Tahoe Regional Planning Agency tags 6 projects with ‘Best in Basin’ awards

Staff Report

STATELINE, Nev. — The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, which is celebrating 50 years on the lake, awarded six projects with Best in Basin awards on Thurs. Dec. 19.

The Best in Basin awards program is in its 29th year and showcases projects around the lake that demonstrate exceptional planning, implementation, and compatibility with Tahoe’s environment and communities. This year’s winners are:

Incline Flume Trail: Thanks to public and private partnerships, this family-friendly backcountry trail is complete and accessible to nearly all abilities. The project began with the USDA Forest Service officially adopting the trail, which allowed local groups to make significant improvements. The Friends of Incline Trails recognized that this old flume path needed major repair and enhancement. More than 1,500 volunteer hours combined with professional work crews from the USDA Forest Service and American Conservation Corp made the trail possible.

Meeks Bay Trail Project: A little more than three-quarters of a mile long, this Class 1 multi-use path is a major addition to the West Shore trail system. The trail links Sugar Point Pine State Park southward to the entrance of Meeks Bay Resort. The pathway runs parallel to Highway 89 and significant engineering hurdles were overcome while constructing the trail. The path was constructed in just one season and within existing USDA Forest Service and Caltrans right-of-ways. Seventy percent of the project required retaining walls, as well as the construction of a large bridge. The lead agency on the project was Central Federal Lands Division of the Federal Highway Administration.

Restoration of Fire Adapted Ecosystems: There are approximately 4,700 acres of meadow in the Lake Tahoe Basin, and the USDA Forest Service manages some 2,700 acres. The Tahoe planning agency has identified meadows as important areas for restoration. In 2018, the USDA Forest Service completed restoration of Baldwin Meadow. Nearly all trees were removed from the meadow and perimeter trees were thinned. Additional restoration tools used included willow planting, channel repair, rerouting trails and a controlled burn of the meadow. Meadow restoration will allow the land to adapt to future conditions brought on by climate change.

Tahoe Keys Bubble Curtain: Invasive plants like Eurasian watermilfoil and curly-leaf pondweed have been growing out of control in the Tahoe Keys for years now, and their proliferation has threatened to spread out into Lake Tahoe proper. The Tahoe Keys Property Owners Association and the League to Save Lake Tahoe teamed up with experts from Canada to create an underwater “bubble curtain.” An underwater hose emits a strong current of bubbles that keeps plant fragments from escaping out and into Lake Tahoe. The hose is fanned out in a V-shaped pattern, pushing plant fragments to the outer walls of the channel, which are then collected every afternoon.

Upper Truckee River Reach 5 Restoration Project: Restoration along the Upper Truckee River is the culmination of seven years of planning by the USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and the California Tahoe Conservancy. From 2017-2018, the adaptive management and stabilization phase was completed. The project restored 120 acres and required the re-channeling of 7,340 feet of the Upper Truckee River. The new channel allows for improved aquatic habitat and increased channel and floodplain connectivity while reducing stream bank erosion. The Upper Truckee River is the only river known to contain this mussel in the Lake Tahoe Basin. In the end, some 25,000 mussels were relocated and returned to the river.

Country Club Heights Erosion Control Project: This project was completed by the El Dorado County Department of Transportation and tackled runoff and erosion issues in the Country Club Heights area between Meadow Vale Drive and Elks Point Drive. Runoff and erosion were a persistent problem along Boca Raton Drive because of inadequate infrastructure. Improvements include curb and gutter, sediment traps, and infiltration basins, which allow for the re-wetting of the existing meadow system. The meadow now does its proper job of spreading and infiltrating storm water runoff.

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