Community comes out for Snapshot Day
Beneath sunny skies Saturday, Susan Lowder walked across an industrial lot and approached Trout Creek near downtown Truckee.A science teacher at Truckee High School, Lowder was part of a volunteer team out to capture a portrait of the streams water quality for the seventh annual Snapshot Day.Look at that! Lowder exclaimed, gesturing to freshly gnawed stumps of aspen and alder trees. Beavers!Sure enough, mere paces from where freight trains rumble by on the Union Pacific railroad tracks, beaver dams impounded the stream, slowing the swift waters in a series of shallow ponds. The beavers had stripped the stream channel of nearly all trees; a surviving large alder appeared ready to fall, chisel-like teeth marks already girdling the trunk a foot off the ground.Downstream, not far from where Trout Creek empties into the Truckee River, Lowder and her son, Truckee High junior Duncan Lowder, began measuring the waters acidity, temperature and amount of dissolved solids, and conducting a field test for the level of dissolved oxygen.At the same moment Saturday, teams of 136 volunteers were sampling the water quality at 61 other sites in Lake Tahoe and the Truckee River watershed. In Reno, more volunteers were busy testing the waters of the Lower Truckee River and its tributaries.Snapshot Day is a collaborative effort coordinated by the Lake Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition, with assistance from the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, the City of Reno, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency the Truckee River Watershed Council, and a host of other nonprofit groups.In past years, the citizen monitors had found mostly cool water temperatures and low acidity levels, crucial measures for the health of cold-water aquatic life. After four dry years, the Snapshot Day of 2005 and 2006 were conducted during periods of high runoff, and revealed higher levels of turbidity.Only a few locations in past years showed unhealthy levels of fecal contamination, and few sites were spoiled by litter. The level of nutrients flowing into Lake Tahoe mostly met water-quality standards set for the tributaries.On Saturday, 75 volunteers turned out at South Lake Tahoe, and conducted tests at 25 locations, said Jaymee Willison, one of three coordinators for the South Shore effort. Among the volunteers this year were youths from the Girl Scouts and Boys & Girls Club.The water level was so much lower this year, Willison commented.Another 15 volunteers reported to the Incline Village General Improvement District, where they fanned out to measure water quality at 13 locations. In Truckee and Tahoe City, 49 trained volunteers conducted field tests at 24 sites.Beth Christman of the Truckee River Watershed Council said the monitoring project shows a fairly health watershed, with scattered problem sites. The beaver dams along Trout Creek pose one such challenge, she said.There are plans to rehabilitate Trout Creek when the railyard is developed, Christman said Saturday. But if they plant aspens and alders, the beavers will clean those out immediately.
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