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Citizens’ Climate Lobby forms Tahoe Youth Action Team

Citizens’ Climate Lobby has announce the formation of the Tahoe Youth Action Team, a climate action group formed by two Tahoe teens. The team will offer a free virtual screening of the internationally acclaimed documentary “I Am Greta” on Friday, Jan. 29, marking the group’s first event in its effort to educate other teens about climate action.

The 97-minute documentary highlights Greta Thunberg’s rise to fame, from her solo “school strike” in front of the Swedish parliament to her youth marches and speeches at the United Nations. Filmed over the course of two years, “I Am Greta” conveys Thunberg’s point of view and includes her experience with Asperger’s syndrome.

The event will run from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and will include an introduction and conclusion with the Tahoe Youth Action Team leaders.

Led by 19-year-old Forest Charter graduate, now college student, Sophie de Lafontaine and 16-year-old Truckee High School student, Laurel Anderson, CCL’s Tahoe Youth Action Team seeks to inspire others to build support for climate solutions. Although they are a regionally based youth action team, their values and goals closely mirror those of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots advocacy organization focused on national policies to address the urgency of climate change.

Through local action, like attending or hosting community events, and giving presentations, the team promotes awareness of climate impacts and solutions. Time spent volunteering with the Citizens’ Climate Youth Action Team will also go towards the service hour graduation requirement by some local schools, and could be the perfect thing to add to college apps or resumes.

While most events will be online during the pandemic, the youth team leaders acknowledge that taking action for the climate can still be empowering. “Building a local united front on climate change not only inspires hope for the future but also re-establishes a sense of community that has been considerably restricted during these times of social distancing,” says de Lafontaine about her own path toward activism. Co-Team Leader Anderson adds that “Protecting our climate future is extremely important even during these challenging times. It’s also very important to renew focus on youth involvement and education on the issue.”

The public is invited to view the film. Please RSVP at tahoeyouthactionteam@gmail.com. Middle and high schoolers in Truckee, North and South Tahoe who are concerned about climate change are encouraged to leave a note if they wish to join the team at the same email address, and follow the team on Instagram @tahoeyouthactionteam@gmail.com.


About Citizens’ Climate Lobby Tahoe Youth Action Team

Citizens’ Climate Lobby Tahoe Youth Action Team Is a regionally based youth action team, whose values and goals closely mirror those of Citizens Climate Lobby, a non-profit, nonpartisan, grassroots advocacy organization focused on national policies to address the urgency of climate change. To learn more, visit citizensclimatelobby.org.

Source: Citizens’ Climate Lobby


Tahoe Fund issues last call for project submissions

Since 2010, the Tahoe Fund has generated support from private donors to help secure over $50 million in public funds for more than 40 environmental projects. Today it issued the last call for 2021 project submissions that provide solutions to Lake Tahoe’s environmental challenges.

The call for projects is the organization’s annual effort to find projects that are designed to restore Lake Tahoe’s famed clarity, create healthier forests, improve transportation, create more sustainable recreation, and inspire greater stewardship in the region. Organizations can submit projects for consideration until Jan. 29.

According to Tahoe Fund vice chair, Cory Ritchie, the project selection committee will give particular consideration to projects that meet multiple goals or that can improve the pace and scale of forest health. “We’re excited to see what projects are put forward that will help make an impact in the Lake Tahoe Basin,” said Ritchie.

All submissions will be reviewed by the Tahoe Fund Board, which is tasked with developing the Tahoe Fund’s Signature and Premier Projects Portfolio. Selected projects will be invited to provide further details.

Every year, the Tahoe Fund collaborates with organizations to develop Signature and Premier Projects with fundraising goals of $5,000 to $1,000,000 that align with its mission. Eligible projects must demonstrate a benefit to the Tahoe Basin, an alignment with a specific Tahoe Fund goal area, and a general timeline and budget range. In addition, projects should be able to show wide community support and must comply with all applicable federal, state and local statutes and regulations.

Project submissions for early-stage grants through the Environmental Venture Trust or Smartest Forest Fund can also be submitted. These projects should bring innovative solutions to Tahoe’s environmental challenges. They should also demonstrate how an early investment will be leveraged to secure significantly more funding in the future from public and/or private sources.

Project guidelines and the request for projects submission form can be found online at www.tahoefund.org/our-projects/submit-a-project/.

Source: Tahoe Fund

Tsunami research ongoing at Lake Tahoe

Illustration of a tsunami hitting the shores of Lake Tahoe.
Photo Illustration by Jonah M. Kessel / Tahoe Daily Tribune

The past year was a wild ride with so many unexpected twists and turns that even the thought of a tsunami at Lake Tahoe probably doesn’t sound out of reason.

Several thousand years ago according to Dr. Richard Schweickert, a retired professor of geology at the University of Nevada, Reno who has spent most of his career working in the Sierra Nevada, Tahoe had a tsunami.

Whether he is mapping or studying faults around the basin, Schweickert and colleagues are dedicated to research around the basin.

Schweickert has been collecting evidence for over 15 years that have helped piece together the tsunami theory.

In 1999, the idea of one or more large tsunamis hitting Lake Tahoe first took fruition by Dr. Mary Lahren when she and Schweickert were mapping on land near Eagle Rock close to Homewood.

While a specific date is the hardest to pinpoint, it is estimated that a tsunami hit Lake Tahoe about 10,000 – 20,000 years ago after a massive earthquake shook the basin.

Over the years more evidence inspired researchers to dig deeper into what may have taken place in the region, including several faults that had never before been mapped.

In 1998, Jim Gardner at the United States Geological Survey released a detailed map. Jim Moore of USGS began a collaboration with Schweickert in 2005.

The map showed the landslide that occurred at McKinney Bay along with several other indicators that all point to the tsunami theory.

While Schweickert and other researchers had already been collecting data on land, Dr. Christopher Kitts, Associate Professor at Santa Clara University of the Mechanical Engineering Department and Director of SCU Robotics Systems Laboratory, first brought his students and equipment to Lake Tahoe to take a closer look at lies beneath the surface of the lake about 13 years ago.

“We began to realize there is underwater evidence that could also be attributed to the tsunami,” said Schweickert.

In 2005, the team which consisted of Dr. Winnie Kortemeier from Western Nevada College, Kitts, Moore, Lahren and Schweickert researched the Tahoe City Shelf where they discovered “boulder ridges” which have never been described in a lake before.

Similar to the small ripples you see on the beach when you walk along the shore, massive ripples formed due to the volume and force of gigantic waves.

Some ripples which are “boulder ridges” are as tall as 6.5 feet and extend as long as 6,562 feet on the Northwest side of the lake.

These perfectly aligned boulder ridges were found in four different locations just off the west shore, adding to the theory of “mega ripples” that would imply “mega waves.”

Schweickert says that there is no other explanation to why these boulders were perfectly lined up in a row underwater.

If you are on a boat on a relatively calm day, these boulder ridges can be seen with a naked eye at a depth of about 15-30 feet.

Large sand waves can also be found at 15 areas around the lake. They were caused by the flow of large volumes of water into the lake from onshore, some reaching almost 10 feet high.

The research team spent 40-50 days all together on the lake using robotics to take a deeper look and interpret underwater features of the lake.


2014 photo in Emerald Bay with Dr. Kitts and Dr. Jim Moore. Students on the right are deploying the ROV Triton.

Another indicator is that beneath the surface, Lake Tahoe has massive vertical canyons, some as deep as 200 feet, that have been carved into the sidewall such as in Rubicon Point.

“A mass amount of water had to have been thrown out onto the shores that poured back in carving the sidewalls,” said Schweickert. “Extremely large volumes of water were pouring into the sides of the lake.”

Some of these canyons extend to some of the deepest parts of the lake.

One of these locations is the Tahoe Keys in South Lake Tahoe, where the largest number of deep canyons are carved into the sidewall of the lake.

“The landslide generated such large waves that they flooded low areas around the sides of the lake and produced these features,” he said. “Lake Tahoe is the only lake we are aware of that has features like this, out of anywhere else in the world that has been documented.”

This earthquake not only shook the ground in Tahoe but caused approximately 3.5 cubic miles of the surrounding earth to dramatically slide 1,640 feet into the lake.

When the mass hit the lake at that force, it created a splash that caused waves that were about 300 feet high. The immense height of these waves lowered the lake’s water level by 33 feet for a period of time.

The earthquake and consequential tsunami waves altered the Tahoe Basin.

Lake sediment and glacial deposits were swept into the lake and the sheer force of the waves flattened countryside areas around the lake such as the relatively “flat” area found from Bijou to Meyers in South Lake Tahoe.

Secondary landslides also wiped out life that inhabited the edges of the lake. The most impacted areas of the lake from the massive waves were the Glenbrook and Zephyr Cove areas and Stateline to Baldwin Beach in South Lake Tahoe.

Enormous waves may have reached the upper Truckee River Canyon before pouring back into the lake.

To understand the impact, Schweickert has been researching active faults around the basin.

While evidence of several faults have been around since the 1960s, Schweickert mapped one of the faults called the North Tahoe fault that runs northeast from the lake through Incline Village and over Mount Rose and even into Reno.

The West Tahoe Dollar Point fault runs north-south along the West Shore, and the third fault, called the Tahoe Sierra, runs through the mountains just west of the lake.

“Major earthquakes on the West Shore can produce a series of potential hazards,” he said.

“As of now, it doesn’t look like something that should cause worry for those who live in the basin. “The hazard of forest fires in the basin is far greater,” said Schweickert.

With active faults and relatively “weak” sediment in some areas of the lake, he says that there is a possibility of another tsunami occurring in Lake Tahoe again.

“There is no way to predict if it’s 20,000 or 20 years from now,” he said.

Other researchers have also worked on this theory. While there is no work currently being done by the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center, they still highlight the historic tsunami in their outreach and in Lake Tahoe in Depth.

The underwater landslide that caused a destructive tsunami is recreated by computer simulation in TERC’s video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_mzGm-g9LI.

Every year, Kitts brings students to Lake Tahoe who want to use their gear. Schweickert hopes to continue future research with Kitts and his team. As technology advances, he hopes the robotics team can go even deep in the lake in the future.

“There are still a lot of places we haven’t been to,” he said.

Schweickert released an ebook last fall, “Journeys Across Nevada’s Wild Lands,” that takes readers on a geological history tour and includes portions of the south and east sides of Lake Tahoe.

Cheyanne Neuffer is a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun.

‘2021 Tahoe Big Year’ is one for the birds

American Kestrel.
Photo by Jared Manninen


Great Blue Heron.
Photo by Jared Manninen

Feeling stuck inside and yearning for adventure? Do you want to learn more about the local animals that reside in Lake Tahoe’s wild landscape? Interested in a scavenger hunt that introduces you to new scenery while spending hours immersed in nature? Birdwatching may be the perfect fit for you … during the pandemic and beyond.

For many, 2020 was a year spent picking up new hobbies and resurrecting old ones. Whether you tried baking bread or learning ukulele, hobbies are a great way to increase self-esteem, boost your mood, and improve well-being. As we continue to stay home and social distance through the start of this New Year, you may be looking for new interests that do all that and more.

Birding is an activity uniquely situated to provide plentiful health benefits (for which the COVID-19 pandemic has universally amplified the need) while conforming to the guidelines and restrictions of the pandemic itself.

Research has shown that spending time in nature reduces feelings of isolation and loneliness, even while socially-distancing in the process. Interaction with wild animals in their own habitat can decrease physical symptoms of stress, such as fatigue or difficulty sleeping, as well as boost one’s mood. Some health care providers specifically encourage the pursuit of observing animals in nature for patients suffering from anxiety and depression. Recent research shows that life satisfaction is greater for those living in environments of higher biodiversity, and with over 300 bird species that have been recorded around Tahoe, there are a lot of birds to see.

Tahoe locals can capitalize on these health benefits and have a lot of fun by joining in on the 2021 Tahoe Big Year, in which participants scour the region to find as many bird species as possible. Registering for this free, year-long event gives participants a platform to track all the bird species spotted throughout the year, while competing with other birding enthusiasts to see who can find the most species. However, the Tahoe Big Year is not strictly a competition, but is also a space for the entire community, from first timers to experts, to learn about and experience the Tahoe region’s diverse bird community and rich birding opportunities.

Participants have access to expertise and advice from TINS staff and each other through monthly virtual get-togethers, presentations, and other learning opportunities. Past Big Years have greatly strengthened Tahoe’s birding community, and we hope to make the 2021 edition as social as possible through these virtual events, birding list-servers, and the Tahoe Birding Facebook group.

The event is free and open to anyone, though those who become a member of TINS (starting at $35/year) will enjoy additional perks during the Big Year. For example, TINS members who have logged at least one bird species each month are eligible for a monthly prize drawing. Generously donated items such as Patagonia fleece and down jackets, hats, and field guides will help you be better prepared to enjoy Tahoe’s nature in every season. Let’s go birding.

To register and dive into birding with both feet, or to learn more about the Tahoe Big Year, visit tahoebigyear.org.

Tahoe Fund donors meet Tahoe Blue Vodka’s match

Matt Levitt, Tahoe Blue Vodka founder and CEO donated $100,000 to help finance CUTL’s 2021 72-mile Lake Tahoe cleanup and Tahoe Fund is raising funds to match the $100,000 donation.
Clean Up The Lake.
The Tahoe Fund announced today that Tahoe Blue Vodka’s generous $100,000 match has been met, allowing the nonprofit Clean Up The Lake to begin its massive effort to remove trash around all 72-miles of Lake Tahoe this spring.
Courtesy of Clean up the Lake

The Tahoe Fund announced today that Tahoe Blue Vodka’s generous $100,000 match has been met, allowing the nonprofit Clean Up The Lake to begin its massive effort to remove trash around all 72-miles of Lake Tahoe this spring. Support to meet the match was overwhelming, with more than 135 businesses and people donating to the cause, including $25,000 from Vail Resorts.

Beneath the surface of Lake Tahoe, long known for its famed clarity and brilliant blue waters, thousands of pounds of trash are breaking apart and impacting the lake’s aquatic habitats. A SCUBA dive team of professionals and volunteers, spearheaded by Clean Up The Lake, now has the support it needs to begin an extraordinary effort to recover trash that has been accumulating untouched under the surface of the lake for decades.

Last summer, the first phase of the effort resulted in the recovery of over 2,200 pounds of trash from just six miles of Lake Tahoe, and solidified interest in the expansion of the project to include the entire circumference of the lake. Led by Colin West, Clean Up The Lake founder and executive director, the team of divers will begin the project in May and expect to have the cleanup completed by the end of October 2021.

“I am humbled and grateful to those who value this project and the effort to clean up the lake,” said West. “The support the Tahoe Fund was able to generate from organizations like Tahoe Blue Vodka and Vail Resorts, as well as from individual donors, has been tremendous. We can’t wait to get started!”

Tahoe Blue Vodka’s award-winning spirit is made from the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe, so stepping up to support this effort was an easy decision for founder and CEO Matt Levitt.

“Since I started Tahoe Blue Vodka, our mission has always been to give back to organizations and efforts that work to protect Lake Tahoe,” said Levitt. “It’s incredible to see the passion that people have for protecting the lake’s clarity and how matching donations like this one can inspire people to give back and make a difference.”

“We are in awe of how quickly the community stepped up to ensure this project met its funding goal so that it can move forward. We are so thankful to Tahoe Blue Vodka for their inspiring matching donation,” said Paul Felton, Tahoe Fund board member. “The passion for Lake Tahoe is undeniable, and we look forward to the kick-off of this massive cleanup effort in the spring.”

Learn more about the project and how to volunteer on dives at www.tahoefund.org.

Source: Tahoe Fund

’Resilient by nature’: Wild & Scenic Film Festival goes virtual

'Salmon' crossing the street during the 2020 Wild & Scenic Film Festival in downtown Nevada City. This year the beloved festival goes virtual, reaching a global audience.
Photo by Josh Miller
The official poster art for the 2021 Wild & Scenic Film Festival.
Provided graphic
A still from the film “2040,” just one of many films featured at the 2021 Wild & Scenic Film Festival.
Provided photo
A mom and her two children take a look at a brochure outside the Nevada Theatre during the 2020 Wild & Scenic Film Festival.
Photo by Josh Miller
“Rise Beyond Gold" is a film about a proposal to re-open a relic gold mine in Nevada County. The community faces a foreign corporation that would take the gold from under their property and leave a toxic legacy. ”Rise Beyond Gold“ raises bigger questions for the world at large. Why do we desire gold; and ultimately, is it worth it?
Provided photo

WHAT: The 19th annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival

WHEN: Jan. 14 through Jan. 24, 2021

WHERE: Online

MORE INFO: https://wsff.eventive.org

For many people, there is simply nothing better than watching a film on a giant screen, while eating popcorn in the dark. For others, watching a movie from the comfort of their own home is the ultimate pleasure. This year, as movie theaters have been forced to close, the big screen option is more of a challenge, but can still be done through the magic of technology and with the help of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, as they bring the opportunity to watch over 100 films, including 13 world premieres, on whatever size screen you can manage!

The 19th annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival takes place Jan. 14 through Jan. 24, 2021 with over 100 environmental and adventure films, activist workshops, programs for youth, an art exhibition, and the opportunity to meet filmmakers – all presented online.

Festival Producer Eric Dunn said the event, which is the largest fundraiser for South Yuba River Citizen’s League, is going completely virtual.

“We made the decision to go all virtual pretty early on and we are feeling good about the decision,” said Dunn. “We have been able to put ourselves into planning and sculpting this new format for the festival.”

Leaders of the organization decided to move forward with a virtual event to bring the festival’s tagline “Where activism gets inspired” to life. Dunn said, “I think that in a crazy year like this and crazy times overall, we could all use some inspiration. And not only that, the environmental movement, environmental justice movement, those things don’t stop because of a pandemic or because of politics. They are always important, and even more so in times like these. We felt it was important to bring these messages to inspire activism and interest in these subjects.” Support of the community and support of SYRCL is also vital.

With a virtual event, many limitations have been removed including the overall reach of the films.

“In making the most of the situation, we feel this is a great year to expand the scope of who is able to be part of this and who is able to get these films in front of them or engage in the workshops and other programming,” said Dunn. “Hopefully, that leads to Wild & Scenic coming back in 2022 bigger and better than ever, having garnered a bunch of new folks who didn’t know about the festival before, who will be inspired to come up to western Nevada County and spend some money and engage in our community in a physical festival in the future.”

As with past festivals, there will still be free programming such as Activist Center Workshops, an Art Exhibition, and the Enviro Fair. There are self-guided excursions available and even an online beer and Kombucha tasting! Many elements encourage community engagement – even without the purchase of a festival pass – though that is encouraged.

The festival programming still has thematic tracks and this year there are several pass options to consider, from single sessions to the Watershed Pass which includes the entire festival. Many of the films will be available on demand while others come with restrictions such as availability and caps on the number of viewers in a session. Each session is about an hour and a half long and includes three to six films of varying length.

Some of the featured films at the 2021 festival have local interest including “Rise Beyond Gold” about the proposal to reopen a relic gold mine in Nevada County; “The Hidden Bear” which takes viewers down eight and a half miles of the Bear River that would be flooded by the Centennial Dam project; the Ron Howard film, “Rebuilding Paradise” which showcases the devastating 2018 Camp Fire, and a film featuring a local craftsman on the San Juan Ridge, “The Local Woods.”

The “Wild Child” session is taking the place of the Saturday morning programming that happened at the Del Oro. There is a film focused on a group of black female mountain bikers “Pedal Through” which is in line with the focus of highlighting stories not traditionally featured in the outdoor world and many award winning environmental not-to-be-missed films.

Dunn said most of the films are available to watch anytime during the 11-day window of the festival. “Most of the film sessions are available on demand. There are only a handful of sessions that have some kind of restriction, be it when, or how many people can view it, that kind of thing, so most of these sessions are available to watch anytime during the festival window from the 14th through the 24th. We really tried to make things flexible for folks so they can get their dose of inspiration on their own schedule.” There are also age based programs with curriculum available.

For those who may not have the best internet quality available, a special “Staycation” package is being offered by Courtyard Suites with plenty of wi-fi included in the stay. And Three Forks Bakery and Brewery is offering meal packages during the festival.

The art exhibition is inspired by the 2021 Festival theme, “Resilient by Nature” and is in partnership with the Nevada County Arts Council. The online exhibition includes local as well as international artists.

Filmmaker Q&A sessions will be available. There will be a virtual lobby via Zoom of filmmakers and special guests as a way to engage, and there will be happy hours and chat rooms as well.

“We have workshops about everything from river restoration with some of our SYRCL crew to great talks about diversity, equity and inclusion in the outdoor space and we are also excited to have the President of Earthjustice joining us to talk about the legal work they are doing as we turn the calendar into 2021,” said Dunn. Dunn encourages people to go to the website to explore the many choices available throughout the festival.

“I hate to get ahead of myself, but I am cautiously optimistic we will gather in the streets again next January and I look forward to that,” said Dunn. “But we have to see the upside in all of these things, and we worked to make the most of it and still get these stories in front of folks. That is the name of game. I have heard several people speak to the idea that surviving is thriving in 2020.”

Go to https://wsff.eventive.org to explore the films, workshops, and other offerings of the 2021 Wild & Scenic Film Festival.

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a freelancer writer for The Union, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun.

Sierra snowpack lagging but surprises at Phillips Station


SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The first snowpack survey of the season near South Lake Tahoe surprised state officials.

California Department of Water Resources personnel on Wednesday reported the snowpack to be at 93% of normal for the time of year at Phillips Station, near Sierra-at-Tahoe, but the state average is only 52%.

Sean de Guzman, chief of DWR’s snow survey and forecasting, conducted the measurement and said the numbers are “a little bit higher” than what they have been seeing based on the automated snow sensory network, which is made up of about 130 different sensors placed throughout California.

The snow depth measurement is 30.5 inches and the snow water content is 10.5 inches.

Sean de Guzman, chief of the California Department of Water Resources Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Section, conducts the first media snow survey of the 2021 season at Phillips Station, near Sierra-at-Tahoe.
Kelly M. Grow / California Department of Water Resources

Phillips Station is just one of the 260 different snow courses across the Sierra Nevada that DWR manually (or electronically) collects data in winter and spring. The data collected is critical for water managers to accurately allocate water throughout the state.

Surveys have been conducted at Phillips Station since 1941.

Earlier this year, DWR performed the survey Jan. 2 at Phillips Station and showed the snowpack was 97% of normal. That pack had a depth of 33.5 inches and snow water equivalent of 11 inches.

“The extremely dry fall has only exacerbated what has been an already unprecedented wildfire season,” said de Guzman. “We will definitely see the impacts of those wildfires on our snowpack.”

Impacts include snow retention being potentially impacted due to loss of tree canopy, increase of snow melt rates as well as reduced percolation due to severely burned soils.

Sean de Guzman (right), chief of the California Department of Water Resources Snow Surveys and Water Supply Forecasting Section, and Jeremy Hill, DWR water resources engineer, conduct the first media snow survey.
Kelly M. Grow / California Department of Water Resources

The Sierra had one of the driest October and November periods on record. The Southern Sierra suffered the seventh driest months as well this year.

The Sierra snowpack supplies 30% of water supply for the state.

The snowpack is often referred to as California’s “frozen reservoir” for its ability to hold water content. As the snow melts, water that doesn’t get absorbed into the ground, which is called “runoff,” will run down into mountain streams, which feed rivers, aqueducts and reservoirs. The aqueducts and reservoirs are where water can be stored for use throughout the dry season.

“It remains critical that all Californians continue to make water conservation a way of life,” de Guzman said. “California continues to experience evidence of climate change and climate variation.”

However, de Guzman says two of the historically wettest months, January and February, still remain.

He says that it’s not uncommon for a large portion of the snowpack to come from a few heavy storms. He made a point to say that despite the year starting out dry, it doesn’t exactly indicate a dry season and latest weather models are hinting at a wetter January in the first couple weeks.

“The snow survey results reflect California’s dry start to the water year and provide an important reminder that our state’s variable weather conditions are made more extreme by climate change,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth in a press release. “We still have several months left to bring us up to average, but we should prepare now for extended dry conditions. The department, along with other state agencies and local water districts, is prepared to support communities should conditions remain dry.”

The next survey is tentatively set for Feb. 2.

Guzman addresses the media after the first media snow survey of the 2021 season at Phillips Station.
Kelly M. Grow / California Department of Water Resources

Cheyanne Neuffer is a Staff Writer with the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication to the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at brozak@tahoedailytribune.com.

Annual Tahoe bald eagle count set for 2021

Tahoe Institute for Natural Science to continue tracking protected species

The Tahoe Institute for Natural Science (TINS) is hosting its annual Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021.
Photo by Jeff Bleam

It’s a mid-winter’s day dream for birders. The Tahoe Institute for Natural Science (TINS) is hosting its annual Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. TINS took over local coordination of the national tracking operation nine years ago. TINS undertakes this fascinating effort as part of a nationwide, single-day census of our country’s bald eagle populations. Spotters are stationed at 26 vantage points throughout the Tahoe basin, mostly on Tahoe’s lakeshore beaches, to get an accurate snapshot of eagle numbers.

“Because Lake Tahoe maintains open water throughout the winter, it’s a prime feeding spot for the eagles,” says Will Richardson, Executive Director at TINS. “We usually have pretty good luck, and most stations will see at least one eagle fly by at some point. The goal is just to keep an eye on the population and make sure the protection measures in place are working.” The spotters take careful notes on the age, time and direction of travel of every eagle seen. When the data is compiled, TINS is able to plot the movements of each individual bird and get an accurate count for the day.

The national symbol of America became a protected species in 1940, but populations continued to decline dramatically with the introduction of the insecticide DDT. Tahoe’s count began in 1979, and for the first few years there may have been only two or three Bald Eagles per year. Thanks to protections, eagle numbers at Tahoe started to rise, peaking at 27 in 2017. In recent years, counts have averaged in the low 20s.

Local residents interested in participating in the Tahoe Bald Eagle Count day or to learn more about TINS can visit https://www.tinsweb.org/midwinter-bald-eagle-count.

Tahoe Institute for Natural Science

Founded in 2010, the Tahoe Institute for Natural Science (TINS) is a member-supported nonprofit organization providing world-class education and research. TINS provides programs for all ages, from talks and presentations to guided nature outings and field trips. Scholarships and a diversity of free programming aim to make this as inclusive as possible. The organization conducts ongoing biological research in the Tahoe-Sierra region, working collaboratively to help public and private land managers answer questions that inform management decisions regarding wildlife. TINS is working to bring a world-class interpretive nature center and educational facility to the Tahoe area, with the ultimate goal of creating a community that cares for the natural world by fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of the natural resources at Lake Tahoe and beyond.

Source: Tahoe Institute for Natural Science

Conservancy awards $380K to Washoe Tribe for meadow restoration

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The California Tahoe Conservancy Board has awarded a $380,454 grant to the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California for the Máyala Wáta Restoration Project at Meeks Meadow.

“The Washoe Tribe is eager to maintain progress on our plans to restore Meeks Meadow,” said Serrell Smokey, chairman of the Washoe Tribe, in a press release. “This area has been an important place to the Washoe for generations, but we have a lot of work to do to repair decades of damage. We look forward to resuming land management practices that are meaningful to us, including prescribed burning and managing culturally significant plants.”

California Tahoe Conservancy awards $380,454 to Washoe Tribe to restore Meeks Meadow.

Meeks Meadow has cultural importance for the Washoe Tribe, but the meadow’s ecological health has declined since European settlers drove the Washoe off their ancestral lands.

The meadow served as a historical summer camp for the Washoe people, who hunted game, fished, gathered plant materials, and held ceremonies in the meadow and adjacent Meeks Bay area.

Before European settlement, the meadow system was naturally maintained by the low-intensity fires that frequently burned in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Historically, Washoe Tribe members routinely ignited and controlled such fires to support native plants and game habitat. Cattle grazing, logging, and fire suppression have degraded Meeks Meadow since the displacement of the Washoe. The absence of low-intensity fire allowed lodgepole pines to encroach on the meadow, drying the soils and reducing the availability of culturally significant plants.

At its virtual meeting on Dec. 10, the Conservancy board awarded the grant to support the Tribe’s plans to restore the meadow in coordination with the USDA Forest Service, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. Elements of the Máyala Wáta Restoration Project include:

Tribal members will remove encroaching pine trees from 300 acres of meadow.

Following pine tree removal, Tribal crews and staff will complete prescribed fire training and participate in culturally guided prescribed burning.

Following prescribed burning, Tribal elders, youth, and crews will plant culturally significant vegetation, remove invasive species, and protect culturally significant plants. In the process, Tribal elders will transfer traditional ecological knowledge to younger generation Tribal members.

After restoration is complete, Tribal crews will continue to monitor the effectiveness of restoration activities.

At the same meeting, the board awarded a $440,000 grant to El Dorado County to restore floodplain habitat once occupied by an Elks Lodge along the Upper Truckee River near U.S. Highway 50.

The grant supports Phase 3 of the county’s Country Club Heights Erosion Control Project. The county will remove historical fill material, treat storm water runoff before it enters the river, and improve access for people recreating along the river. The project addresses damage to the sensitive floodplain habitat generated by constructing the lodge and its parking lot in the 20th century.

“It’s exciting to see the next phase of this important project move ahead,” said El Dorado County Supervisor and Conservancy Board Chair Sue Novasel in the release. “With the Conservancy’s support, El Dorado County will able to continue efforts to protect water quality for the Upper Truckee River and Lake Tahoe while making it easier for people to access the river and adjacent public lands.”

At the same meeting, the board also discussed the Conservancy’s longstanding partnership with the Tahoe Resource Conservation District, including the seasonal RCD crews that carry out land management, restoration, and forest health projects on Conservancy lands.

Agencies to host workshop on Meeks Bay Restoration Project

The USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit in coordination with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, will host a virtual public workshop about the Meeks Bay Restoration Project from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 7.

Meeks Bay on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore. Provided / Austin McInerny Project Development Team

The workshop will provide the background and need for the project, share proposed restoration and site improvement alternatives, describe the next steps in the environmental planning process and solicit feedback on the alternatives.

The LTBMU is developing a plan to restore Meeks Creek between Highway 89 and Lake Tahoe to a more natural condition, while continuing to support sustainable recreation opportunities.

In 1960, a marina with approximately 120 boat slips and a boat launch facility was dredged at the mouth of Meeks Creek, on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe. The marina eliminated unique wetland habitat for numerous bird, mammal and amphibian species. The deteriorating condition of the existing marina, along with concerns over water quality, aquatic invasive species, and degraded habitat for native species, prompted the need for action in Meeks Bay.

“Since our first public workshop in August, we’ve received extensive input from the public and interested organizations,” said LTBMU Deputy Forest Supervisor, Danelle Harrison. “We are still in the beginning stages of this important project, and we want to ensure that the public process remains inclusive and robust to best serve our community and Meeks Bay.”

The proposed project aims to:

Restore a functioning stream and lagoon ecosystem;

control and eradicate aquatic invasive species;

enhance fish and wildlife habitat;

provide sustainable recreation opportunities and access;

improve educational and interpretive opportunities; and restore habitat for Tahoe yellow cress, Lahontan cutthroat trout, and species of value to the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California.

“Meeks Bay is a treasured place for many residents and visitors to the West Shore,” said TRPA Executive Director Joanne Marchetta. “This restoration project should highlight what we love about Meeks Bay, while prioritizing the restoration of a severely degraded ecosystem.”

The public workshop on Jan. 7 will provide background information on the project, share proposed restoration and site improvement alternatives and solicit feedback on the alternatives. Register for the public workshop under the “Get Involved” tab of the project website at www.meeksbayproject.org or by following this zoom link, https://zoom.us/webinar/register/2115971082773/WN_FKum9o2CTECBhSyJ-L4_3g.

In addition to public workshops, a representative stakeholder forum is exploring concepts and vetting ideas to inform the planning process and to ensure the environmental analysis includes the best information and science. The stakeholder forum includes community groups, property owners’ associations, and the Washoe Tribe, among others. The agencies plan to have a draft environmental document, which includes draft alternatives, ready for public input by October 2021.

Learn more about the project and public workshop at www.meeksbayproject.org.