Funding sought to clean Truckee River
Cinematographer, writer and professional fly fisherman Ralph Cutter views the Truckee River with a level of intimacy that few people can appreciate.If you look closely, occasionally you will be see him in the river wearing a mask, snorkel, wetsuit and carrying a heavy camera, as he captures the world of stream aquatics on film.”It’s an unbelievable perspective of the river,” he said from his home in Prosser.”A few years ago I was filming at night. It was pitch black and I was underwater with scuba seeing the Truckee when no one else sees it. I saw this big Brown Trout. It was a huge fish – maybe 30 inches – and I was able to put my hands on it, pick it up and stroke it. I got it all on film.”Cutter’s wildlife cinematography is well known. But the part of his work that is seen less often is the seedy depiction of a river struggling to maintain its natural qualities, habitats and range of inhabitants.”You would not believe the amount of garbage in (the Truckee River) – batteries, refrigerators, cars, propane containers – even pieces of people’s houses,” Cutter said.According to reports from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Truckee River has been adversely impacted by road construction, forest management practices, land management practices, urban and recreational development and – of course – trash. Managed releases from several dams has further weakened natural resistance to erosion.The cumulative effect is the loss of the river’s natural qualities, and increased difficulties for agencies like the California Department of Fish and Game as it tries to reintroduce threatened species such as the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout and Cui-ui.To help reverse the deterioration, federal, state, county and regional agencies have cooperated efforts to apply for a grant that, if received, will be used to clean up the Truckee River watershed, and the Truckee River from Lake Tahoe to the state line.On behalf of the Truckee River Coordinated Resource Management & Planning Group, the Truckee River Habitat Restoration Group has applied for more than $700,000 of Proposition 13 grant money to help retain a permanent executive director and fund a watershed assessment and action plan.The plan seeks to determine the root causes of excess sedimentation and erosion that continue to degrade water quality and habitat function in the Truckee River watershed.While the plan won’t necessarily reduce the amount of trash in the river or the watershed, it will help maintain the attractive qualities of the river and its role in the community’s economy.”The group was one of two watershed groups out of a pool of 250 to be selected statewide to receive technical assistance from UC Davis to further its effort,” said Kathleen Eagan, acting executive director of the group until a permanent replacement arrives.Just this February, the group was awarded $82,000 to hire an executive director, which should sustain the position for about 16 months. If the new grant is received, the position can be maintained for several years.The grant application was written through a collaborative effort from the United States Forest Service, California Department of State Parks, technical support from UC Davis and the Truckee River Habitat Restoration Group.”For this grant to be written by a collaborative group is outstanding,” Eagan said. “The watershed plan will help the region with further watershed restoration funding. Doing this alone is too big a task, that’s why (these grants) never get applied for. Doing this as a team will greatly increase the chance of bringing money into the region.”Letters of support for this proposal have been received from Placer and Nevada Counties, the Town of Truckee the US Forest Service, water and environmental agencies, private business, UC Davis and water experts such as Elizabeth Rieki, the area manager for the Bureau of Reclamation.”We have a shot at funding, if not in this round, then in the next … We have something really powerful here,” Eagan said.The plan would extend for approximately three years starting this November.The Habitat Restoration Group will find out within the month if they received the grant, Eagan said.
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