138 million for stormwater management and watershed restoration projects that are scientifically-determined to be the most effective ways to improve water clarity. The legislation also requires a prioritized ranking of environmental restoration projects and authorizes $80 million for the Lake Tahoe stakeholders to implement these priority projects. Implementation of priority projects will provide cleaner air, purer water and safer communities around Lake Tahoe. Since the mid-1990s, $1.68 billion has been invested to improve environmental conditions at Lake Tahoe.

“Out of the mosaic of public and private land holdings surrounding Lake Tahoe has grown an incredible partnership for restoration with funding support from all sectors ranging from the federal government to private property owners,” said Joanne S. Marchetta, Executive Director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. “Science is showing that our restoration programs are making progress protecting Tahoe’s air, water, and forests and this legislation provides an important commitment to continuing the work.”

The importance of this bill to the Region prompted applause from leaders throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin.

“We have established an effective partnership in support of vital fuels reduction work at Lake Tahoe,” said Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection Chief Ben Sharit, who chairs the multi-agency Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team. “The Restoration Act represents the federal share of responsibility in this partnership that includes strong commitments from our local and state fire protection professionals.”

“The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act has been a keystone of the effort to protect and restore Lake Tahoe’s clarity,” Darcie Goodman Collins, Executive Director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe said. “The lake faces increasing threats to its ecosystem such as invasive species, wildfire and climate change. Public funding is essential to keeping the lake pristine for all to enjoy.”

“The business community has long understood the interrelationship between the environment and the economy as well as the role we play in the partnership to preserve the pristine environment of the basin,” President and CEO of the Tahoe Chamber Betty “B” Gorman said. “The introduction of this legislation is a vital step towards achieving the goals of the Lake Tahoe Environmental Improvement Program (EIP) and reaffirming the federal government’s commitment to preserving this beloved destination in partnership with local government and private business.”

“LTRA 2013 recognizes the important work that must be done to continue to protect this incredible national treasure,” said Tahoe Fund CEO Amy Berry. “The private community will be inspired to support these efforts that ensure the long-term sustainability of Lake Tahoe.”

The EIP, one of the most ambitious restoration efforts in the nation, addresses water quality, air quality, transportation, forest management, recreation and scenic beauty at Lake Tahoe by funding and implementing capital improvement projects targeting these key areas. While improving Lake Tahoe’s legendary clarity is a top concern, the program takes a holistic watershed-based approach to delivering a range of environmentally beneficial projects.

The second phase of the EIP builds on more than a decade of successful restoration at Lake Tahoe credited with a host of environmental improvements such as flattening the decline of lake clarity loss.

The proposed authorization over 10 years would accomplish the following:

• Help restore Lake Tahoe’s water quality with at least $138 million for stormwater management and watershed restoration projects based on scientific data.
• Reduces the threat of wildfire in the Tahoe Basin. Authorizes $135 million over 10 years for hazardous fuels reduction projects to reduce the threat of fire in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
• Protects Lake Tahoe from the threat of Quagga mussels and other invasive aquatic species. The bill provides $30 million for watercraft inspections and removal of existing invasive species and requires all watercraft be inspected and decontaminated to prevent the introduction of invasive aquatic species.
• Supports reintroduction of the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout. The legislation authorizes $20 million over 10 years for the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout Recovery Plan.
• Funds scientific research. The bill authorizes $30 million over 10 years for scientific programs and research that will produce information on long-term trends in the Basin and inform the most cost-effective projects.
• Increases accountability and oversight, and provides for public outreach and education.
• Allows for increased efficiency in the management of public land by authorizing land exchanges between the USFS and the California Tahoe Conservancy Currently, the Forest Service manages more than 3,200 urban parcels spread throughout the Basin.

Since 1997, EIP accomplishments include:

• Fuels reduction treatment of 54,444 acres
• Wildlife habitat improvements on 15,850 acres of land, including 1,509 acres of Stream Environment Zones
• Acquisition of 3,103 acres of sensitive land
• Addition of 2,579 linear feet of shoreline for public access
• Creation of 134 miles of bike and pedestrian routes

Media Release–Tahoe Leaders Applaud Restoration Bill