Obama signs bill securing $415 million for Lake Tahoe

Ryan Hoffman
With the passage of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, the Tahoe Basin will benefit from $415 million for projects such as forest restoration efforts, fire mitigation and more.
Courtesy / Rachid Dahnoun | rachidphoto

Funding for Lake Tahoe

$150 million for fire risk reduction and forest management programs.

$113 million for storm water management and watershed restoration projects.

$80 million for environmental restoration projects.

$45 million for lake-wide aquatic invasive species control and a watercraft inspection program.

$20 million to recover the Lahontan cutthroat trout, a federally threatened species.

$5 million for project monitoring and assessment.

$2 million for the cost of land exchanges and sales on both the California and Nevada sides of the Tahoe Basin.

With the stroke of a pen Friday President Barack Obama solidified $415 million in federal funding for projects in and around Lake Tahoe, along with providing funding for drought relief in California and other water projects.

In signing the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act Friday, Obama did not mention Lake Tahoe in his statement. Rather, the president mentioned the complexity of the drought provisions, which had threatened to derail the overall bill.

Democratic lawmakers in both the House and Senate — where outgoing members Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Se. Harry Reid, D-Nev., voted “no” on the act — voiced reservations about the bill, citing the drought provisions as favoring farmers while assaulting the Endangered Species Act.

“It attacks the Endangered Species Act head-on. It gives operational instructions on how to move water in my state away from the salmon fisheries and to big agribusiness, regardless of what the science says,” Boxer said on the Senate floor prior to passage of the bill Dec. 9.

In his statement, Obama said his administration has worked closely with stakeholders to address California’s complex drought problem, and in doing so striking a balance regarding the “concerns of California water users and the important species that depend on that same water.”

Under his interpretation of the bill, Obama said the Endangered Species Act would continue to be implemented.

“This reading of the short-term operational provisions carries out the letter and spirit of the law and is essential for continuing the cooperation and commitment to accommodating the full range of complex and important interests in matters related to California water,” Obama said.

Environmental advocates in the Tahoe region had cheered the passage of the bill in the House and Senate and eagerly awaited the president’s signature.

“Once signed by President Obama, this legislation will allow essential actions to protect Lake Tahoe to move ahead, increasing the likelihood that we’ll be able to Keep Tahoe Blue now and for future generations,” Darcie Goodman Collins, executive director of The League to Save Lake Tahoe, said in a statement after the Senate approved the bill and sent it to the president.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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