SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $197,250 to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) to assess and restore wetlands in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Today’s announcement coincided with the 21st annual Lake Tahoe Summit in South Lake Tahoe.
TRPA will use the grant to develop a regional plan for monitoring changes in wetlands over time, prioritizing wetland restoration efforts and establishing goals for successful wetland projects.
“Wetland restoration is key to capturing pollutants that affect Lake Tahoe’s clarity,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Understanding the current health of wetlands and where restoration efforts are most needed will help the many groups working for a healthy Lake Tahoe.”
According to the U.S. Forest Service, about 75 percent of wetlands in the urban areas of the Lake Tahoe Basin have been lost to development. In addition to providing important habitat for fish and wildlife, wetlands filter sediment, nutrients and other pollutants commonly found in runoff. With the loss of wetlands and increased sources of pollutants, annual average clarity in Lake Tahoe declined from 100 feet in 1968 to a low of 64 feet in 1997. Clarity improved to 78 feet in 2014 but has since decreased to just over 69 feet last year, according to the University of California at Davis, where researchers have monitored changes in lake clarity since the 1960s.
“Tahoe lost many of its meadows and wetlands to development prior to TRPA’s creation,” said Joanne S. Marchetta, executive director of TRPA. “Healthy meadows play a major role in protecting Lake Tahoe’s famous water clarity, and this grant will significantly boost our region’s work to assess and restore these important natural areas for a healthier Tahoe.”
Since 1997, EPA has worked with federal, state, tribal and local partners and invested more than $47 million to restore and protect Lake Tahoe. A centerpiece of these efforts is a water clarity restoration plan, also known as the Total Maximum Daily Load, which is designed to reduce the volume of pollutants entering the lake. TRPA’s new regional wetland restoration plan will help meet these pollutant limits and maximize the ecological benefits that wetlands provide.
EPA’s wetland program development grants support state, tribal, and local government agencies and interstate/intertribal groups in their efforts to protect, manage and restore wetlands. TRPA is one of 12 groups in EPA’s Pacific Southwest region that will receive a combined total of up to $3.2 million in funding.
Learn more about EPA’s efforts to improve Lake Tahoe at: https://www.epa.gov/lake-tahoe.
Find more information on EPA’s Wetland Program Development Grants at: https://www.epa.gov/wetlands/wetland-program-development-grants.