Lawmakers introduce 4th rendition of $415 million bill to revitalize Lake Tahoe | SierraSun.com

Lawmakers introduce 4th rendition of $415 million bill to revitalize Lake Tahoe

Josh Staab
jstaab@sierrasun.com

A look at Lake Tahoe in late June from the Flume Trail in Incline Village.

LAKE TAHOE — Federal lawmakers will once again introduce legislation in an attempt to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in environmental relief funds for Lake Tahoe.

In a bipartisan effort, Nevada's Democratic and Republican senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller joined California Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer in introducing the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2015 Thursday in Washington, D.C.

"If Nevadans and Californians can all agree upon one issue, it is the protection of Lake Tahoe," Heller said in a written statement. "Anyone who has been to the Basin understands why it is important we protect its natural beauty for future generations — the Lake Tahoe Restoration Acts will do just that."

It's the fourth attempt since 2009 to introduce federal measures focused on restoring the lake. Attempts to enact legislation failed in 2009, 2011 and 2014.

The act would authorize $415 million in environmental improvement efforts to be spent in the Tahoe Basin over a 10-year period. Congress would still be required to pass appropriation bills to make money available to fund such activities.

In 2000, a similar restoration act was passed, authorizing as much as $300 million in federal funds to be spent on efforts to restore Lake Tahoe.

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That funding expired in 2010, which led to a co-sponsored act in 2011 headed up by Feinstein; however, it and additional legislation to extend those measures have stalled.

Darcie Goodman Collins, executive director for the League to Save Lake Tahoe, has been traveling to Washington, D.C., with her support to reauthorize the act.

She said she finds more optimism for this effort due to new leadership at the U.S. Senate and a revitalized plan for Tahoe's environment, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's Regional Plan Update.

"There wasn't the momentum (like there was in 2000) and the pressure there is now to get that kind of collaboration and renew federal protection for the basin," Collins said.

Should the act pass, funded projects could include, among others:

Wildfire Prevention: $150 million for fire risk reduction and forest management through fuel reduction projects in high-risk areas like South Shore, Carnelian Bay, Incline Village and West Shore.

Environmental Improvement Program (EIP): $80 million to jump-start projects spanning from new bike trails to creek restoration and fire treatment.

Invasive Species Management Program: $45 million to prevent introduction of the quagga mussel and manage other harmful invasive species like the Asian clam.

Stormwater Projects: $113 million to implement stormwater management, erosion control and watershed restoration projects.

Lahontan Cutthroat Trout Recovery Program: $20 million to recover the Lahontan cutthroat trout – a federally threatened species and Nevada's state fish.

Act adoption would encourage another 10 years of federal funding toward preserving Tahoe's ecosystem, and could encourage further state and local government spending and partnership with private and public sponsorship, TRPA officials said.

"The important takeaway from us is that we're excited to see our senators introduce and champion this bill," said Thomas Lotshaw, public information officer with TRPA.

Since 1997, when President Bill Clinton hosted the first Lake Tahoe Summit, lake restoration efforts have completed more than 445 environmental improvement projects through 50 local, state, federal and private sector partnerships with an approximate cost of $1.7 billion.