Tahoe City to test lake-friendly concrete | SierraSun.com

Tahoe City to test lake-friendly concrete

Joanna Hartman
Sierra Sun

Ryan Salm/Sierra SunWater is poured through pervious concrete, the kind that will be tested in the new Jackpine parking lot in Tahoe City.

Officials hope a test project at the planned 40-space Jackpine parking lot in Tahoe City will help keep runoff from spoiling Lake Tahoe’s famed clarity.

The installation of six pervious, or permeable, concrete spots in the Jackpine lot is a first for the North Shore, said Brian Steward with Placer County Public Works Tahoe Design Division.

Pervious concrete is the combination of aggregate and cement, not including the sand that is a component in typical asphalt concrete.

The hard-surface pavement product may be a more environmentally sound choice than common concrete, Steward said, because rather than rain and snowmelt picking up dirt, roadway sand, oil, gas and other contaminants and running into the lake, water instead filters down through the concrete and directly engages the soil.

Pervious concrete absorbs three to eight gallons per square-foot per minute and has been around for 25 years. But because it is new to the sub-alpine environment, it’s durability and functionality may be in question for some.

“We don’t have all the answers whether this is a great solution,” Steward said.

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Andrew Ryan, an engineer with Pastore-Ryan, said he and his colleagues are “dipping our toe in the water on this one.”

“[We’re using] six spots as a test section [in Jackpine] to put through the rigors of Tahoe: hot summers, heavy use, snow removal, snow storage,” he said.

The Jackpine parking lot is expected to be complete by fall 2006.

Pervious concrete has been used extensively on the East Coast and in Florida. Last year in California 650,00 square feet of pervious concrete was poured, with an expected increase to 1 million in this next year.

The cost runs from $6 to $10 per square foot of pervious concrete, depending upon project size. On projects greater than 20,000 square-feet the elimination of drainage by using pervious concrete almost always saves money, Ryan said.

“This is like a two for one,” he said. “Because [when we install] pervious concrete we won’t need to install drainage systems.”

And looking at the bottom line isn’t always the best approach, he said.

“What you want to do is install the most appropriate [systems]. Price is not the best way to determine [this] … what you build has to benefit the community,” Ryan said.

Julie Regan, with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, said the organization is supportive of using new materials around the lake.

“[It’s] something to look at with Pathway 2007, how to encourage more of these products that have environmental benefits but are still useful,” she said.