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Bike trail raises wildlife concerns

Staff Reports

TAHOE VISTA – Wildlife biologists recently added a pair of California spotted owls to their concerns over how a proposed 8-mile bicycle path would affect wildlife in the North Shore forest.

Now, the North Tahoe Public Utility District is going back to the drawing board to find out if it is possible to build a bicycle path around the various wildlife habitats in the back country between Dollar Hill and the North Tahoe Regional Park.

“I’m sure it goes through it. Can we weave the trail through there and avoid it?” said NTPUD General Manager John Hassenplug.

Already the NTPUD has been trying to find ways to avoid the habitat of goshawks, or find ways to mitigate the proposed trail’s impact on the area where goshawk nests have been found. It has proposed building the bicycle path through the goshawk territory on dirt roads managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

There is also an osprey habitat on Dollar Hill that the bicycle path must avoid, but that isn’t causing as much difficulty because the proposed path does not go through that area, Hassenplug said.

But now, the spotted owl habitat is adding a whole new layer of concern to the project. Hassenplug said the spotted owl territory is separate from the goshawk territory.

“They’re not together,” he said. “I think it’s tough.”

USFS wildlife biologist Mollie Hurt wrote that spotted owls were found in the Carnelian Canyon area in 1993, but were not found during surveys in 1994 and 1998. A pair of the owls were found this summer, which were banded as part of a research project conducted by Humboldt State University in cooperation with the USFS.

“Suitable habitat is limited in the area, because of the subdivision to the south and unsuitable habitat to the north, east and west,” Hurt wrote.

She noted that any activities that would require removal of trees would degrade the owls’ habitat enough to hamper nesting.

Because the project has been delayed so long, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency began roundtable meetings last summer with the permitting agencies, landowners, advocates and others involved with the proposed trail.

At a meeting in June, those stakeholders agreed that four alternative bike trail alignments could be considered, pending additional information, according to Shane Romsos of the TRPA.

Another meeting will be held on the NTPUD bicycle path project from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 6 at the North Tahoe Community Conference Center in Kings Beach.

“The goal of this meeting is to bring to the table information that was called for in the first meeting, come to a final agreement on the proposed NTPUD bike trail alignments, and provide direction on whether and/or how to proceed with the project,” Romsos told the stakeholders.

The North Shore bicycle trail has been proposed for the past 10 years, when the California Tahoe Conservancy gave the NTPUD money to acquire the property needed to link the area with U.S. Forest Service land.

The bicycle path was envisioned to connect the Class I bicycle path that ends at Dollar Hill with the North Tahoe Regional Park in Tahoe Vista. The NTPUD chose a route through the forest because there was not enough room to build a Class I bicycle path along Highway 28 and a route through subdivisions were protested by neighbors.

The NTPUD obtained permits to build the trail in 1990, but did not have money to build it.

In 1996, the NTPUD resubmitted the project for permits, but has so far been unable to get the go-ahead to build the bicycle path because its path intersects the habitat of the goshawk.

The effect of the spotted owl territory on the proposal will be discussed at the meeting Oct. 6.


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