By Julie Regan

Lake Tahoe has protectors just about everywhere in this great nation. Last week, TRPA representatives joined a coalition of Lake Tahoe supporters in Washington D.C. to urge the extension of a key piece of legislation that has been pivotal in Lake Tahoe’s preservation. The Lake Tahoe Restoration Act is set to expire in September of this year, putting a major source of federal funding at risk.

Nevada and California local elected officials, tribal leaders, TRPA board members, and public and private organizations gathered for meetings with members of Congress and the Biden Administration to stress the urgency of continuing to protect Lake Tahoe. “Team Tahoe” succeeded in drawing national attention to our numerous challenges, from historical environmental impacts to emerging threats posed by climate change. The call to protect Lake Tahoe has echoed from these mountainsides, throughout Nevada and California, and across America to bring attention to one of the country’s most treasured landscapes.

Lake Tahoe suffered severe environmental damage before strict protections were enacted under the first Lake Tahoe Regional Plan. In 1997, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) joined many public and private partners to launch the Environmental Improvement Program, or EIP. Under the initiative, more than 800 projects have been completed thus far to protect water quality, reduce the threat of wildfire, combat aquatic invasive species, improve transportation and trails, support science and research, and much more.

The historic announcement this week that the California Tahoe Conservancy is acquiring 31 acres on the Upper Truckee River in South Lake Tahoe is a poignant example of the determination we all share to remove outdated development from sensitive lands. The Motel 6 site restoration is yet one more instance of strong partnerships and epic collaboration, the hallmark of the EIP which has become one of the most comprehensive conservation programs in the nation.

Partners have treated more than 94,000 acres of forest to reduce hazardous fuels, inspected 110,000 boats for aquatic invasive species, and improved and connected 200 miles of bike and pedestrian trails. Importantly, water quality improvements made by private property owners and public agencies are keeping more than 600,000 pounds of stormwater pollution out of the lake every year so that future generations can enjoy Lake Tahoe’s world-famous stunning clarity.

Funding for the EIP comes from every sector as well. With nearly 80 percent of the Tahoe Basin a national forest, federal funding through the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act has been crucial to our progress. Since 2016, the act has provided more than $110 million and leveraged four times that amount in state, local, and private funding. For example, TRPA supported the California Tahoe Conservancy’s Motel 6 acquisition with $3.5 million in mitigation fees collected from thousands of private property owners who contributed to water quality funds through the TRPA permit process. This leveraging of public and private restoration dollars is a key strength of the EIP. With the Restoration Act set to expire in September, urgent action is needed to extend the legislation and continue the arduous work ahead. Lake Tahoe’s congressional delegation is steadfast in its support to fight for the lake amidst competing priorities in the nation’s capital.

While we can celebrate significant progress under the EIP, it is imperative to recognize much more needs to be done, especially in the face of climate change. As the lake warms and the region is beset by more extreme weather events, we must increase the pace and scale of forest resilience projects to reduce wildfire risk, accelerate projects to upgrade water systems for firefighting, and ramp up the fight against aquatic invasive species. To continue improving the lake’s extraordinary clarity, more projects are needed to restore meadows and wetlands and reduce stormwater pollution. In addition, fostering a sustainable population of Lahontan cutthroat trout in the watershed is essential to restore the native ecosystem and is of great importance to the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California.

The breadth of support Lake Tahoe has received over the years shows clearly that none of these challenges are insurmountable. Partnerships at every level are crucial to continue Lake Tahoe’s restoration journey. Together, we can ensure a sustainable future for Lake Tahoe and our communities. For more information on the Environmental Improvement Program, visit


Julie Regan is Executive Director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.