Our View: 10 years after, generations to come
August 16, 2007
A little more than 10 years ago, President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore arrived at Lake Tahoe with all the associated fanfare that those positions attract.
That was good for the lake ” about $900 million worth of good over the last decade. Nearly $1 billion went to a variety of projects. From land purchases and watershed improvement and stormwater projects to treating nearly 22,000 acres for forest fuels reduction.
It’s enough to slap backs and deem saving Tahoe a success.
But, as we know from the destructive flames of the Angora Fire, the ongoing balance between living safely in the mountains without destroying them is an eternal duty.
Ten years, and mountains of cash later, Tahoe still faces scores of newly urgent ” and many familiar ” challenges.
Forest fire is a threat to human life, property and the environment. Wildfire protection and prevention has to be a target of Tahoe funding going forward. As the Angora Fire taught us, it does little good to restore watersheds and protect lake clarity if it all is eventually going to go up in flames.
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Another emerging and urgent concern is global warming’s impact on Tahoe. The lake is changing, as researchers noted in their recent report on Tahoe’s warmest waters on record.
This issue is tougher. There are no completely local solutions to the global problem that the earth is warming ” although locally we must contribute to solutions.
So we ask the movers-and-shakers gathered in Tahoe today to take note: A state-of-the-art biomass facility must be built in the Basin as soon as possible. That one act alone would go toward dealing with fuels-thinning leftovers while producing local, green power.
As it stands now, we’ve piles of drying slash scattered around our woods, which we then dispose of in the most extraordinarily inefficient and archaic manner possible ” burning it off into the atmosphere. Meanwhile, if you live on the North Shore of Tahoe and get your electricity from Sierra Pacific Power, as most area residents do, there’s about a 50 percent chance your lights turn on thanks to burning coal.
Then there will be the ongoing water filtration and erosion efforts and wildfire prevention projects. But all those goals must take into account that a warmer climate requires adapted strategies. And local climate change science must guide the way to these solutions.
So, as we commemorate Clinton and Gore’s visit with another weekend in the national spotlight, know that the work has just begun. We can pat ourselves on the back for some triumphs and point out areas where more work needs to be done ” but above all we must remind ourselves that protecting the environment at Lake Tahoe should be a fact of life for generations to come and not a ten-year goal.